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Grass at Qwest Field Not Likely to Happen

Last month, The Seattle Times reported that the artificial surface of Qwest Field failed to receive two-star certification from FIFA, prompting First & Goal Inc., which operates the venue, and the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders FC of Major League Soccer to commission a study to determine the viability of installing a natural grass surface.

Peter McLoughlin, President of First & Goal, as well as the Seahawks and Sounders, discussed the possible playing surface change on Friday with Dave “Softy” Mahler on Seattle sports radio station 950-KJR.

“We’re doing a lot of evaluation on the turf and we’re conducting a study as we speak,” said McLoughlin. “I’ll start with this: I think in a perfect world, both the Seahawks and Sounders would like to have grass and would like to play on grass. I think there’s a lot of benefit to it. The reality is, though, when Qwest Field was originally constructed, and the Field Turf was put in, that kind of set us on a path of destiny that we continue to participate in.

“One of the things we’ve learned recently, in order to replace the Field Turf with grass we would have to take the building out of service for eight months,” said McLoughlin. “And that is a problematic consideration. That means either the Seahawks or the Sounders would have to play essentially an entire season away from Qwest Field, which is something we don’t want to do. And then 2012, we’ve got the (University of Washington) Huskies football team playing their home games at Qwest Field. So we’re evaluating the Field Turf, we want to make sure that it’s still in good condition. If it’s not, we’ll replace it. But moving to grass presents some real challenges in terms of scheduling ability.”

In the NFL Players Association biennial playing surface survey conducted last September-November, Qwest Field ranked fourth among the twelve artificially-infilled surfaces. That was a drop from a second-place ranking in 2008, the year the new carpet was installed. The initial Field Turf playing field ranked first among artificial surfaces in the 2002, 2004, and 2006 surveys.

With Qwest Communications merging with Monroe, Louisiana-based CenturyLink, McLoughlin also wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of a name change at the ten-year old stadium before the Seahawks begin the 2011 season.

“Not necessarily,” McLoughlin said. “It’s a possibility that there will be a name change before the start of the season.”

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