Giants & Jets Won’t Switch MetLife Turf to Natural Grass: Here’s Why

Giants' John Mara explains NYG and Jets' decision to keep MetLife turf rather than natural grass.

Getty New York Giants president & CEO John Mara (left) alongside New York Jets co-owner Woody Johnson (right) in 2016.

The New York Giants and New York Jets will not be switching the MetLife Stadium surface from artificial turf to natural grass in 2024 despite plans to briefly bring in temporary grass for the 2026 World Cup — not to mention a steady outcry from players and fans in recent years.

Giants president and CEO John Mara relayed the decision at the NFL League Meetings on March 25, offering an explanation for interested parties.

“I want to get to the point where the experts can tell us that late in the season we can have a safe, playable grass field, and when we get to that point, then maybe we’ll make the switch,” Mara told NYG media members in attendance (via insider Art Stapleton).

“We’re not there yet,” he continued. “With the amount of events in our building, particularly during the football season, having two teams there and how many times last year we had back-to-back games where it rained during the first game, I can’t imagine what a grass field would’ve looked like on a second day.”

It does not appear Giants and Jets players and fans will get their wish anytime soon.

Giants President & CEO John Mara Refutes Injury Claims About MetLife Turf

The NFLPA — as well as many athletes — have publicly campaigned for a leaguewide mandate to switch all playing surfaces to natural grass. Their belief is that artificial turf contributes to more non-contact injuries — although the exact data on turf vs. natural grass is still up for debate according to AP News.

Mara refuted these claims on March 25.

“There’s virtually no difference in lower leg injuries on grass and turf,” the NYG co-owner stated definitively. “That’s a fact.”

“Last year, there were twice as many ACLs on grass as there was on turf,” Mara went on. “Now, that’s one year worth of data, but this is research that is done and statistics that are kept in conjunction with the players’ association, so there’s no mystery about this.”

He did concede that “players prefer playing on grass.”

“There’s no question about it,” Mara acknowledged, voicing: “I’d like to get there some day but we’re not there yet.”

According to a study performed by The American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018, “synthetic turf surfaces have a causal impact on lower extremity injury.” Research from this study found that there were 16% more injuries per play on artificial turf compared to grass from 2012 through 2016.

However, a turf supporter might argue that this information is outdated due to newer updates to artificial surfaces.

“There’s always evolving technology, both with grass, but especially with artificial turf,” Dr. Calvin Hwang (Stanford, San Jose Earthquakes) told AP News. “The newer generation turfs may be safer than older generation turfs. And so, studies that were done five or six years ago may not be including some of those newer generation turfs.”

The Giants and Jets updated the MetLife turf ahead of the 2023 season, switching from “UBU Speed S5-M to FieldTurf Core HD,” per Stapleton.

Artificial Turf Is Typically More Cost-Effective for Cold-Weather Franchises

Artificial turf is typically more cost-effective for cold-weather teams like the Giants and Jets, per ESPN.

“It’s estimated a natural grass field could cost a cold-weather team $2 million to $3 million per year to maintain, including $400,000 each time it’s replaced, according to a professor of turfgrass research at Michigan State,” ESPN reported in October of 2023. “Turf would cost approximately $1.25 million to install and maintain, according to the Capital Improvement Board.”

The ESPN article did note that prices can “vary by market.”

ESPN also shared a statement from NFLPA president JC Tretter at the time. “It shouldn’t be this hard,” he commented last October. “We feel the data has proven our point. We feel the player opinion is consistent. There are, really, only two bodies of people that are disagreeing at this point with us: People who manufacture turf and the NFL.”

World Cup Regulations Will Not Alter Giants & Jets Plans for NFL Surface

A natural grass surface is one of the requirements of a FIFA host stadium for the 2026 World Cup. MetLife Stadium will not only house various matches throughout, but it will also be the stage of the 2026 World Cup Final — which is a great honor for the Giants and Jets’ organizations.

Needless to say, the NFL does not currently have such requirements for their playing surfaces.

“That type of grass [being installed for the World Cup] is not fit for football,” Mara informed. “It’s a completely different type of surface.”

“They’re more concerned with how the ball bounces as opposed to anything else,” he noted. “It’ll be a temporary grass field that goes down, and that’s great in June and July. No matter how many times you change it out — and we tried this back in ‘99 to 2001 with the [natural grass field] trays and stuff — it was not a pretty sight in December and January.”

“Again, I think we can get there some day,” Mara concluded. “I just am not satisfied that we’re there yet.”

Read More