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The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports logo will soon be installed in the center of the new field. The logo is made from the same type of artificial grass as the rest of the field, but produced according to a programmed pattern of colors. It will never need to be touched up with paint or colored chalk.
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports logo will soon be installed in the center of the new field. The logo is made from the same type of artificial grass as the rest of the field, but produced according to a programmed pattern of colors. It will never need to be touched up with paint or colored chalk. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports logo will soon be installed in the center of the new field. The logo is made from the same type of artificial grass as the rest of the field, but produced according to a programmed pattern of colors. It will never need to be touched up with paint or colored chalk.
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports logo will soon be installed in the center of the new field. The logo is made from the same type of artificial grass as the rest of the field, but produced according to a programmed pattern of colors. It will never need to be touched up with paint or colored chalk. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
The field at Sasebo's Nimitz Park features the same surface installed in the Tokyo Dome.
The field at Sasebo's Nimitz Park features the same surface installed in the Tokyo Dome. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Japanese workers carefully peel back strips of green artificial turf that will later be replaced by white turf that serves as the soccer field boundaries. The field will also have yellow lines for flag football.
Japanese workers carefully peel back strips of green artificial turf that will later be replaced by white turf that serves as the soccer field boundaries. The field will also have yellow lines for flag football. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Sasebo Naval Base is the first military installation in Japan to install artificial turf on a multipurpose athletic field.
Sasebo Naval Base is the first military installation in Japan to install artificial turf on a multipurpose athletic field. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
This rubber-like substance will soon be spread over the artificial turf installed at Sasebo Naval Base’s Nimitz Park multipurpose athletic field. The rubber granules fill in between and “lift” the blades of plastic grass, making the surface softer and comparable to a natural turf.
This rubber-like substance will soon be spread over the artificial turf installed at Sasebo Naval Base’s Nimitz Park multipurpose athletic field. The rubber granules fill in between and “lift” the blades of plastic grass, making the surface softer and comparable to a natural turf. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Servicemembers and youths involved in athletics here plan to compete soon on the same surface as athletes at the Tokyo Dome, Yokohama Stadium and several National Football League venues: Workers are just weeks from completing the $650,000 installation of artificial turf on the base’s Nimitz Park multipurpose athletic field.

For decades, it was used for soccer matches, flag and even tackle football. However, whenever a hard rain drenched Sasebo — not an uncommon occurrence — the field’s uneven surface, bad drainage and perpetual lack of grass turned it into little more than a thick bowl of mud, said Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports Director Isaiah Mincks.

The new artificial turf field will be the first installed on a military base in Japan.

“This is the turf … used to do the Tokyo Dome and Yokohama Stadium,” said Lt. j.g. Tyler Wolf, assistant officer in charge of base construction. “They’ve also done Seahawks (Seattle) Stadium and the Cincinnati Bengals.”

The $650,000 cost includes landscaping and covering the field with a product known as FieldTurf. Work began in mid-June, and is set for completion by the end of September.

“I’d love to take the credit for getting this here but back in 2000 my predecessor (Kyle Rhodus, now with Yokosuka’s MWR) did all the research,” said Mincks.

“Made in Canada, the new turf’s sand and rubber ‘infill system’ is a safe alternative to real grass, resulting in a reduction of sports injuries,” states the company’s Web site (www.fieldturf.com).

The difference can be felt: Instead of a dense, abrasive rug, the surface is soft and silky.

“The maintenance is pretty much nothing, compared to what we had to do before, in the manpower of lining the field for soccer or flag football,” Mincks said. “And you don’t have to mow it.

“It pretty much allows us to arrange games all through the year, unless we have really inclement weather,” he said. “A little rain’s not going to stop us.

After Wednesday’s heavy afternoon rains, for instance, “We could have still played games out here,” Mincks said, “whereas before, it was just a big mud puddle, and what little grass we did have would get all torn up.”

Wolf said Japanese contractors told him not much in the way of weather could make the field unusable. Bad weather might “be a little uncomfortable for the players,” he said, “but the field would be fine.”

At one point Thursday, Mincks straddled a boundary line running the length of the field.

Before the synthetic turf was installed, such lines, applied manually with chalk, seldom were straight.

“Wow. Look. We actually have a straight line. Really, it’s perfectly straight,” he said.

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