Biting The Synthetic Bullet

Fertilization covers over-seeding and scheduled fertilization. Over-seeding with 600 pounds is $597, while scheduled fertilization done a minimum of four times per year equals $210.

Pesticide application is done twice each year on a pre-emergent and post-emergent schedule. Pre-emergent spraying is done in the early fall to resist the growth of fall and winter weeds. Post-emergent is done on an as-needed basis.

Both of these applications are used with a broadcast sprayer. The application normally takes roughly 1.5 hours for a field this size; since the sprayer is used for additional grounds and landscapes, the cost of the machinery is not included in the comparison–only the pesticide, manpower, and fuel consumption.


Presently, when painting the fields, aerosol cans are used instead of concentrated paint mix. While football uses the field 10 weeks per year and soccer needs 25 weeks per year, the two programs do not overlap in the playing season, so we are not able to save paint by doing both simultaneously.

Soccer requires half the amount of time and paint of a normal football field. A case of paint retails at $51.50; it takes seven cases and four man-hours for each football field and three cases and two hours for each soccer field.

The yearly total is $8,367.50 for both.

Add It Up

To summarize, the cost of maintenance for natural turf:

Water–240 cycles x 35.82 = $8,596.80 per year

Mowing–40 weeks x $12.97 = $518.80 per year

Fertilization– $597 (over-seeding) + 4 applications of fertilizer = $807.00 per year

Pesticide application–$39.20 per year

Paint–35 weeks = $8,367.50 per year

Total = yearly total ($18,329. 30) x four fields x 8 years = $586,537.60

Synthetic Turf

Since synthetic turf is very much like carpet, it is beneficial that lines of different colors for all types of sports can be stitched together, so the need for additional marking paint is almost nonexistent. On the other hand, if you wish to have a simple football or soccer field, you can then apply extra temporary lines with field paint to fit the need for different programs.

Although the $263,000 price tag for synthetic turf may seem like a no-brainer compared to the $586,537.60 for natural-turf maintenance, there are still costs to consider when converting a field.

For instance, the site will need multiple types of stone or gravel to create a strong surface and a combination 50/50 blend of evenly distributed, rounded sand and rubber pellets. And don’t forget about purchasing the turf and repairing it on occasion, which tends to be costly.

A grooming machine (approximately $13,000) also is needed periodically to “stand up” individual strands and redistribute the pellets so that it takes on an appearance of grass rather than carpet.

Below is a diagram of a common base system that is used to create the substrate of a field. Keep in mind all of these components carry a price tag as well:


The synthetic turf became a viable option to replace natural turf for the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department. This may not be an option for every district or agency, but be sure to consider all of the factors to understand how a department can maximize its programs and rentals while lowering the cost to maintain playing surfaces.

Alex Sullins is the adult athletic supervisor for the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department. He can be reached via email

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Related posts:

  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

3 comments on “Biting The Synthetic Bullet

  1. karl Hensley on said:

    Not against synthetic but after reading this article it came across that they had no other choice.

  2. karl Hensley on said:

    Not against synthetic, but why were not all of the costs after installing the surface listed? Does this not equate to maintenance cost for the turf?
    One major item that would have been installed along with the surface would have been irrigation to control the temperature of the surface, unless they only use the surface spring and fall.

    Also it seems that they did not try any alternate measures to reduce their cost with turf. Example: weather station controlled irrigation (less water and applied when needed), fertilizing/pesticide should have been reduced over the years (if properly done) you would have only be spot spraying for weeds; painting — no brainer here, go to concentrate (with growth regulator) and sprayer and the number of times to paint is reduced.

  3. Grady Miller on said:

    Synthetic surfaces are designed for people/places that cannot manage natural surfaces. Irrigating natural grass every day for 8 months, using aerosols for football field lines suggest it may be appropriate in this instance. Fall preemergence herbicide combined with overseeding (when? fall?). They could definitely use synthetic. Alternatively, if a native soil field will be over-scheduled—then a synthetic field is useful. Author should include “building costs” along with maintenance for a truer cost comparison.

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