Feature Article - February 2006
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Tough Turf

Getting athletic fields in good shape is both complicated and not-so-complicated

By Kyle Ryan


Synthetic turf has become commonplace in professional football and college football, as well as other sports, but Brad Fresenberg of the University of Missouri says the primary growth areas for synthetics is at the high-school and parks-and-recreation levels—and he finds that troubling.

"We've been seeing this trend where they go from their native soil natural-grass fields right into putting up the dollars and buying [a turf system] now," he says. "I guess my recommendation is don't naturally make that jump without checking into other options first."

More distressing is how field managers have been cut out of the decision-making process in some cases. Administrators, coaches or athletic directors have made top-down decisions without consulting the field manager, who generally knows more about the issues involved.

"A lot of times decisions were made," Trigg says, "and sports-turf managers said, 'Well, wait a minute, if I could be doing A through Z instead of A through C, I could have a much better quality field in the fall.' Again these are a lot of issues that have surfaced after the fact instead of before."

For lower level playing fields at the high-school and parks-and-recreation level, Fresenberg thinks the rush toward synthetics is ill-advised, especially when sand-cap systems for natural grass can provide a better structure for a playing field, he says.

Though there are a number of high schools with newly installed synthetic turf that would disagree.

The best advice: Do you homework.