Feature Article - February 2008
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Solid Ground

Ensuring Turf Is Tough Enough

By Sue Marquette Poremba

Synthetic selections

Communities and schools are turning to synthetic turf fields over natural turf because, as seen in Pittsburgh, too much use can destroy grass and dirt. Even the most diligent grounds crew will struggle to keep the field in good shape if the field is used every day for different reasons.

The Lester H. White Boys & Girls Club of Broward County's NFL Youth Education Town (YET) Center recently installed synthetic turf on its flag football field, replacing a heavily used multipurpose field.

"The kids love this field. They love being outdoors playing on the field. They feel as if they are in a state of paradise," said Brenda Fulmore, Broward County Boys & Girls Club's unit director.

"We utilize the field for more than just our flag football program," she added. "The kids are allowed access to the field after the homework period, and they are out there, running and jumping. The boys play flag football. The girls lounge around and talk and jump rope. They are safe—without worries. Watching them play after being cooped up inside all day is like watching the transformation of a butterfly."

Synthetics are even more popular at the college level. Penn State University, for example, decided to install a synthetic turf with the feel of natural grass. It replaced the turf on Bigler Field and the West Campus IM fields, used for lacrosse, rugby, intramural soccer and Ultimate Frisbee, not to mention all sorts of pick-up games. Replacing the turf, according to Penn State officials, allows teams to still play and practice in inclement weather, something they weren't able to do on grass and dirt.

Artificial turf can save money for recreation organizations, at least after the initial full installation. Up front, it can cost between $650,000 and $1.5 million to put in a synthetic turf field. The cost depends on the type of material used for the actual turf, the infill material, drainage issues and other individual costs.

But as time goes on, the artificial field can save money in maintenance. "First, it allows for water conservation," Price said. "It reduces the amount of pesticide needed. It needs less equipment to care for it. And its usability is greatly enhanced."