Supplement Feature - September 2014
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Fields of Dreams

Making the Best Turf Decisions

By Dawn Klingensmith

So, let's do just that. Brigham Young University's football team competes in Division I of the NCAA and plays on one of the prettiest fields in college football. In 2009, the field had a complete surface overhaul, and though the national trend is toward synthetic, the school installed a sod hybridized for athletic use, over a new drainage system. The sod also handles Utah's extreme heat and harsh winters—conditions that might have caused another program to understandably opt for synthetic. The grounds crew reportedly spends 100 hours getting the gridiron in playing shape before each game, so the overall maintenance program must be exhaustive.

Higher up the scale, in Major League Soccer, the Toronto team actually removed its artificial surface in 2010 to replace it with natural turf, saying it was something both the fans and players wanted. The installation includes a sub-surface heating system to protect the grass throughout the long playing season, which starts in March and can stretch into November for the playoffs.

To players quoted in the local press, natural grass represents a higher level of professionalism and credibility in their sport.

At the college level, as well, soccer coaches and players "want to stay on natural grass—it's just a soccer preference," said David Nardone, a field expert at Stantec.

Go far enough down the scale, to the parks and recreation level, and grass fields are prevalent because, as Dobmeier pointed out earlier, the alternative is "unreachable" from a cost perspective. Cost came into play when the East Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission (BREC) renovated two stadiums in 2011 and 2012, choosing Bermudagrass for a fraction of the price to install artificial turf.

"We're not saying (artificial turf) is right or wrong for anybody, but for BREC this was the decision that was best for us," BREC's communications director, Cheryl Michelet, told The Advocate.

That seems to be the takeaway—what's right for one program might not be right for another.