The happy sports news out of Philadelphia last week was the city's announcement that it will finally replace Veterans Stadium's infamous artificial turf with grass or one of the new grasslike synthetic surfaces. Regularly named by NFL players as the worst field in the league and bemoaned by Phillies past and present as the cause of countless achy knees and backs, the Vet's turf—rock-hard and laced with deep seams-has been blamed for several notable injuries. The most freakish occurred in 1993, when Bears receiver Wendell Davis ruptured the patellar tendons in both his knees when he landed after leaping for a pass. He had not been been touched.
New turf may finally bring an end to such miseries, but the Vet's shortcomings go beyond the surface. On Oct. 27, Eagles running back Duce Staley, on crutches because of a season-ending foot injury, slipped on water from leaky pipes as he exited an elevator. The mishap highlighted the decrepit condition of the Vet, where a railing collapsed during the 1998 Army-Navy game, sending 10 fans to the hospital, and where parts of the ceiling in Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie's office fell onto his desk during a meeting. Staley's lawyer and the players' union are both considering lawsuits against the city, which owns and operates the Vet. "Players are very concerned about the condition of that stadium and field," says Doug Allen, assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association. "It's an acute problem that needs to be addressed."
The Eagles and the Phillies hope the Vet's woes will soon be moot. In February 1999 the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill authorizing state funds for new stadiums for the two teams, but so far neither club has been able to settle with the city on a location. (Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, which received state money at the same time, will debut venues for the Pirates and the Steelers next year.) The Eagles have set a Nov. 30 deadline to pick a site so they can start the 2003 season in a new home. Given how long it took for the city to dump the Vet's despised turf, they shouldn't hold their breath.