May 16—The synthetic playing field at the new $46 million Weidner Field is unlike anything most soccer players and fans have ever seen.
Installed by the South Carolina company Sprinturf in early March at a cost of $750,000, the infill material is called Corkonut. It is a coconut fiber and cork infill made by Greenway.
The turf looks like natural grass. Switchbacks coach Brendan Burke said it plays much better than a standard synthetic turf field, which uses infill materials such as crumb rubber.
"It gives you a very predictable playing surface," Burke said. "Sometimes when you're on natural grass, if it's wet or if it's chewed up a little bit the ball can get bouncy. This turf we have is going to give you the same play every time."
Burke added that his team could have an advantage with the familiarity of the turf since it plays half of its games at Weidner Field.
"Certainly in games where passing and technical ability is a big factor in the game," he said.
Switchbacks defender Jordan Burke has been with the club since its inaugural season in 2015. He had never played on Corkonut before this season.
"Compared to regular turf it's night and day," he said. "The ball rolls perfectly. It feels good on your body. When you come to training it's a pleasure because this plays like a grass field."
According to Switchbacks president Nick Ragain, Weidner Field is the first approved FIFA Corkonut field on the planet.
"With all the events that are planned here, we knew we had a need for synthetic," Ragain said. "This turf is amazing. And it stays cool. But we still have to water it a couple of times a month."
Most synthetic turf fields get dry and heat up when temperatures rise.
"If it's 100 degrees outside, the turf on a standard synthetic turf field could be 150 degrees," Ragain said. "Our turf will stay cool and it will stay together better."
With 8,000 spectator seats for sporting events (expandable to 15,000), Weidner Field will host Olympic/Paralympic-related events, other athletic games and tournaments, concerts and camps.