Synthetic turf has changed from the often ugly AstroTurf of the 60’s and causing the athlete ailment called “turf toe”. Instead, synthetic turf has reemerged in the world of sports as an excellent way to keep a playing surface that can withstand the rigors of regular use and variable weather. Despite synthetic turf’s advantages, the decision to abandon natural turf depends on the needs of the playing field and community in your area.
Natural turf has long been the only option available for playing fields. Despite its popularity, natural turf can be difficult and expensive to maintain. If the natural turf is regularly used, in the case of a park or school athletic field, it is almost impossible to prevent signs of heavy wear. Weather can also seriously diminish the attractiveness of the athletic field, and is a particular challenge in cold or wet climates.
The largest advantage to synthetic turf the low cost of maintenance. A traditional field requires regular upkeep throughout the year and through the off season. Large sections of turf that receive heavy wear may have to be replaced, and the whole area must be carefully fertilized and aerated to promote growth. The redrawing of game lines and regular trimmings that are required also heavily factor into maintenance costs for natural turf. Synthetic turf requires a minimal amount of maintenance and regular sweeping to remove debris.
New synthetic turf, unlike the AstroTurf of the past, combines the desirability of grass with increased durability of a synthetic product. Synthetic turf is made of a variety of layers, with careful consideration given to drainage and producing a surface that is no harder than traditional turf. In fact, athletes have reported they actually prefer these newer incarnations of synthetic turf rather than natural turf.
Synthetic turf can withstand almost any type of weather, and almost continuous use. A heavy rainstorm may cause a natural turf field to be unusable for days, but a synthetic turf field could be used almost immediately after a storm. Many synthetic turf fields can easily drain over a foot of water an hour, allowing players to continue playing during a rainstorm, or resume immediately after.
Despite its many advantages, there are disadvantages to synthetic turf. Several environmental organizations believe that synthetic turf is less friendly to the environment. School districts often wince at the initial cost, a synthetic turf most be used for several years before any savings from maintenance costs can be expected. And traditionalists argue that synthetic turf is taking away an essential part of the enjoyment of the game.
Regardless on your feelings on the use of synthetic turf, it can be an excellent solution for high use areas. The initial investment can be high, but if the appearance of an athletic is a constant concern it can be a wise investment. If you are resistant to the idea that an athletic turf is not really natural grass, consider that a carefully maintained natural turf owes its growth and color to fertilizers and other chemicals.