It's “nature-identical” not “artificial” according to De La Salle Santiago Zobel President Bro. Dennis Magbanua.
That's how he describes the gorgeous new Football pitch which now sits behind his school.
Completed in just six weeks, it joins Turf BGC, International School Manila's Field, King's School in MOA and McKinley Hill Football Field in the growing list of artificial grass Football facilities in Metro Manila.
The field will be the home for the school's teams, as well as the primary training ground for Green Archers United Globe of the UFL.
Unlike Turf BGC, whose turf is from Italian supplier Limonta, the DLSZ-Globe pitch is made by Team Sports of Australia and installed by Advantage Sports + Leisure, which has been putting up synthetic grass Tennis courts and lawns in the Philippines for the last 16 years.
Teamsports, a 25-year veteran of the business, has laid in over fifty fields in Australia and another fifty in Taiwan and Korea. This is their first field in the Philippines.
Jeremy Rollin, General Manager of Advantage, says that the field will accrue savings of about P200,000 a month for the school, since there is no need to water, fertilize, nor mow the field.
“Plus they can rent it out more often since it's an artificial surface” he adds.
Rollin says the field measures 65 meters wide and 92 meters long but Hans Smit, DLSU coach and Green Archers United Globe Technical Director, says it's a wee bit narrower. Most FIFA pitches for International play are bigger, usually 68 meters by 105 meters.
The ground is nonetheless much wider than BGC, which is about 45 meters wide. DLSZ's field is very similar in size to McKinley Hill, which will host UFL matches starting next month.
The actual product on the pitch has the rather cumbersome name of Prograss PlayOn 40mm Dual Tone Field Turf. Its “Durotuft” yarn synthetic grass is a blend of polymers, pigments, and UV stabilizers.
The 40mm refers to the length of the blades of grass before the sand and rubber pellets, known as “infill” is added. The silica sand is locally sourced while the rubber infill is imported from Malaysia. The sand grains are selected for being round so that water can seep through them. Squarer grains tend to stick together and block drainage.
Can you make a sliding tackle on this field? Rollin says yes, and that the surface will cause no more irritation than conventional grass.
The turf does not have a FIFA 1 Star or 2 Star Recommendation rating. A 2 star rating means it can be used for elite play, while a 1 Star mark is for heavy-duty use at youth and amateur level.
Rollin explains that his turf costs a little more that 50% of a turf with a FIFA recommendation, which often feature grass blades of up to 60mm. The Welshman also says that the grass yarn used by Teamsports is identical to the one used in FIFA recommended surfaces.
He says the pitch should last anywhere from 12 to 15 years and that Advantage gives a ten-year warranty to its installations.
It's apparent that Teamsports and Limonta have different philosophies in making this stuff.
Turf BGC's grass is sparser than DLSZ's. When you look straight down in Turf BGC, you see a lot of black infill. DLSZ's grass is more luxuriant, and its blades look more like real grass. Look down straight on it and you see mostly green.
Turf BGC's grass has blades that, when viewed while the blade is pointing at your eye, have an s-shape. Teamsports' blades are flat and look like, well, blades.
I have only played on Turf BGC and did not get to play on the DLSZ field during the launch last Friday. However from walking on it, I can say that DLSZ seems ever so slightly firmer, but I was told that more infill will be dribbled in soon.
Turf BGC is a joy to play on and I am certain that DLSZ will be just as good.
Underneath the pitch the ground was compacted to ensure flatness. Rollins says that most of the six weeks spent to make the pitch was devoted to getting this part right.
The pitch does not use drainage pipes, with moisture naturally dripping out to drains on the sides of the pitch with is just a tad bit higher in the center than it is on the sides.
According to Rollin, you can replace patches of the grass easily if they wear out.
An interesting feature of the pitch are the two Globe logos that can be found just outside the near sideline. The logos are are created using blue and white blades. Globe has helped fund the construction of the ground and is also the title sponsor of the Green Archers United team.
A DLSZ logo using the same technology will be placed in the center circle.
Four yellow arcs can be found on the sides of the field that will serve as penalty areas for half-field play.
Several light towers housing thirty bulbs allow for nighttime games, although Green Archers Globe United's manager, Monchu Garcia, is hoping that more light towers will be added for the corners of the field.
There isn't a great deal of room for spectators, just a modest covered stand. There are two roofed dugouts for the teams.
This field isn't the only symbol of De La Salle's commitment to the game. In a few months De La Salle's Dasmarinas, Cavite campus will get its Football pitch converted to synthetic grass as well.
After the opening cocktails were concluded, the pitch hosted its first game, an exhibition between Forza, Green Archers' second division affiliate club, and DLSU's UAAP senior team with the help of a few DLSZ players.
“It's different, but our passing was better” said DLSZ player Andoni Maniquis of the surface. “The bounce is fine” he continued.
Patrick Deyto, DLSU's goalie, fumbled one ball that he brought to the ground. Smit chalked it up to unfamiliarity with the field, which the players will eventually adjust to.
Smit also added that if asked, the school will accommodate Azkals training sessions. Eventually it is hoped that UFL games, maybe in the second division, will be held there.
A few minutes into the game, DLSU is awarded a penalty, and Gelo Diamante slots the spot kick home.
The first ever goal is scored on the brand new pitch. And there will be many, many more to come.
Follow Bob on Twitter on @bhobg333.