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Artificial Turf Maintenance

With a pricetag of just over $900,000, a new type of FieldTurf called Duraspine was installed in the summer 2007 at West Virginia University. This turf replaces their 5-year old AstroPlay turf and is getting rave reviews for its softness.

Artificial turf was invented in 1965. The first synthetic turf fields were not much more than green plastic indoor-outdoor carpet. At the time, some members of the industry thought that as more teams moved to indoor stadium, grass would not grow as well and would require a substitute.

Research and testing moved forward, advancing turf to the point it is today, a viable option to natural grass.

Today schools, stadiums, and municipalities across the country are switching to many different types of artificial turf to meet demand. With space dwindling, it has become more imperative than ever to have multipurpose fields that can be used year round. Thus, brands like Fieldturf have been growing very quickly, replacing natural grass.

The advantages of artificial turf lie in its ability to withstand heavy use, even during or immediately after a rainstorm. Fields enduring high traffic situations throughout the year (particularly winter) benefit from its durability and effective drainage systems when properly incorporated into the field design.

Artificial fields require a different type but just as extensive maintenance protocol as natural grass, particularly if used regularly for a multitude of sports.

While artificial turf today has evolved from the plastic mats of old, the "turf" is still attached to such a mat, with the fibers composed of polyethylene lubricated with silicone. A layer of expanded polypropylene or rubber granules (made mostly from recycled car tires) and sand serve as an "infill" to add shock absorbency. It is recommended that this infill be replenished on a regular basis.

Aggie Stadium on the UC Davis campus opened on April 1, 2007 utilizing a Sportexe artificial surface. With seating for over 10,000 this multipurpose facility is the home to both football and women's lacrosse as well as a number of local high school events.


Artificial turf requires regular as well as semi-annual maintenance, including the addition of infill, cleanup of dropped or thrown objects and repair and restoration from wear.

Whether by hand or with field magnets, small objects and materials must be meticulously removed; liquids or other residues must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Static cling is also a nuisance for synthetic turf fields and requires diluted fabric softener, such as Downy, to be sprayed on the field. The softener also serves to retard the odor - described by some as the smell of "old tires and locker rooms" - that comes from the rubber infill. However, the application of softener can make the field slippery for players.

While an artificial surface may seem smoother, lines can be difficult apply and remove. Painting lines can create problems because the paint soon spreads, leading to messy lines and unsafe, slippery conditions.

Other methods for creating lines on artificial turf is to "tuft-in" colored pieces, glue in sections or stitching during manufacturing. These efforts all come at a cost to accommodate various sports such as lacrosse, soccer and football.

Quickly-sodded to fill spots or damage marks, One university recorded an annual cost of US $13,000 to repair damage and replenish the field (seam repairs--US $8,000, application of crumb rubber--US $5,000). On another professional field, repeated painting of an artificial field as it changed from one sport to another and back again totaled more than US $100,000 in one year.

The materials used for synthetic turf fields and infill not only can carry harmful bacteria, but they can trap unsanitary body fluids, which could give way to infection; therefore it is very important for grounds managers to clean the playing surfaces regularly.

A Year in the Maintenance Life of Synthetic Turf

At Michigan State University, artificial field maintenance during the 2004-2005 season demonstrated that costs can vary greatly depending upon the individual field and its use. The following figures reflect the field surface's third year of use:

Michigan State University Athletic Turf Manager Amy Fouty found that artificial turf was not maintenance free, but that maintenance costs alone were only part of the expense. Fouty's annual equipment budget varied from US $8,250 to almost US $82,000. The need for outside contractors to consult or train maintenance staff could cost as much as US $3,000 a day, resulting in US $30 to US $70 per linear foot for repairs.

Equipment Required

The initial cost of purchasing maintenance equipment for a synthetic turf field can cost as much as the equipment needed to maintain a natural grass field. The following is a list of basic equipment for artificial turf and estimated costs, excluding any repair costs.

Annual Maintenance Required for Artificial Turf

Source: Facts about Artificial Turf and Natural Grass, Published by the Turfgrass Resource Center

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October 13, 2019, 6:47 pm PDT

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