Guest Column - March 2011
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Sports Fields

Clearing the Clutter
What Matters Most in an Artificial Turf System

By Darren Gill

The process to purchase an artificial turf field can be quite confusing and overwhelming, with various turf companies telling stories of why their turf system is better than another. Surprisingly, most choose to talk about the physical properties of their turf system rather than things that customers should care about most—safety, performance and durability of their fields.

There is, however, one very important question that purchasers of artificial turf must answer before choosing a turf system: Do you want to buy a high-performance sports field or a Persian rug?

If you want the sports field, then you want a system on which your athletes can cut, plant and release in a grass-like infilled system. You likely care about the safety of your athletes and need a system that will protect them. This means you are looking for an "open" turf system with a wide gauge. One that focuses on infill content, rather than fiber content. We call these systems "heavyweight" infill systems.

If you want the Persian rug, then you'll want to speak to companies that proudly boast their fiber content and focus their discussions on "face weight." These types of companies pride themselves on their carpet-maker mentality and focus on building their systems up by increasing the number of turf fibers per square inch. There is an ongoing battle between certain companies to put as much fiber into their turf system as possible. We call these types of fiber-dense systems "lightweight" systems because of their lack of infill.

History has proven that this "carpet-maker" mentality has failed before. Ask anyone who played on artificial turf in the '80s and '90s, and they will tell you that even the densest, thickest carpet will not protect you if there isn't adequate infill.

The concept is simple: Athletes play in the infill, not on the turf fibers.

On a natural grass field, players cut, plant and release in the earth, which holds the grass fibers upright. The green blades of grass are strictly for aesthetics. Heavyweight infill systems have been engineered in the same manner.