Supplement Feature - September 2012
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Top Shape

Keep Turf in Peak Playing Condition

By Dawn Klingensmith

Since Xavier College Preparatory opened its doors in 1943, student athletes at the girls' Roman Catholic high school in Phoenix have lacked a home field. A neighboring boys' school allowed Xavier's softball, soccer and lacrosse players to use its field for practice, and when a conflict arose, the girls commuted to other schools.

"We were spending a lot of money on transportation," said Sister Lynn Winsor, Xavier's vice principal for activities and athletic director. "We decided it was really important for the girls to have a place to play."

After some 15 years of planning and prep work, Xavier in November 2011 completed Petznick Field, a 93,000-square-foot facility for softball, soccer and lacrosse. Finally, the girls had a field of their own. And Xavier became the first school in Arizona to have a completely synthetic turf field of this type. "No other school has a softball infield made of synthetic turf," said Winsor, adding that most have turf in the outfield only and dirt in the infield.

The decision was not made lightly. Before opting for synthetic, Winsor and others conducted research and took "field trips," so to speak, to see various installations. The Dalton, Ga.-based vendor that Xavier ultimately chose gave stakeholders and decision-makers a four-hour seminar on synthetic turf sports fields.

"When we made our list of pros and cons (for synthetic turf), the pro list was a lot longer," Winsor said.

Nowhere on the list of pros was the common misconception that synthetic turf fields are virtually maintenance-free, though some vendors insistently pitch them as such. Winsor expected to invest time and resources maintaining the field (although she'd visited one school that hadn't done maintenance at all in six years and its field appeared to be in great shape). In fact, the school went so far as to hire a full-time field director to attend to maintenance duties and the facility as a whole.