New look for CenturyLink

Posted Mar 2, 2012

The stadium known as CenturyLink Field turns 10 this year, and the Seahawks are celebrating by putting in a state-of-the-art FieldTurf playing surface and also upgrading the scoreboards.

The Seahawks’ home field that is very much an advantage turns 10 this year.

And by any name – now CenturyLink Field; Qwest Field before that; and Seahawks Stadium before that – the state-of-the-art facility has been very good to the Seahawks. Since moving into their new digs in 2002, they are 56-30 – 51-29 in the regular season and 5-1 in the postseason. They won their first conference championship there, after the 2005 season. They pulled off one of the biggest playoff upsets in league history there, by defeating the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in a 2010 wild-card game. They have sold out 77 consecutive games, as their 12th MAN crowd has turned the place into one of the noisiest venues in professional sports.

So it’s only appropriate that CenturyLink Field is getting some upgrades – or birthday presents, if you will.

A new state-of-the-art FieldTurf playing surface has been installed, and Sounders FC already is playing on it. The scoreboards in the north and south end zones are currently being replaced. It’s a combination that will allow CenturyLink Field to play better, and look better – for the team, as well as its beyond-faithful fans.

“We want to maintain a standard of excellence,” said Lance Lopes, senior vice president/general counsel. “So we felt we could have a better field than we had with this new product.”

This is the third playing surface at the stadium, replacing the one that was installed in 2008, which replaced the original field from 2002. But it’s not just another FieldTurf field. This one is made of Revolution Fiber, and it’s simply better than their previous fields – especially the one the Seahawks had installed at Husky Stadium in 2000, so they could play their home games on the University of Washington campus for two seasons after the Kingdome was imploded and while the new stadium was being built on the same site.

“It’s an amazing product, and it has really evolved since we put that one down at Husky Stadium,” said Donny Jones, regional vice president for the Montreal-based FieldTurf company that has revolutionized sports playing surfaces in this country.

“It’s 50 percent softer than the previously best fiber in the industry and it’s 50 percent stronger.”

And it looks even more like grass, and plays even more like grass. As Lopes explained it, the new fibers have a more cylindrical shape, like a stock of celery; rather than being straight and thinner.

“The fiber is intended to stand up to more abuse, and behave more like a blade of grass,” Lopes said. “And it’s a prettier field, because it’s a dual-tone fiber. It simulates the color of grass more, because there’s some yellow and some green.”

This is the first field of its kind in the NFL; just like that field at Husky Stadium was the first one FieldTurf installed for an NFL team.

Another key is what goes along with the surface: More than one million pounds of sand and rubber that form the base for the blades.

“What’s behind that is the best playing surface is pure sand with natural grass,” Jones said. “So we try and simulate as close to that as we can.”

Offered Lopes: “FieldTurf has always maintained that the safest way for the players to play on the field is to have their cleats in the fill, not in the fiber. The fiber is there to sort of keep the fill in place, but you really want your cleats in the fill. That’s where the traction is. That’s where the safety is.”

As with the playing surface, the scoreboards will be better because they’re new, but also because the technology has improved so much in the past 10 years.

“It’s going to be state-of-the-art, with higher-resolution LEDs (light-emitting diodes),” Lopes said. “It should be brighter, with much more clarity. We anticipate our fans are going to be able to see the difference.”