UT and Astroturf broke ground on a $1.5 million research center, creating the Center for Athletic Field Safety in summer 2009. The purpose of the center is to compare natural grass-playing surfaces to synthetic surfaces, with the goal of improving athletic performance and reducing injuries. The UT outdoor-research facility consists of 60 small-scale athletic research fields constructed from a variety of playing surfaces. UT turf-grass scientists compare the safety and performance of the surfaces, which range from those employed for professional-level sports to those used by schools, public parks, and public recreation areas.
The UT turf-grass team (Dr. John Sorochan, Dr. Jim Brosnan, Tom Samples, and Brandon Horvath) developed turf-grass management programs for sports field managers and served as consultants to the NFL, Major League Baseball, and professional soccer teams. The team advises and consults internationally with sports field managers for cricket, soccer, football, golf, baseball, and Olympic venues. Natural surfaces at the research plots are planted with Bermuda grass, Kentucky bluegrass, and others. Both mechanical and human studies are conducted to assess real playing conditions. The center was dedicated on July 13, 2011.