Guest Column - March 2008
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Sports Fields

Choose Wisely
The Wrong Turf Decision Could Cost You

By Troy Squires

t is no secret that facility upgrades can be a costly process, especially when an artificial turf field is on the agenda. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that deciding just how costly it ultimately will be depends entirely on one's ability to see the big picture. When shopping for an artificial turf field, all the experts agree, it is essential to do your homework. With so many cheap, low-bid artificial turf fields failing inside of five years, the market has caught on to the importance of this investment in the future.

By choosing to invest in quality, safety and performance rather than basement pricing, some manufacturers of artificial turf have helped ensure successful futures for athletes, programs and finances at facilities across the country. As the extensive benefits of artificial turf continue to be realized and celebrated by the public, competing companies have emerged, but with no proven history of quality or durability, these short-term-oriented companies have resorted to cheap prices. Unfortunately, these tactics have been in vain, because as it turns out, it can be much cheaper in the long run to spend a little more up front.

With an industry trend shifting toward even lower pricing, many customers continue to gamble the success and safety of their facility and finances by opting to install a cheaper, low-quality product. But as many frustrated and irritated field-failure victims will tell you, in the artificial turf industry, quality is the primary determinant for the return on your investment.

Robb Vassely, assistant athletic director for facilities at Illinois State University (ISU) in Normal, Ill., has experienced the importance of quality firsthand. After selecting a cheaper turf product, the university decided to remove it shortly after just five years of use and replace the turf with a competing product.

"The preexisting turf was installed in 2001 and caused problems from the get-go," Vassely said. "It didn't last as long as it should have. My crew was tired of taking needle and yarn onto Hancock Stadium to sew the seams and put the turf back."

Unfortunately, lifespan and maintenance issues weren't the only reason for the field replacement.

"When a wide receiver would run out patterns, his foot would go out of the seam," Vassely said. "So from a safety standpoint, we had to do something."