In 1986, Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier stopped to think: If the school was going to drop major cash on a new AstroTurf field, they might as well make it something a little more eye-catching.
The university president gave Bleymaier the go-ahead, and the bright blue stadium opened to the shock of the public. Since then, the blue turf has brought Boise the extra attention that Bleymaier had hoped. It’s unusual aesthetics have even launched it right to the top of certain lists of the best fields in college football.
Officially named Albertsons Stadium in 2014 (and before that, Bronco Stadium) the venue, which now holds 36,387, is perhaps best known as “Smurf Turf.” The unique turf is sometimes simply called “The Blue,” though it has also been referred to (by Chris Berman of ESPN) as “The Blue Plastic Tundra.”
When the blue turf was first put down in 1986, the stadium became the first ever to don the color—and in fact the first field to have a non-green surface in football history. It remained in that position until 2014, when Rynearson Stadium at Eastern Michigan University set up a gray turf field.
In addition to being the home field of the Boise State Broncos, Albertsons Stadium is also host to the annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (which is a college football tournament and not, sadly, a potato fair). It is also the prominent setting of visual artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney’s film Cremaster 1, a musical revue performed on the blue turf of the Boise stadium, in Barney’s hometown.
The introduction of “The Blue” has also spawned certain myths. One myth is that after the Boise turf went Smurf, the NCAA banned non-green playing surfaces. (This isn’t true—schools may color their fields however they so desire; it is however a rule that applies within the NFL, fittingly named the “Boise Rule”). There’s another myth suggesting that birds, mistaking the field for a body of water, have flown straight at the ground and to their deaths (also very much untrue).
Some other myths posit that Albertsons Stadium has the only blue playing surface (while it was the first, it is no longer unique in its blueness); that blue jerseys camouflage with the blue field (it might look like this on TV, but not for the actual players); and that the Smurf Turf gives the Broncos an unfair advantage (nice try, but no).
The field was originally AstroTurf, before being replaced by a similar synthetic surface called AstroPlay, and finally another surface called FieldTurf. Some Idahoans think the Smurf Turf should be swapped out for the conventional green for the sake of the Boise Broncos being taken more seriously, but they’re in the minority. The Smurf Turf has become Boise’s iconic attribute, and it’s not going anywhere soon.
Know Before You Go
The stadium is located at the east end of the Boise State University campus.