Custom turf transforms ice rink into soccer field

Rico Carter warmed up for a game of indoor soccer on the artificial turf that converted a hockey rink into a soccer field at the east end of Cool Sports in West Knoxville.

“It’s nice,” Carter said of the turf. “I like it.”

His was one of 10 teams that turned out last Friday and Saturday to play a debut soccer “turf”nament event.

The custom turf was specially formulated for the facility, which has the only field like it in the country, according to Jesse Smithey, a representative of Knoxville-based Playrite Sport Surfaces, which installed the turf.

It’s made of nylon, which gives it added strength, and simulates the feel of natural turf, Smithey said. An extra layer of foam padding provides protection from falls and adds to the natural feel. It doesn’t have rubber infill pellets, which have been controversial in other synthetic products.

“The length of the blades and padding contribute to the ball moving at an actual soccer game speed, like on natural grass,” Smithey explained. “Older turfs get matted down, and it’s like trying to play soccer on concrete. This has a natural friction, which is good.”

The turfnament, sponsored by local businesses including Greening Home Services, Kenney Sharpening, Restaurant Linderhof and Subway, will benefit the Tennessee Chapter of the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation of America. That charity was chosen “because I was diagnosed 10 years ago with Crohn’s,” said Scott Corwin, Cool Sports’ assistant turf director. “But it’s pretty manageable now.”

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are broad categories of irritable bowel disease, both immune system malfunctions of the digestive tract that are life interrupting at their worst and chronically painful but manageable otherwise. Research is promising for the one of every 200 Americans suffering with the diseases.

The foundation “has been so easy to work with,” said Corwin, “And every cent we raise goes straight to research.”

Corwin was proud to show off the new 15,000-square-foot field that is now home for youth and adult soccer, a youth lacrosse league and flag football.

He grew up in Lenoir City, coming into the Knox County facility to play soccer throughout his youth, and has always enjoyed working with children. He was hired by the company about a year ago, along with turf director Joanna Steinmetz to revitalize the indoor sports programs that are not played on the ice.

The facility has programs for all ages, from “Soccer Tots” that start as young as 2 years old, all the way through adult leagues, which are forming now. There is a smaller field for children, as well as the 180-foot by 80-foot main field. Parents and adult fans can also enjoy Basil’s Sports Bar, overlooking the main field, which serves beer and soft drinks

Many patrons may be unaware that Cool Sports has offerings beyond their better-known Icearium. Corwin expects that to change.

“Yeah, the ice side gets all the love right now,” he said, smiling. “But we’re going to catch up.”- Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)