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Jags get artificial turf


Looks like grass; smells like tires.

Those are the first two observations of the Jaguars' new FieldTurf practice field at the team's new practice facility. The Jaguars presented the new three-field complex to the media today. Saturday, fans will have a chance to make their own observations.

"The great thing about this for the fans is they're inside the fence line," Jaguars stadium operations boss and Chief Financial Officer Bill Prescott said.

And Prescott hopes fans will flock inside the fence line this Saturday morning, when the Jaguars begin their first practice of the first training camp of this new era of Jaguars football.

The team's new practice facility -- located adjacent to Alltel Stadium on the site of old Wolfson Park -- includes permanent bleacher seating for 1,200 fans and additional temporary seating that will accommodate another 600 fans. It's a fan paradise, replete with a merchandise tent, beverage carts and interactive games.

It should be training camp with a theme: Fun for everyone, except for the players.

"We want to make training camp more fan-friendly. They're going to feel they're more a part of it. You have to get them to feel like they're part of the team," Prescott said.

The feature attraction of the new practice complex is a artificial-turf field covered in FieldTurf, the newest rage in football playing surfaces. FieldTurf incorporates synthetic "blades of grass" set in a base of sand and rubber pellets.

FieldTurf is soft under foot, which immediately eliminates the chief complaint of AstroTurf, that it was only slightly softer than cement. FieldTurf also has a real-grass look -- if you need to be fooled -- and it radiates only five-degree higher temperatures than a grass field would produce. Teams all over the league are making the move to FieldTurf, which might make for a demand in used tires.

"Because of the sand and the rubber pellets, it actually gives like dirt does," Prescott said. "More and more teams are playing on it, so we want to give our players a chance to practice on it, and it gives us multiple uses."

The complex's other two fields are traditional grass surfaces. The total cost of the facility is $3 million; $600,000 for the FieldTurf surface, which carries with it a 15-year "life" expectancy.

Training camp is open to the public and there will be no admission charge. Fans may also move about the perimeter of the field, inside the roped area. Parking will be provided in Lots M and N.

Alltel Stadium is in the midst of a $48 million renovation, which includes the practice facility. The Jaguars are responsible for $28 million of that total. The city is responsible for the balance.

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