On paper, the Calgary Stampeders appear to be a Grey Cup contender.
Now the local CFL team can only hope it looks as good on a spiffy new FieldTurf synthetic surface, installed at McMahon Stadium over the past month.
The state-of-the-art plastic grass, worth close to $1.3 million, replaces an Astroturf carpet from the late 1990s.
The month-long installation was finally completed yesterday, just in time for the Stamps quarterbacks and receivers to begin workouts and provide their evaluation. The new surface features a rubber pellet infill, giving the stadium the distinct smell of a tire store.
Burning rubber inside the white lines was receiver Jeremaine Copeland, who gives the new surface a green light.
"Oh, it's great," Copeland gushed. "It looks like a real professional stadium now. It takes away the turf burns, the slides are a lot softer and that's what a player wants. A guy never likes playing on that hard turf. It feels likes bricks under there."
Receiver Ken-Yon Rambo also gave his approval after a test-run.
"The rubber pellets haven't worked their way down into the turf yet, so the traction will get better, but right now it's real good, even though the guys are slipping on it a little bit. You've got to get used to it," he said.
"The field is excellent and we can't wait to get on it for a real game."
Stamps president Ted Hellard said the investment is as much about luring talent to Calgary as it is for preventing injuries.
"There's two key reasons we wanted it," Hellard pointed out. "First, it will reduce injuries and secondly it was becoming an issue when we were signing players. They feel like if they have an eight-to-10 year span for their careers, they get at least one more year if they're playing on FieldTurf."
Last season, the Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders, the only two CFL teams still playing on Astroturf, had the most man-games lost due to injury.
The turf is paid for through an improvement fee added to Stamps tickets.