Natural Grass Or Synthetic Turf?

The good news is that you’re acquiring a new multi-sports field. The bad news is that your desk suddenly resembles a city skyline, with different stacks of brochures and catalogues advertising everything from seed to sod to synthetic turf to maintenance products you never knew existed.

There are a lot of factors to consider in selecting a sports field turf surface.

Welcome to the decision-making process. It’s nerve-wracking, especially since there’s probably been plenty of input (not all of it useful) from front-office management to end users who want to weigh in on what to do next.

Let’s get two things straight before choosing a field surface. First, everyone has a favorite type of surface. There are those who love a natural-grass field, and there are those who favor synthetic turf (and people who have equally strong emotions against one or the other). Second, there is no one “right” choice across the board; there is only the choice that is right for the given installation.

While there are many factors to consider, the one to remember is that the ultimate goal is to provide a safe and stable playing surface for athletes. Once that is established as the priority, it is easier to move forward.

Obtain Help

First, find a professional partner who can help weigh the options. When working with a consultant, such as a licensed design professional, Certified Field Builder or someone with expertise in sports fields, it’s important to define your remaining needs and priorities. Before consulting with that person, quantify those needs by keeping a list of relevant questions. You may even want to send the list to the consultant prior to meeting with him or her, to provide a better background about the proposed facility.

First, think about the use of the planned facility:

• Will it be used year-round, or will it be closed during certain seasons? Will it be used for practice as well as games?

• Will it be used to host any other special activities, such as community fairs, school field days, etc.?

• Will it host different types of sports (football, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, etc.) or just one?

• Will it host field events, such as javelin or hammer throw?

• Do you anticipate any events held on the field to be televised?

• Is this the only field in the area, or are there others that can be used in case of problems or rainouts?

There are pros and cons to both natural grass and synthetic turf.

Next, consider the site for the facility:

• Is it in an area where there are utilities, such as water, sewer and electricity?

• What is the soil like? Does it drain well?

• Is the facility out of the way, or in public view?

• Will the area be open to the public 24 hours a day, or will it be closed when not in use?

Then, examine the budget to determine:

• How much do you want to spend on the finished facility?

• What are the maintenance capabilities? (Nothing is maintenance-free, so be honest and try to quantify how much maintenance funding is in the budget as well as the capabilities of the current maintenance crew, including the available time and expertise).

Finally, ask yourself:

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