Sports Fields

Choose Wisely
The Wrong Turf Decision Could Cost You

By Troy Squires

I
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."

The University of North Carolina (UNC) also recently realized the tremendous savings afforded by upgrading to a higher-quality synthetic turf. In 2002, UNC selected an all-rubber, cheaper artificial turf product, but after only five years of use at Hooker Field, decided to remove it and install new turf.

Marty Pomerantz, UNC's director of campus recreation, noticed the difference in quality almost immediately. When asked to compare the old field with the new field, he said that "within a year, the old field was beginning to break down." Not so with the new field.

Interestingly enough, both ISU's Hancock Stadium and UNC's Hooker Field ensured minimal use and were both fully equipped with world-class maintenance equipment and crews. However, despite the normally ideal conditions, the cheaper, low-quality products failed to last more than five years.

Unfortunately for hundreds of schools and thousands of athletes and students, the necessary finances to replace failed artificial turf fields are simply not available. With no third-party-insured warranty, the hundreds of facilities that decided to roll the dice with an artificial turf field that has since failed are currently left without options. Their athletes and students must now endure the potentially hazardous conditions associated with field failures until field replacement funds have been raised.

Third-party-insured warranties are not issued to everyone. In order to become eligible for this highly protective and guaranteed warranty, a company's financial history is thoroughly evaluated. When determining your best option for artificial turf fields, be sure to investigate the warranty thoroughly.

The true test of product quality lies in its longevity. The Amarillo Independent School District has already begun to experience this.

Athletic Director Tex Nolan decided to install an artificial turf field 10 years ago. Today, this same field continues to be used nonstop by hundreds of students and community members.

"Our field continues to provide unmatched durability and consistently safe playability. All the savings that were promised to us from the start continue to remain true today. Even after 10 years, we continue to see a return on our investment, as we receive maximum usage out of our all-weather field," Nolan said.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Troy Squires has been a leading sports synthetic turf sales and marketing executive since 1979, and is currently vice president of Sales & Marketing for FieldTurf Tarkett. Squires also has held key positions at Southwest Recreational Industries and was instrumental in the development of their key products. For more information, visit www.fieldturf.com.




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