What you must know if you’re considering switching from natural grass to synthetic.

Photo Credit: Sports Turf

By Alex Ewalt, FNF Coaches Contributor

Artificial turf fields promise minimal upkeep and a safe playing surface. What must you know if you’re considering switching from natural grass to synthetic?

Factors to Consider

Expect Some Maintenance.

While greatly reduced, maintenance isn’t zero, says Mary Helen Sprecher of the non-profit American Sports Builders Association. “Just because something is synthetic turf and it doesn’t need mowing or weeding, does not mean it’s maintenance-free.” Expect to occasionally use machines that redistribute infill or keep blades upright to avoid matting.

Make the Right Calls.

With options for infill, cooling materials and turf itself, there are many choices to make. That’s why, Sprecher says, it’s key to stay in touch with regional vendor reps who know your needs. “Work with a contractor with a tremendous amount of experience in your area.” Expect at least six weeks for installation.

Plan Ahead.

Sprecher encourages coaches to make sure they know exactly which sports and activities the field will support, as options for marking the field after installation are limited. “There are fields that are marked for more than one sport, but that’s a decision you need to make on the front end.”

Pay Now, Benefit Later.

The cost of turf will be at least $300,000 and often closer to $1 million. “Rent out that field for different uses to regain your investment,” Sprecher says. Dorsey says the cost of his second field, with foundation work already done, was less than half that of the first project.

Watch Your Turf.

Breakage, splitting fibers and discoloration within the first few years of use are all signs you may have a lemon. As a field deteriorates, safety hazards will inevitably increase. You can expect at least an eight- to 10-year guarantee for most products. For more free resources on field quality and safety, visit SportsBuilders.org.

About the author

Dan Guttenplan