World-class turf from South Georgia will be used at World Cup

The sales process began in 2012 when a group in Qatar, Aspire Sports Turf, began researching which grass would work best in Doha. Many different strains were tested for three years on a football field in the country. Platinum TE Paspalum has been repeatedly ranked among the best strains for factors such as shade tolerance, wear tolerance and recovery.

In 2017, Atlas Turf International learned that she and her strain had been selected.

Platinum TE Paspalum was developed in 2007 by a professor, Ron Duncan, in Georgia. It has a lineage of strains from South Africa, coastal Georgia, and coastal regions of the Middle East. Dark green and shiny with a few stripes, it is used at Truist Park as well as hundreds of golf courses and other sports facilities in over 30 countries around the world. Once a mere turf seller, Atlas Turf International was awarded the patent for Platinum TE Paspalum from a Florida company two years ago.

Holmes recently traveled to Qatar to inspect the turf.

“They are so ready,” he said. “Ready a year ago for the (first) game.”

Holmes said one aspect of the training pitches and the stadium is that each pitch is the same size, with the same grass. He said the players will know exactly what the ball needs to do during games, which will be different from any previous World Cup. Holmes also said he was amazed at how much the city had changed since the World Cup was awarded. He described it as a total facelift.

Below the pitches there are SubAir systems that control humidity and temperature. SubAir is used at many high-end golf courses, including Augusta National, to maintain greens.

Now that the turf is planted and ready, Holmes said his company just has to sit back and enjoy the games. He said there is a team of experts hired by a Qatar-based company on site to take care of the turf.

Holmes is a football fan. He said his clubs are Atlanta United and he is a “quasi Arsenal fan”. He also follows Newcastle because of former Atlanta United player Miguel Almiron.

He said the 2026 World Cup will be a different challenge, grass-wise, due to the different climates in Mexico, the United States and Canada. He said he has been contacted by FIFA regarding 2026 but, if his firm is selected, he says he doubts it will be at Qatar level.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is among the host venues for 2026. It has an artificial grass surface which will be covered or replaced with real grass which will be boosted with grow lights. The stadium does not use real grass for several reasons, including hosting a number of events other than games for Atlanta United and the Falcons, and there are corners of the pitch that sunlight does not reach systematically if grass was used. Holmes said the grow lights will also be used in Qatar.

Holmes plans to go to Qatar to watch a game for the fan experience.

“It will be fantastic to see him on the world stage,” he said.

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