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01/28/11 9:40 AM EST

New AstroTurf installation under way at the Trop

ST. PETERSBURG -- Installation of a new American-made AstroTurf field has begun at Tropicana Field.

Installation is expected to be completed by the time the Rays open the regular season against the Orioles on April 1.

"The AstroTurf fiber and in-fill systems contain the very latest technology and will provide our players the best playing surface available," team president Matt Silverman said. "Our players had the opportunity to work out on the new turf, and their opinions contributed to our decision to install AstroTurf."

The Rays have played on synthetic turf surfaces since their inaugural season in 1998, but the change to AstroTurf means they will be playing on the most advanced surface available. AstroTurf is the Official Synthetic Turf for Major League Baseball and is also used by the Toronto Blue Jays.

"To receive such a designation comes with requirements," said Major League Baseball's senior vice president of licensing Howard Smith. "AstroTurf produces a very high quality product, and we're glad to see the Rays get a brand-new, top-of-the-line field."

The field will be AstroTurf GameDay Grass 3D60H. GameDay Grass, in an independent study at Michigan State University and funded by NFL Charities, was determined to perform more like natural grass than other synthetic surfaces tested.

The new turf also features Horseshoe fiber. The Horseshoe shape, an Omega or "C," with a dual-column design, imparts mechanical memory to the fiber. The fiber remains "upright" longer. The Horseshoe fiber continues to spring back to its original configuration, providing players with a grass-like, uniform, predictable playing field.

Further enhancing the durability and safety of the field is the proprietary RootZone, a dense sub-layer of nylon fibers which act as an infill stabilizer system to prevent migration and splash of the rubber granule infill.

"We are proud to be working with the Rays' organization," said AstroTurf president Bryan Peeples. "Our hope is that this field will be a source of pride for players and fans and that the team excels at playing on such an incredible field."

Fans who are nostalgic for the old turf can purchase a piece of history at Fan Fest on Feb. 19, when pieces of the artificial surface on which Tampa Bay won two American League East titles can be purchased.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.