Feature Article - February 2008
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Solid Ground

Ensuring Turf Is Tough Enough

By Sue Marquette Poremba

Weather worries

One thing no groundskeeper can prevent is the effect of Mother Nature. Too much sun can dry out a natural grass field, while too much rain can turn a field into a swamp. If the turf is artificial, as long as it has good drainage, the field can withstand almost any type of weather. (Poor drainage and hurricane-like rain can leave you with a wading pool, but the field should stand up to the excess water.) If the turf is natural grass and dirt, the ideal situation is to have a field that looks almost as good at the end of the game as it did before it started.

Field covers are the best way to protect any playing surface from the elements. Bob Curry, a spokesperson for a manufacturer of field covers, explained that sports facilities have the option of a lightweight cover for rain (good for baseball facilities) or heavyweight covers that not only protect from snow but can also be plowed over. Snow is removed first, then the cover. The covers also protect the field from debris. For example, Curry said, there are fields in New York State that are in flood plains. The tarps used on these fields make it easier to clean the silt and muck after a storm.

Lightweight tarps will cost about $5,000 for a baseball field to $15,000 for a football field, while heavyweight covers run $15,000 for baseball to $50,000 for football-sized fields. Curry recommends baseball fields in a high-wind area use heavy covers to keep them from blowing or being damaged by strong gusts. It takes a half dozen people to man the baseball tarps, while football covers come in sections and require eight people per section.