Feature Article - February 2009
Find a printable version here

Field Goals

Maintaining Sports Fields & Grounds

By Emily Tipping

Another Kind of Green

Synthetic or natural, the grass is (hopefully) green enough on your own field that you're not eyeing your neighbor's with envy, but what about that other shade of green? The kind that means you're using less water and helping the earth?

Manufacturers of synthetic turf have begun to point out all the ways they can help facilities earn points toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

How do they do this? By reducing or eliminating water used for irrigation, by diverting waste from landfills and reusing materials and by using plenty of recycled content (mostly in the infill, which is often made from recycled tires).

For those who want another option, check out the solution the International School of Boston is using. It's the first site in the United States to feature synthetic turf with an all-natural infill material.

The new surface was developed in Italy, where it is used on professional soccer fields, and is derived from coconut shells and cork—both renewable resources. It absorbs water, produces less runoff and the surface temperature stays closer to that of natural grass.

While this natural infill costs about 10 percent more than a field made with rubber infill, the school believes the safety and "green" aspects of the field are a selling point for prospective students and their parents.

And finally, getting back to the pros—and back to natural grass—we turn to the new Washington Nationals Park, which is the first major professional stadium to earn LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. This $611 million Major League Baseball stadium in Southeast Washington, D.C., opened in spring 2008 and features a variety of sustainable design elements.

Larry DiVito, head groundskeeper with the Washington Nationals, took part in choosing the makeup of the field, including grass and field additives, with the objective of conserving resources—both money and water.

"I was very involved from the start of the new stadium," DiVito said in a press release. "The new field holds more water and nutrients, and we haven't spent as much on fertilizer."

His field doesn't just stand up to the rain, though. It also stands up after being covered for a large event.

"Not long after the park was opened, the Pope held audience to more than 40,000 spectators," DiVito said. "The grounds held up well and the field was moist underneath."

It's a tribute to the efforts of DiVito and his team—and to turf professionals at facilities of all stripes—when the field can bounce back and be ready for play.