SBJ/December 11 - 17, 2006/This Weeks News

AstroTurf back, with Manning dad

Sports marketer General Sports Venue has resurrected the venerable AstroTurf brand and hired former NFL quarterback Archie Manning to endorse the field systems produced under the 40-year-old registered trademark.

General Sports Venue hopes to add to AstroTurf
installations like Tennessee-Chattanooga.

The rights to the AstroTurf brand have changed hands three times since Monsanto obtained the original patent in 1965. Most recently, Textile Management Associates, an artificial turf manufacturer, acquired the rights in 2004 after SRI Sports filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and its assets went to auction.

Michigan-based General Sports Venue signed a licensing agreement with AstroTurf LLC, a separate company Textile Management Associates formed to relaunch the brand. General Sports Venue owns the exclusive rights to sell the AstroTurf products Textile Management Associates makes at its Dalton, Ga., factory, and the two entities plan to compete for business against FieldTurf, the market leader in the pro and collegiate ranks.

FieldTurf had a short-term agreement with Textile Management Associates to sell AstroTurf, but that deal expired and the companies went their separate ways, said General Sports Venue CEO Jon Pritchett.

“We’re going after multiple markets,” Pritchett said, mentioning field hockey and soccer. “Pro and college are not the largest ones for us but still important.”

SRI Sports and FieldTurf engaged in bitter legal battles over artificial turf patents. General Sports Venue wants to reposition AstroTurf and leave the acrimony behind.

“Those issues have been resolved, and we are confident we have the right patents,” Pritchett said. “It’s more about our new products and services, not litigation and lawsuits. The timing is good.”

Manning, the father of NFL quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning, is a good fit for the iconic brand, Pritchett said.

“[Archie Manning] is considered the patriarch of the American football family,” he said.

As part of Manning’s endorsement deal, General Sports Venue will partner with the Manning Passing Academy summer football camp at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., and install a new AstroTurf field at the school’s John L. Guidry Stadium.

The project is valued at $600,000, Pritchett said.

General Sports Venue plans to kick off the AstroTurf initiative Tuesday at a news conference in New York, where several city parks have already installed or are putting in those artificial field surfaces.

AstroTurf was the world’s first synthetic turf used as a sports playing surface when it was installed at the Houston Astrodome in 1966. Since that time, 3,000 installations have covered 150 million square feet of turf in more than 50 countries, according to General Sports Venue officials.

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