For decades, playing surfaces in sports remained static. Grass was real and green, wood was brown and ice was white. But in 1986, a little school in Idaho decided to break the mold, installing a blue turf field and changing the future of how people thought about the courts, fields and rinks on which they play.
Almost 30 years later, a number of teams have decided to ditch the traditional look and go for something more original.
Although the dimensions are the same, these 10 playing surfaces have pushed the envelope, causing countless spectators to rub their eyes in disbelief.
Eastern Michigan’s Factory Football Field
Photo: EMU Eagles
What do you do when your program hasn’t won a conference title since 1987 and hasn’t had a winning season in nearly two decades? Give it a makeover, of course.
This summer, Eastern Michigan decided to install gray turf, to symbolize the program’s new dedication to toughness. The idea was born when head coach Chris Creighton told his team that they will compete against “anyone, anytime and anywhere . . . even on a parking lot.” Now Eastern Michigan will play on a field that actually looks like a parking lot.
San Jose State University Put Spartans On Their Court
Photo: SJSU Facebook
Whoever came up with this court design for SJSU must be a big Gerard Butler fan, because the image of five spartans in battle position at center court gives the surface a very 300 look. Unveiled before last season, the five spartans signify the five SJSU players on the court at any given time. The results weren’t as cool as the court though, as SJSU went 7-24 last year. Maybe they need a new pre-game speech.
Eastern Washington Gives New Meaning to “Red Zone”
Photo: Go Eags
Eastern Washington has a very successful FCS football program, having won their conference three out the last four seasons. Much of their success has come at their home stadium, Roos Field, which features bright red turf, giving new meaning to the term “red zone.”
Nicknamed “The Inferno,” Roos Field has featured the red rug since 2010, with EWU going 24-4 on the unusual surface. The best part? You don’t have to clean the stains out after giving coach a Gatorade bath.
Florida International’s Coastline Court
Photo: Sporting News
Florida International University is located in Miami, a tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches. The FIU basketball program decided to bring the outdoors in, designing a court that looks like a Florida beach.
The floor features sand, palm trees and even a blue ocean tide, perhaps to trick opposing teams into thinking they are on vacation instead of playing a game. Fans can even sit in a courtside Cabana while enjoying the game. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen!
Minor League Hockey Team Gives Ice a Holiday Hue
Photo: YouTube, Robert Herman
The Kalamazoo Wings, a minor league hockey team based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, are leading the charge when it comes to interesting ice. The Wings first dyed their ice green on St. Patrick’s Day in 1982; it’s been a tradition ever since.
They’ve also dyed the ice orange on Halloween and pink on Valentine’s Day. What’s next for the Wings? Red-and-white candy cane ice for Christmas? Black ice thats renders the puck invisible for April Fools’ Day? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Charlotte Hornets’ Honeycomb Court
The Hornets are back where they belong, balling in Charlotte and bouncing the Bobcats out of town for good. Obviously, a new court design had to be created to celebrate the glorious return, and what could be fitting than a honeycomb? The Hornets’ new court features a two-tone honeycomb design; and with the addition of Lance Stephenson, Charlotte is set to defend their home hive this season.
Boise State University’s Smurf Turf
The one that started it all, Boise State’s iconic blue turf field has been the Broncos’ home since 1986. Home games at Albertsons Stadium often leave BSU fans feeling anything but blue, as the team is nearly invincible there. Since 1999, their home record is 93-4.
Opposing coaches and players have said that the Broncos’ all-blue home uniforms give BSU an unfair advantage, because they blend in with the turf and are harder to track. The Western Athletic Conference even banned BSU from wearing all blue at home for a couple of years, but has recently withdrawn the ban.
Cal State Bakersfield’s Court Looks More Like a Swimming Pool
Photo: Go Runners
Last season, Cal State Bakersfield became the first college basketball team with a blue court. The reason behind the decision? McDonald’s. Since CSB’s primary colors are blue and gold, painting the court blue gave them a chance to paint the 3-point line gold, giving their court “Golden Arches” as part of a sponsorship agreement with the fast food giant.
Central Arkansas’ Bizarre Striped Field
Photo: Central Arkansas Athletics
The Central Arkansas Bears have what might be the most outrageous field in all of football. Featuring alternating sections of purple and silver turf and black end zones, the field was installed before the 2011 season. The wacky turf must have some magic in it though, since the Bears have gone 15-2 at home since its installation.
University of Oregon’s Funky Foliage Flooring
The University of Oregon is always hooked up with the sickest sports gear, thanks to Nike founder and Oregon native Phil Knight. But Knight really outdid himself with the $200 million Matthew Knight Arena (named after his son), which might have the most unusual playing surface in all of sports. The one-of-a-kind basketball floor, titled “deep in the woods,” was created by famous Nike designer Tinker Hatfield.
The court features a border of silhouettes of tall fir trees, meant to represent the scenic Pacific Northwest wilderness, with a nod to the 1938 Oregon men’s “Tall Firs” basketball team, which won the inaugural NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. The shiny yellow glow of the tree line gives it a trippy feel, making it one of the craziest arenas in college sports.