DeWitt’s views reflected those of at least two former players and several fans and alumni whose opinions were being surveyed about the transition to artificial grass.
“I understand the financial reasons for maintaining a lawn, I understand the reasons for exercising in order to practice on it and hold events,” said former tech captain Roddy Jones, now an analyst for the ACC network.
“But I grew up with grass and that’s obviously my favorite field. And the surface alone, I stand by it – of all the fields I’ve been in the whole country, it’s the best. I’m sad. I am sad that it has come to this, but I fully understand why. “
Jones raved about Grant Fields playing surface – the grass was cut deep, the lawn was firm, the field was level.
“The cut of the grass was perfect and it was a fast field,” said Jones. “It was a fast meadow. I’m a little special about the memories we had there, but it was great. “
DeWitt turned the baton on to Chris May in 2016, whose work received rave reviews from Atlanta United players as the club played the first nine home games of its inaugural season at Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2017. That same year, the Sports Turf Managers Association named Grant Field its Field of the Year.
“I kind of understand why they’re replacing it,” said former tech safe Jalen Johnson, now a program manager with an Atlanta construction company. “I’ll say that – the natural grass was probably the best in college football.”
In the ACC, Tech will be the sixth team in the league to play home games on artificial turf. There’s also no shortage of nationally known teams that play on artificial grass – including Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, and Oregon.
There was disappointment among fans at having lost the aesthetic of giving up the pristine field recognized as one of the best in the country.
“Part of the matchday experience is seeing the work Chris May and his staff have been doing on the field,” season ticket holder Blake Thomas wrote in an email. “There’s nothing like seeing the green grass and fresh color on game day.”
Thomas, like other fans, recognized the financial implications of a field that costs less to maintain, as well as the practical benefits of having a non-grass field that Jones mentioned – being able to practice on it without worrying about wearing it out and host other events on it, such as revenue generating concerts and other non-tech sporting events.
“Maybe they can get another concert or two and help the budget,” wrote Thomas.
Budget concerns have only increased since the decision to switch to artificial turf was made in the winter after it was announced that two concerts would be held at the stadium this summer.
“In this day and age, money is important to a (sports department) when trying to build a championship program,” wrote season ticket holder Jason Hill. “It’s a good decision for me. With the way turf looks now, I don’t think the fans will notice any difference. “
“Personally, I like the natural grass, I think it feels more authentic / nostalgic,” wrote Cullen Nicholl in an email. “However, I understand that the maintenance costs are much lower with the lawn. I just hope the players are happy with the change. They are the most important stakeholders in my opinion. “
Both Jones and Johnson didn’t mind playing on plastic turf during their careers. While it gets hot in warm temperatures, Johnson said he felt more comfortable with it. Jones noted that given the increased prevalence of man-made surfaces at the high school level, players are likely used to it.
“I’m excited about (the new finish) although I hate to see the natural grass go,” said Johnson. “I’m right here in the middle. I get it.”