AstroTurf is an American subsidiary of SportGroup that produces artificial turf for playing surfaces in sports. The original AstroTurf product was a short-pile synthetic turf. Since the early 2000s, AstroTurf has marketed taller pile systems that use infill materials to better replicate natural turf. In 2016, AstroTurf became a subsidiary of German-based SportGroup, a family of sports surfacing companies, which itself is owned by the investment firm Equistone Partners Europe.
Close-up of astroturf
The original AstroTurf brand product was co-invented by James M. Faria and Robert T. Wright. It was patented in 1965 and originally sold under the name "ChemGrass." It was rebranded as AstroTurf by a company employee named John A. Wortmann after its first well-publicized use at the Houston Astrodome stadium in 1966. Donald L. Elbert patented two methods to improve the product in 1971.
Early iterations of the short-pile turf swept many major stadiums, but the product did need improvement. Concerns over directionality and traction led Monsanto's R&D department to implement a texturized nylon system. By imparting a crimped texture to the nylon after it was extruded, the product became highly uniform.
In 1987, Monsanto consolidated its AstroTurf management, marketing, and technical activities in Dalton, Georgia, as AstroTurf Industries, Inc. In 1988, Balsam AG purchased all the capital stock of AstroTurf Industries, Inc. In 1994, Southwest Recreational Industries, Inc. (SRI) acquired the AstroTurf brand. In 1996, SRI was acquired by American Sports Products Group Inc.
While AstroTurf was the industry leader throughout the late 20th century, other companies emerged in the early 2000s. FieldTurf, AstroTurf's chief competitor since the early 2000s, marketed a product of tall-pile polyethylene turf with infill, meant to mimic natural grass more than the older products. This third-generation turf, as it became known, changed the landscape of the marketplace. Although SRI successfully marketed AstroPlay, a third-generation turf product, increased competition gave way to lawsuits. In 2000, SRI was awarded $1.5 million in a lawsuit after FieldTurf was deemed to have lied to the public by making false statements regarding its own product and making false claims about AstroTurf and AstroPlay products.
Despite their legal victory, increased competition took its toll. In 2004, SRI declared bankruptcy. Out of the bankruptcy proceedings, Textile Management Associates, Inc. (TMA) of Dalton, Georgia, acquired the AstroTurf brand and other assets. TMA began marketing the AstroTurf brand under the company AstroTurf, LLC. In 2006, General Sports Venue (GSV) became TMA's marketing partner for the AstroTurf brand for the American market. AstroTurf, LLC handled the marketing of AstroTurf in the rest of the world.
In 2009, TMA acquired GSV to enter the marketplace as a direct seller. AstroTurf, LLC focused its efforts on research and development, which has promoted rapid growth. AstroTurf introduced new product features and installation methods, including AstroFlect (a heat-reduction technology) and field prefabrication (indoor, climate-controlled inlaying). AstroTurf also introduced a product called "RootZone" consisting of crimped fibers designed to encapsulate infill.
In 2016, SportGroup Holding announced that it would purchase AstroTurf, along with its associated manufacturing facilities. The AstroTurf brand now operates in North America as AstroTurf Corporation.
First major installation of AstroTurf (ChemGrass) at the Houston Astrodome indoor stadium for the Houston Astros. The infield portion was in place before opening day in April; the outfield was installed in early summer.
The backyard of The Brady Bunch house between the service porch and garage and under Tiger's kennel is covered with AstroTurf. According to script development notes, the installation firm hired by Mike Brady to lay the turf was owned by his college roommate, who had just started a landscaping business after returning from a combat tour in the Vietnam War with the 18th Engineer Brigade. However, in keeping with studio instructions, no direct mention of the war in Vietnam appeared in the script. The scene in which the installation takes place was ultimately cut, so never appeared in the series.
AstroTurf installed at Busch Stadium in St. Louis (photo taken in 1975)