A recent issue that has been coming up more and more in the world of sports is converting a field from natural grass to turf. There are many factors to consider when choosing whether or not to convert your natural grass field into an artificial turfed playing surface for your sports facility. First, it's important to understand what artificial turf is and the different types that are available. It's also important to understand the benefits of having an artificial turf field and the costs associated with converting your field(s) to turf.
What is Artificial Turf?
Artificial turf is a surface made to imitate natural grass. It is most often used in sports facilities where weather conditions are unpredictable, as fields for football, baseball, soccer, and cricket. Turf can also be used for other recreation areas like dog parks and animal shelters.
The artificial turf itself is usually manufactured out of soft nylon fibers that stretch vertically before returning to their original position when it is stepped on, almost like natural grass. The fibers are then coated with sand, rubber granules, silica pebbles, or plastic pellets (most often black), which gives it its color and also helps with the texture. This base is then surrounded by layers of dirt that act as cushioning for players.
What are the Different Types of Artificial Turf?
There are many different types of artificial turf. Each type has its benefits and drawbacks. Here are some examples you might see in a sports facility.
Natural Rubber - This is considered to be one of the best materials for an artificial turf field because it has excellent drainage, provides good shock absorption and cushioning, and is very durable. It has a high price tag along with it, though. The drawback to this type of artificial turf is the fact that it only lasts for about ten years before you'll need to replace it.
Fluid-Applied - These types of artificial turf use rubber as an infill (like the natural rubber field mentioned above) but have a top turf layer that is actually composed of recycled tire pieces. The drawback to this type of artificial turf is that it can be slippery when wet and also consists of a thinner pile height (meaning the blades are shorter).
Artificial Grass - With this type of artificial turf, nylon monofilaments are used to create the blades of grass. These fibers are very thin and close together in order to mimic natural grass. The drawback to this type is that it doesn't offer any shock absorption or cushioning (like other types) and also does not drain well when wet.
The Benefits of Choosing Turf for Your Field
- There are many benefits to choosing turf for your sports facility. Here are just a few that should be considered.
- Since you won't have to spend money maintaining the natural grass, your costs will lower dramatically.
- The main concern with natural grass is how quickly it can become very muddy and almost impossible for athletes to move around.
- Artificial turf is typically much less expensive than natural grass.
- There are no limitations on practice time, nor do you have to worry about inclement weather.
- Games can be played at night thanks to the availability of artificial lighting.
- Turf does not interfere with play as long as it's maintained properly, so it will always be ready for use.
The Drawbacks of Choosing Turf for Your Field
- There are also some drawbacks to choosing turf for your sports facility. Here are just a few that should be considered.
Artificial turf can be very expensive to install and maintain over the years. This is due to the cost of the materials, labor costs to install, and yearly maintenance costs.
- Artificial turf can cause increased injuries to athletes as compared to natural grass.
- Due to the nylon monofilaments used in artificial turf, players cannot tell if a ball has hit a seam causing it to bounce unpredictably. This will lead to more dropped balls and turnovers during play.
Choosing which type of artificial turf to use for your sports facility should be based on the amount of money you have available to spend, what sports will be played on it, and other factors that are specific to your location. If you cannot afford natural grass, choose an alternative like fluid-applied or artificial grass with a lot of shock absorption and cushioning. If you're unhappy with the quality of play on any of these types, then it's time to consider natural grass.
Remember that turf is typically much more expensive than natural grass, especially if you want something that looks just like real grass. Spending the extra money on natural grass will reduce your costs dramatically over time compared to artificial turf. There aren't many drawbacks when choosing natural grass except for the time and money it takes to maintain it, but in the long run, you'll save a lot of money because you won't have to replace it every ten years like you would with artificial turf.