In a luxury box overlooking the still-relatively new artificial turf field at Finley Stadium, complete with its fresh yellow soccer pitch lines, Bryan Peeples talked this week about fake grass, the 50th anniversary of AstroTurf and the World Cup champion, United States women's national soccer team.
Outside, a dreary gray day refused to relent from dropping buckets on the field.
Peeples, president of Dalton-based AstroTurf, can go into meticulous detail about the engineering behind the state-of-the-art turf products his company produces, like the Astro 3D surface in Finley.
* Headquarters: Dalton, Ga.
* Parent company: Textile Management Associates acquired AstroTurf in 2004
* History: In 1966, AstroTurf is installed at the Houston Astrodome indoor stadium. In 1968, AstroTurf opened a manufacturing facility in Dalton, Ga.
* Installed turf: More than 160 million square feet worldwide
* President: Bryan Peeples
* Slogan: “More fiber, Less Fill.”
* Web site: www.astroturf.com
* Sold-out crowd set to watch World Cup champs' exhibition match tonight
* Victory tour means winning for U.S. World Cup champs
* Wiedmer: World Cup champs know how to inspire their fans
* Road closures planned for U.S. Women's match against Costa Rica
He can say why it's resistant to ultraviolet degradation and why it doesn't emit heat like past generations of turf did. And how turf these days gets so remarkably close to natural grass, even offering in some varieties intermingled brown thatches to offer a more realistic, and less pristine, aesthetic.
But really, it matters most that despite a full day of rain on Monday, a forecast full of rain on Tuesday and very likely another full day of rain today when the U.S. women play Costa Rica at Finley Stadium, the field will be playable.
"We need this for a healing process for this community," said Peeples.
In a way, it's a situation that nobody in the room would have predicted back in 2005, when AstroTurf first laid down an artificial field after the disastrous, 2004 NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship game when players from James Madison University and University of Montana slipped and tripped through 60 minutes on a natural field that was coming apart beneath them.
Back then, the field was installed with football in mind.
"There were no soccer teams, no soccer clubs, here," said Peeples.
As a result, the corners painted on the field for soccer games, prior to the recent resurfacing, sloped off and required kickers to run slightly uphill to make a play.
That problem has been resolved. And in fact, because the Finley Stadium turf is what the women's team is used to practicing on, it sparked their interest in coming to Chattanooga for an exhibition game. And it just happened to come less than a month after the Chattanooga Football Club hosted a championship game of its own, drawing 18,000 people.
The timing is seemingly good all around for Chattanooga sports and Finley Stadium.
But it could just be that Chattanooga has finally grown into its stadium, said Paul Smith, executive director of Finley Stadium, Davenport Field and First Tennessee Pavilion.
"I don't necessarily think it's a fact that anyone did anything wrong in the past," he said. "Chattanooga is changing. Its perception of itself is changing."
And for the stadium, "if anything, it was a little too big too early," he said.
But Finley Stadium this year is poised for the first time in its 19 years to not need assistance from taxpayers. There are big sporting events, and events like this week's that put people in seats.
The stadium handles its own parking now, and keeps the money in-house. It handles its own concessions, and keeps the money in-house.
The Southside neighborhood is growing and prospering, in some ways because of Finley and the people and events it brought to the area when it opened. Thanks to the First Tennessee Pavilion, the Chattanooga Market came along.
"Is it solely responsible? By no means," said Smith. "But it definitely had to be a catalyst."
As for the $600,000 turf and underlying surface that was replaced and talked about at Finley Stadium earlier this year, Smith said he likes to look at it over the span of its 10-year life, which makes it a $60,000-a-year investment.
And Monday afternoon, equipped in ponchos and zig-zagging forklifts in and out of the main gates, workers laid out hundreds of U.S. Soccer and national team swag.
An event like this, said Smith, can reasonably be expected to cut deep into that $60,000, making a chunk of it back.
"It could be one of the highest-grossing revenue days this stadium's ever experienced," he said.
And even if it rains, organizers know at least the turf will be up to the task.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6480.