Biting The Synthetic Bullet

It’s 4 p.m. in late October, and it’s been raining buckets for most of the day. The phone lines are ringing off the hook. With the crisp air and saturated ground, parents everywhere want to know the status of tonight’s games.

A synthetic soccer field turned out to be a smart economic option for this department.

Luckily, teams can still play youth football.

Until recently, the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department was in the same situation as many other facilities–teams needed to play, but it was a tough decision whether to sacrifice the integrity of the fields. So, after asking questions and getting advice about the feasibility of switching the playing surfaces from natural to synthetic, here we are, a year later, and it’s time for kickoff.

The park district recently finished several major construction and revitalization projects to give the recreation department nine synthetic-surface playing fields of various sizes.

Youth/flag football, soccer, lacrosse, etc., can now be accommodated on a near year-round basis without having to restrict play due to field limitations.

This article will take a look at an estimated cost comparison of one of the district’s athletic fields that measures 100 yards by 40 yards, versus natural turf of the same size over an eight-year time period.

This period was chosen due to the life cycle of a synthetic surface. Since many of the costs are fixed for both surfaces, it makes it easier to provide an analysis on if “biting the synthetic bullet” and changing to a different playing surface is an appropriate choice for some communities.

It is important to realize that there are some assumptions being made in this comparison. For starters, the cost of one field is figured and multiplied by four in order to obtain a more accurate yearly estimate.

Second, the field is graded with solid turf and a superior root system, so this work was not performed. An irrigation system has already been installed, so the associated costs are not figured into the equation.

The five main considerations are:

• Irrigation

• Mowing

• Painting

• Pesticides

• Fertilization

Irrigation

Since irrigation is a large contributor to the overall cost of field maintenance, let’s start here. The field is irrigated almost daily for eight months of the year, which amounts to 240 cycles. There are 28 sprinkler heads for this size field, and the water cycle runs about 80 minutes. A complete cycle sprays nearly 8,000 gallons of water.

Additionally, the utilities department charges different prices for different water consumptions, so the total cost of water usage for the month is divided by 30 to get an average daily expense. The cost of commercial water also consists of sewer charges, so 8,000 gallons will equal $35.82 per day.

From these numbers, the proposed water cost for one year is $8,596.80.

Weigh the costs for synthetic turf vs. natural turf.

Mowing, Pesticides, And Fertilization

Mowing and pesticide applications are costs that rival those of water. Mowing is calculated at a minimum of three times per week for nine months. Fuel is included at roughly two gallons ($6.00) per cut, as well as 40 minutes of manpower at a rate of $10 per hour ($6.67).

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  1. Synthetic Turf Performance Guidelines
  2. A Synthetic Landmark
  3. Synthetic Turf Council Memberships
  4. Synthetic Turf Council Meeting
  5. Sustainable Synthetic Turf Playing Field
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