Feature Article - July/August 2004
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Special Supplement:
Recreation Management’s Complete Guide to Sports Surfaces and Flooring

By Margaret Ahrweiler



THORNAPPLE KELLOGG HIGH SCHOOL IN MIDDLEVILLE, MICH.

Before installing artificial turf, the high school's main field was used only for about a dozen football games a year. Now, the same site hosts practices and games for football, boys' soccer, girls' soccer, band and physical-education classes.



THE REAL STUFF

Of course, good ol' natural turf remains a popular choice for outdoor sports fields. Many athletes, coaches, athletic directors, groundskeepers and fans love the traditional look—and play—of live grass. What athlete doesn't relish the smell of a freshly mowed playing field, the feel of the dirt under cleats or getting a little muddy/grass-stained during an exciting game?

While a lot of concerted effort must go into maintaining the natural beauty of a real grass field, remember, synthetic turf is not instantly maintenance-free either. Obviously, all choices come with their own pluses and minuses.

As for natural turf, you could argue that good groundskeeping is an art form. Turf managers must balance issues like rain, drought, cold, heat, sun, pests and diseases all the while paying attention to root systems, turf density, color, blade orientation, growth, strength and resilience. It's a lot more than simple mowing and sowing. And come game days, there's painting, chalking and striping to be done, including regulation field markings and team logos. However, a plain green playing field can be the ultimate in multipurpose use, with no permanent markings and graphics to get in the way as you change from sport to sport, team to team or special event to special event.

A thing of beauty, naturally.