Welcome to our series of Five Minutes With… blogs that will feature interviews with AstroTurf’s staff of experts, partners, clients and friends. We hope you learn something about our industry and the great people associated with it. Today we talk with AstroTurf Director of Field Hockey, Andy Belles.

Andy, you’ve been in the sports construction business for 41 years, employed at AstroTurf for twenty years and involved with the sport of Field Hockey for just as long. What else should our audience know about Andy Belles?

I began my career in Fort Lauderdale estimating turf, tennis, and track projects. I have been involved in the design, manufacture, sales and installation of just about every type of sports surface imaginable. I am the past president of the American Sports Builders Association, a product developer and a patent holder.  I have served AstroTurf as International Business Manager and representative to FIH, NFHCA, and USA Field Hockey.

What can/does AstroTurf do to support Field Hockey?

A better question might be what can all suppliers and vendors in the industry do to help strengthen the sport?  In my opinion, the key for us here in the United States is the USAFH “Grow the Game” initiative.  We supply support at National and Regional meetings, we put on educational seminars, tailgate with parents and friends and of course, contribute financially to this program.  All this to help build more fields, and build them right!

That’s it? Grow the Game?  What does that even mean?

According to Sally Goggin and Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey Brand Manager and CEO respectively, it’s that simple.  Get sticks in the hands of more young kids.  The more we can get young kids, all kids, girls and boys, picking up a stick, the more our ranks will grow.  We have a great sport that leads folks to an active lifestyle forever.  It keeps them focused on competing, it instills strong character, establishes a self-starter work ethic that makes them driven to succeed.  What’s not to love?  More kids, more clubs and pickup games.  More games equals more interest. More interest equals more kids.  Eventually, this all leads to more fields.

How does the surface affect the playing characteristics of the game?

USA Field Hockey and FIH have strict policies about ball bounce, ball roll, planarity, ideal depth of water, etc.  Pile height is important to ball speed.  The shorter and thicker the fiber, the faster the ball roll.  Water plays an important part in keeping the ball on the surface by creating adhesion between the fiber and the ball, keeping it down on the surface longer with less bouncing or chattering.  Water also keeps the ball rolling in a straighter line. It’s all about safety and high performance. AstroTurf’s Field Hockey product line meets all the necessary criteria for exceptional play and we have a long and extraordinary reputation in the sport.

You have been called “Mr. AstroTurf” and AstroTurf’s “resident historian”. Can you tell us just a little bit about your love for the brand and its history?

In the 1960’s I grew up listening to Howard Cosell talk about AstroTurf on Monday Night Football in prime time with my dad and brother… a very special memory.  In the sixties technology was king.  AstroTurf was a new surface that guaranteed teams a place to play and practice.  Think of that.  Before the invention of AstroTurf, I don’t believe there was a field anywhere in the world that could be guaranteed playable all of the time.  That was the beginning of the reign of AstroTurf.

In 1976 at the Montreal Olympics, Field Hockey was played for the first time on any surface other than grass.  AstroTurf totally changed the way the game is played.  In 2018 we have 29 FIH Certified Fields in North America, all our competitors have just 2 combined.  NCAA Field Hockey has been on AstroTurf longer than that.  No one can remember when a DI championship was played on anything other than the AstroTurf brand.

AstroTurf has been the solution to sloppy fields and the creation of consistent surfaces.  Indoor stadiums and practice facilities have thrived because of it. Our Magic Carpet system can roll out a FULL-SIZE FIELD in only 21 minutes allowing indoor stadiums to play a Collegiate game on Saturday, a NFL game on Sunday and run a major, full-size convention on Monday, generating major revenue unattainable without AstroTurf.

Research and Development?  That’s us!  The five million dollar AstroTurf test site at The University of Tennessee is the largest, most technologically comprehensive facility for testing and comparing artificial turf systems and natural grass.  It is an independently run, 3rd party turf research facility managed by the doctors and agronomists at UT and it places an emphasis on athletic field safety.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much that AstroTurf has done for the sports industry that I could go on forever.  

Yes I love the AstroTurf Brand.  What’s not to love?