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Sports Illustrated: Playing surface at University of Phoenix Stadium is best in NFL

A grounds keeper walks across the retractable turf after it was moved out of the University of Phoenix Stadium following media day for the Super Bowl XLII football game Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008, in Glendale, Ariz. The New England Patriots will play the New York Giants on Feb. 3. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The playing surface at an NFL stadium is likely one of the last things a person thinks about when watching an NFL contest.  Whether the game is played on natural grass or artificial turf, the difference between the two has little bearing on what takes place on the field.

But that’s where you’d be wrong.

Using a 2.25-kilogram hammer to drop weight from a given height, the NFL measures how quickly the weight stops on impact.  The metric used to measure the hardness of the playing surface must fall below a score of 100.  According to Sports Illustrated, most fields range in the 80s, “with the occasional test in the 70s or 90s.”  Fields that don’t register below 100 must under go remediation before a game can be played on that surface.

With input from past player rankings and observation from current NFL players and groundskeepers, SI compiled a comprehensive ranking of the playing surfaces at all 31 NFL stadiums.  Per the rankings, University of Phoenix Stadium — home of the Arizona Cardinals — ranked number one in the NFL.

Below is what SI had to say about the lush Bermuda grass inside the Cards’ friendly confines.

You’ll hear very little argument about who holds the top spot for the best field in the NFL. Sure, Arizona has plenty of sunshine and can grow a healthy amount of Tifway 419 Bermuda grass, but more importantly, the Cardinals have the pleasure of rolling the field outside the stadium. The entire playing surface is retractable, in one giant tray, allowing the turf to grow and get maintained outside the stadium, coming inside only for NFL football games. And with a groundskeeping staff doing a stellar job with the turf, Arizona earns the top spot.

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