Synthetic turf needs less care

Published 7:00 am Friday, August 12, 2016

Even during a rainy day, the condition of the synthetic turf field at Picayune Memorial High School remains game ready.

Even during a rainy day, the condition of the synthetic turf field at Picayune Memorial High School remains game ready.

Twenty years ago, every football game was played on grass fields. Today, a trend has shifted to the use of synthetic turf, which can be costly to install.
Picayune Memorial High School installed a synthetic football field last year, which Athletic Director Walt Esslinger is still trying to get used to.
“The maintenance of a turf field is very minimal. No matter how many teams go on the field and use it, there is little to no wear,” Esslinger said.
According to Fieldturf’s website, because of the low maintenance of turf, the cost per hour to maintain it over a grass field is reduced by 384 percent.
In a 10-year cost analysis, the average cost per hour of use to a grass field is $49.72. The average cost per hour of use to a synthetic turf field is $12.95, the Fieldturf website states.
At other local high schools, like Poplarville and Pearl River Central, the football fields are sod, which might need more maintenance, but PRC Athletic Director Larry Dolan said it is not as costly as people may think.
“I bet installing a turf field can get very expensive. Maintaining our grass field is pretty inexpensive because the equipment we have for maintenance will work for many years,” Dolan said.
He said that during his 25 years at Forrest Agricultural County High School, he never had to purchase or replace any equipment to maintain the grass because “the old machines did the job perfectly.”
Esslinger said the cost to install a synthetic turf field is between $600,000 and $700,000. The process of installing a synthetic field involves the concrete curb, the field drain system, excavating the old field, installing the synthetic turf rolls and installing the rubber infill.
Dolan said that typically the cost to maintain a grass field is usually less than $1,000 per year. He said he dedicates around six hours a week to maintaining the grass during football and soccer seasons. This involves cutting the grass three times a week and painting the field lines.
Each year Dolan purchases herbicides, pesticides, seed and paint. There were rare occasions where the school had to invest $2,500 in a year for maintenance, but the bulk of the cost to nurse a grass field comes from the chemicals. On the other hand, what is readily available to him and most other schools is the expensive equipment like a mower and paint sprayer.
A couple of advantages grass fields have over synthetic turf are the inexpensive maintenance, a softer surface and no turf burns, Dolan said.
“I believe the game is supposed to be played on grass, but maybe I’m just old school. It’s not that I don’t like turf, I just think it is a very expensive process,” Dolan said.
Esslinger said the process is expensive, but the pros outweigh the cons.
“Since we got this turf field, I’ve had to do almost nothing to maintain it. It will never wear down and weather is never a factor when playing on turf. We can let everyone use our field and not have to worry about spending extra money to fix the wear and tear,” Esslinger said.
Unlike grass fields, experts are required to maintain the synthetic turf once a year, unless the school wants to purchase the maintenance equipment. The workers groom the rubber infill and erect the synthetic grass bristles. Every six to eight years, the infill must be replaced, which can cost up to $80,000 according to FieldTurf’s website.

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