Guest Column - October 2021
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inPERSPECTIVE / SPORTS FIELDS

Safety, Durability & Performance
Trends in Synthetic Turf

By Todd Wiggins


Synthetic turf systems are evolving to safer, more durable and higher-performing systems to compare to premier natural grass fields. While natural grass systems are king in the athletic facility world, when field managers are faced with the conversion to synthetic turf, it's essential that they are informed about the latest technology and nuances.

Higher-Face-Weight Systems

One of the main reasons for converting to synthetic turf is to allow your facility to host multiple sports, games and events without fear of prematurely wearing the surface. This means little downtime between events and heavy usage in all weather conditions.

To combat high traffic and to ensure your field lasts well beyond its warranty period, facility managers are beginning to look at higher-face-weight synthetic turf systems. Face weight is a measurement of how many ounces of synthetic turf fibers are included per square yard. While commodity synthetic turf systems can be as low as 32 ounces, there are comparably priced systems up to 60 ounces.

Not only do these systems contain double the fiber, they also can feature a 10-year warranty compared to the industry-standard 8-year warranty. These heavy-face-weight systems push the industry toward surfaces with dense fibers and extended durability for the lifetime of the field, eliminating a field manager's need to limit use.

Shock Pads

As season-ending injuries are front-page news, safety has become a top priority in synthetic turf technology. Revolutionary shock pad technology allows synthetic turf systems to test on par with natural grass fields in terms of Gmax testing. Gmax testing for sports surfaces measures the ability of the surface to absorb shocks due to impact. Artificial turf systems harden over time due to infill compaction and can test at dangerously high levels through the lifetime of the system. With the inclusion of a shock pad underneath your artificial turf system, the Gmax and HIC levels remain consistent throughout the lifetime of the field with warranties up to 25 years.

Infill

As synthetic turf systems evolve, so do synthetic turf infills. The main role of infill in synthetic turf systems has always been to absorb the impact of falls and improve the force reduction of the surface.

With the inclusion of shock pads into synthetic turf systems, the need for crumb rubber can be eliminated entirely, allowing for organic, temperature-reducing infill to replace it.

One of the most popular organic infills on the market today is a highly engineered wood particle infill that is specifically designed to reduce artificial turf heat and improve field surface traction. The unique properties of the wood infill decrease field temperatures by absorbing natural rainwater and condensation and slowly releasing it. Since it naturally gains weight when wet, this organic infill doesn't float or migrate similar to cork-based infill.

Eliminating rubberized infill and replacing it with an organic infill reduces any bouncy-ness to the surface and increases player footing and traction by more closely simulating a natural grass surface. RM



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A dedicated athletic construction industry professional with more than 16 years of experience in design, maintenance and construction of fields and tracks and a focus on developing projects that meet and exceed the needs of owners, Todd Wiggins is president of Sports Turf Company. Sports Turf Company, a leader in athletic construction and a top specialty contractor in the southeast, has completed projects across five states from colleges to professional venues.