Of the 14 outdoor NFL stadiums in the northern half of the United States, Soldier Field is one of only six that has a true grass field, and it is the northernmost. Seven of the stadiums have infill surfaces and two have DD GrassMaster, which is natural grass enhanced with artificial fibers. Infill, which is commonly known by brand names like FieldTurf and AstroPlay, is a cheaper and cleaner option than grass.
A National Football League Players Association poll of members last season asked players to rank the 18 grass fields. The ones in the northern half of the U.S. ranked eighth (FedEx Field in Landover, Md.), 13th (Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City), 14th (Cleveland Stadium in Cleveland), 15th (Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia), 16th (Soldier Field) and 17th (Heinz Field in Pittsburgh).
The Patriots, who play in a climate similar to Chicago's, decided to switch to an infill playing surface during the 2006 season after having problems with their grass field. They made the change the week before playing the Bears at Gillette Stadium.
In the three years since, they have been very happy they made the change.
"We have a lot of use on the field between football, soccer and concerts, and it has been everything we hoped it would be," Patriots President Jonathan Kraft said.
DD GrassMaster is an economical option (about a $650,000 initial outlay, but then ongoing maintenance costs) that has been ideal for the Packers.
"We are very happy with it and our players love playing on it," Packers President Mark Murphy said. "It plays like natural grass."
A front-office executive with the Broncos also said the system has worked wonderfully at Invesco Field.
But it might not be right for Soldier Field because the stadium hosts other events. If the field gets beaten up because of bad weather and rock concerts, re-sodding is not a good option.
The Eagles and Steelers tried the DD GrassMaster system but went back to natural grass.