Budgets and the Environment Drive Trends in Natural and Synthetic Sports Fields
By Julie Knudson
Ask just about any sports field manager what they're looking for in turf today, and they're likely to tell you better playability and reduced maintenance costs. Also on their minds are ways to reduce the environmental impact of installing, maintaining and disposing of their fields. That means using fewer chemicals and minimizing water consumption for natural surfaces, and keeping fields in use longer and sending less material to landfills for synthetic fields. As we look at the current trends in turf, we see those issues are exactly the drivers moving the sports field industry forward.
San Diego State University's renovated grass practice facility in Southern California is set to open later this year after nearly three quarters of a million dollars in upgrades. Ron Hostick, CSFM, SDSU's athletic area lead, said the project was designed to convert an existing grass field into a robust facility that provided the Division 1 school with a more recruiting-friendly environment. And because the team plays weekend games on Qualcomm Stadium's natural turf field, the organization wanted to maintain a similar surface for practice.
Even though they were replacing grass with grass, the renovation was extensive. "Basically, we went back to scratch," Hostick said. "We regraded the entire facility and then put a two-inch sand cap on top of the existing sand/natural soil kind of blend that we had, just to give us a little better drainage right on the top of the surface."
Other improvements to the facility include a new irrigation system with computerized controls, flow meters and fertigation capabilities. "We'll be able to make fertilization applications through the irrigation system, but primarily our main thing is that we can add soil penetrants, which we think are vital to good sports turf," Hostick said.
The growing availability of organic products is a welcome evolution, though many sports field managers feel the offerings don't quite replace their traditional chemical-based programs.
"I think the biggest thing I'm seeing is that we're getting much better organic fertilizers available to us," Hostick said. "I'm still not at a point where I feel comfortable going completely organic. I'm experimenting with it on some multi-use fields, but on really high-intense use fields, I'm still staying with the mineral fertilizers."