Synthetic Turf Fields: Maximize your field use, minimize the mud and maintenance

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In the outdoor sports realm, a natural grass surface has been the first choice for athletes, spectators, and athletic departments for generations. And though its exact texture has not yet been …

In the outdoor sports realm, a natural grass surface has been the first choice for athletes, spectators, and athletic departments for generations. And though its exact texture has not yet been perfectly imitated and its aroma when freshly cut cannot be fully duplicated, facility managers realize the high maintenance costs, limited availability, and inconsistent performance that come with natural grass fields.

The demand for field time is growing, and a natural grass surface cannot always hold up under the strain, which is why high schools and universities with multiple sports teams and groups contending for precious field time find value in a synthetic surface. The full-time accessibility and consistency of synthetic turf in almost all weather conditions make it a good option when demand is high and space is limited.

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  • 1. Synthetic Turf Fields Maximize your field use, minimize the mud and maintenance Concepts Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc. Summer 2014 onceptsC In the outdoor sports realm, a natural grass surface has been the first choice for athletes, spectators, and athletic departments for generations. And though its exact texture has not yet been perfectly imitated and its aroma when freshly cut cannot be fully duplicated, facility managers realize the high maintenance costs, limited availability, and inconsistent performance that come with natural grass fields. The demand for field time is growing, and a natural grass surface cannot always hold up under the strain, which is why high schools and universities with multiple sports teams and groups contending for precious field time find value in a synthetic surface. The full-time accessibility and consistency of synthetic turf in almost all weather conditions make it a good option when demand is high and space is limited. What is Synthetic Turf? Technically speaking, synthetic turf is an artificial ground or floor cover made up of synthetic fibers (grass) and infill (sand and rubber mixture), which is laid over a well-draining aggregate layer that mimics natural grass. First used in the 1960s, synthetic turf technology has advanced greatly since the early, carpet-like products. What started as a short blade system has evolved into a market that includes many hybrid infill systems. These turfs consist of cushioning layers and lateral drainage systems that mimic well-groomed natural grass fields. Synthetic turf continues to develop and is winning new converts at all levels, from the athletes who compete on it to the facility managers responsible for it. Reliable Choice The most prominent synthetic turf users are schools, universities, and professional sports teams. This is likely due to its reliability. Unlike natural grass surfaces that need time to dry after rain events, synthetic fields can be played upon immediately without concern about damage or rutting. Grand Valley State University’s Athletic Director, Tim Selgo, notes, “Having synthetic fields, we do not have to cancel or adjust practices… being able to practice no matter how much rain we have received is important.” A good synthetic grass field provides a consistent playing surface that contributes to fewer injuries (caused by uneven or patchy ground) and always looks great. These fields, requiring little upkeep and no water, greatly minimize ongoing maintenance costs, since no fertilizing, reseeding, or mowing is necessary. In addition, the time spent lining a field with paint can be eliminated when the lines are inlaid directly on the synthetic turf. Field lines for multiple sports can be added to the same field using different colors, greatly increasing its usefulness. “Our turf field complex is impressive and instills a sense of pride in students who use the fields.” Bob Stoll GVSU Associate Dean of Student Life
  • 2. www.ftch.com/concepts Beneath the Surface Though natural grass is obviously the greenest of turf choices, those who select a synthetic turf field have some options to reduce any potential negative environmental effects. For example, certain synthetic turf backing is made of recycled plastic bottles, which helps reduce landfill waste. Since synthetic turf does not require fertilizer or water, it will not contribute to the pollution of our waterways due to contaminated stormwater runoff. And because the grass never needs to be mowed, there is no concern over the potential for harmful lawnmower emissions. The benefits of synthetic turf go beyond its attractive surface. Synthetic turf can help to overcome limitations of natural grass by providing full-time access, rain or shine; reliable performance with a consistent playing surface; and lower operational costs. For more on synthetic turf field design, please contact Ryan Musch, PE, LEED AP BD+C, rdmusch@ftch.com. #FTCHFresh Elements of Synthetic Turf Field Design Working from the bottom up, we can analyze your site to optimize the field design. 1. Know your soils! • The soil subbase must be compacted and stable to support the turf and base. • How well do your existing soils drain? • Do you have high groundwater? • Soil type dictates the field’s drainage and storm sewer system design. 2. Field Base • A combination of well-draining aggregate and cross-field drains quickly transports water off the playing surface. • With the right field base thickness and aggregate selection, fields can hold five inches of rain before standing water develops on the surface. 3. Synthetic Turf • Know which turf elements are important based on your field’s intended use. Turf can be customized to different applications and specific sports. • Fiber type, length, and density must be selected. • Infill thickness and consistency can vary. Current turf generations are using hybrid infill. • Options are endless – field colors and striping, team logos, and end zone lettering can be customized to your exact needs. • Additional padding layers can be added for more cushion. Collector Drain Install Stone Base and Drainage Cross-Field Drain Roll of Synthetic Turf Turf Installation Completed Turf Photos used with permission: Outdoor Recreation and Athletic Fields and the Arend D. Lubbers Stadium located on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Campus