Super Bowl turf is laid, but check still in mail

The manufacturer of the new turf at NRG Stadium has yet to be paid, less than 10 days before the Super Bowl, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Delaware state court.

Georgia-based Turf Nation, which makes the synthetic turf, has sued the contractor that installed the field for $3.5 million in allegedly unpaid bills.

The contractor that installed the $216,000 field at NRG Stadium at the beginning of the football season, along with more than 20 other sports fields across the nation, stopped paying its bills, according to the lawsuit that Turf Nation recently filed in Delaware against UBU Sports.

“We’re just being stonewalled,” said Sid Nicholls, president and owner of Turf Nation, a company with only 15 employees that has made the synthetic turf for 14 fields used by the National Football League.

Nicholls said he called NRG officials to alert them to the lawsuit and to let them know NRG has done nothing wrong. The stadium paid UBU Sports for the new field but UBU Sports did not, in turn, pay Turf Nation for manufacturing the synthetic surface, Nicholls said.

Illinois based-UBU Sports has not responded to the lawsuit, and its president did not return calls. Reached by phone, its former public relations manager, Dennis Van Milligen, said UBU Sports closed in December.

But the UBU brand of synthetic turf lives on. According to a news release announcing the deal in December, Austin-based Act Global, a company that has been making synthetic turf for about a dozen years, is the new owner, said Act Global spokesman Charles Fleishman. The company, which also owns the Xtreme Turf brand, has installed synthetic turf on more than 1,600 playing fields, including at many high schools and small colleges in Texas.

“We just bought the UBU brand, not the company,” said Fleishman, who said he was not familiar with the legal dispute swirling over the playing field at NRG Stadium.

He said Act Global is proud of the field at NRG Stadium. It’s the UBU brand on the field, Fleishman said.

NRG Park spokeswoman Nina Jackson noted that the litigation is between two private companies. The facility fulfilled all its financial obligations, she said. Jackson also pointed out that the field is not in jeopardy for the upcoming Super Bowl.

The synthetic turf replaced a design that used hundreds of grass trays installed by forklifts. The grass tray field was considered one of the worst in the league and has been blamed for causing several career-ending injuries. A recent lawsuit by one player claims that NRG didn’t change the turf design until Houston Texans defensive star Jadeveon Clowney suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Nicholls believes that UBU Sports and its owners transferred its intellectual property to Act Global Holdings to avoid payment. He noted that Act Global and UBU Sports shares some of the same management team.

Nicholls said he has never had to sue a contractor before.

“We make the turf. We’re just a small business.”- By L.M. Sixel, Houston Chronicle