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February 27, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Gary Wright, senior VP of business operations, talks about the new FieldTurf

Reporters got a chance to talk to Gary Wright, Sounders FC’s senior vice president of business operations, after practice Monday to talk about the new FieldTurf. Here’s the transcript from that conversation.

* * *

(What can you tell us about the new field and the new video-boards?) “The boards won’t be ready, but it’s an ongoing process of making sure we have a first-class stadium and all the latest enhancements. From a soccer side, it was important to upgrade the turf and get the best playable field possible.”

(Is there hope that this might help attract a national-team game or bigger events like that here?) “We would love for that to happen. I’ve had conversations with major managers who have been here before and said had it gotten to their desk they would’ve played on FieldTurf, but it doesn’t always seem to get to the right person — they’re so used to playing on grass. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out this year. This is the latest and the greatest. The reports in their testing have been great.”

(Do you have an idea what kind of life this one is expecting?) “I think we have a commitment from the entire ownership group that when it needs to be replaced it’ll be replaced ahead of schedule. We’re not going to get into a situation where it doesn’t look as good or doesn’t play as well as it should.”

(Any feeling you waited too long on this one?) “I don’t know about that, but let’s just say it was time to replace it.”

(Do the Seahawks defer a little bit when it comes to the turf, since it affects soccer more than football?) “I think we’re in line with the Seahawks, for sure. They understand that this is important to us and everybody was willing to go along with it.”

(Will the boards be an upgrade?) “I don’t know the first thing about the boards. My big worry was (getting the turf replaced) and have it where we hope we can talk an international team to playing on FieldTurf.”

(Do temporary grass fields take a toll on the FieldTurf?) “I think over a period of time it certainly has to. The more you start piling things on, then it compresses it. But I think that’s over a period of years.”

(So this installation doesn’t eliminate bringing in grass?) “It doesn’t eliminate bringing in grass. Personally, I have problems with bringing in the temporary grass, because that’s what it is — you don’t have roots that go down. Can we do it? Absolutely. Have we done it before? Sure. Have the teams played on it and performed well? Yes, no question. It can definitely be done. It’s an expensive proposition, but that’s not the main concern either. I think to get people to play on this and see it — I think it’s better off. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the World Cup in Russia, but a couple of the main stadiums play on artificial surface.”

(Does it look like grass will be an option in the future?) “No. It’s the configuration of the roof — the shadows and the patterns. It would just be impossible to replace all the time. You’d be playing in mud more than half the season, even if you kept on replacing the field. It sounds great, and I know there was speculation out there that Mike Holmgren didn’t want grass, he wanted an artificial surface. Right from the beginning Paul Allen wanted grass, Mike Holmgren wanted grass, everybody wanted grass. If it would have worked, it would be grass.”

(Was that unforeseen then in how the stadium wouldn’t support grass?) “I think so. I don’t think anybody figured that at the time. There was a lot of hard work that went into building this stadium, and it’s a first-class stadium.”

(How was soccer involved in the planning of the stadium?) “I think it was very important that the state have a soccer stadium and a first-class NFL stadium that can host major events. At the time there wasn’t an MLS team. The hope was if the stadium got built that the MLS would come. That proved to happen. I think it allows us to draw the kinds of crowds that we do draw. If we were in a smaller stadium we wouldn’t be able to host the international teams either.”

(Lastly, everything with this installation went according to plan?) “I think so. I think they want to still get the rubber to sink down a little bit more, and that takes a little bit of time. It passes the look test, certainly. I think the players after a couple weeks can probably give you a better idea of how it plays. And that’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to take a little bit time, but like I said, it’s the latest and greatest generation.”


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