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Archives > September 2013 > Grooming & Maintaining Synthetic Fields: Strategies and Tactics

Grooming & Maintaining Synthetic Fields: Strategies and Tactics

With the increasing installation and use of synthetic fields, good maintenance offers five key attributes that will increase managers' and players' performance and satisfaction.

By: Ronn Ponath

1. Safety
Anything made by man requires maintenance, and synthetic fields are no exception. If the turf is maintained properly, then ruts, holes and wear patterns can be remedied, and a level, smooth, playing surface creates safer conditions.

2. Playability
Synthetic turf comes in a variety of materials including the fiber and the infill. They can be designed for specific sports that are professional, semi-professional, recreational, and multipurpose.

3. Appearance
Usage from light to heavy can alter appearance in different ways. Weather conditions can blow dirt, leaves and debris. Stains can occur from dogs, birds and people. Molds, weeds and poor drainage also create problems. Lines, logos, and end zones can be modified for multipurpose fields.

4. Durability
A poorly maintained field will have a shorter life span and may require premature replacement.

5. Flexibility
A big advantage with synthetic turf is its flexibility in scheduling for tournaments and contests and adverse weather. Quick changes can switch from one sport to another i.e., football, to soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, etc., with special removable paints and multipurpose equipment that can groom, paint and remove field markings.

Techniques and Equipment to Achieve the Best Outcomes
Grooming uses the following tools and techniques to achieve the field performance.

Normal grooming includes sweeping, decompaction, brushing, disinfecting, scrubbing, magnets for metal removal, eliminating static, conditioning, spraying, etc. The frequency of this is determined by weather, hours of play and intensity of play. Age, condition and location of the field needs to be evaluated. Infill may need to be added and groomed in. No two fields are exactly alike and consequently tools, processes and techniques vary.

Normal maintenance grooming depends on the above and may vary from practice fields to game day events. A rule of thumb is that for every 10-20 hours of use a normal grooming will keep the field in good condition.

Deep clean grooming is typically done 1-3 times per year where a deeper penetration of the turf removes dirt and loose fibers, separates and cleans the infill and returns the infill to the field.

Gmax testing is required periodically to make sure that the field is within the required hardness range for the appropriate sports being played.

Equipment ranges from walk behind to riders. It may be designed for one specific task such as sweeping or deep cleaning. Equipment can be towed behind ATVs, utility vehicles or small to large tractors. Other equipment–that is self-propelled and offers a variety of options in performing many tasks–is specially designed for synthetic surfaces. Good weight distribution, adequate tank capacities for liquid paints and removers and scrubbing and spraying, tires designed for synthetic turf, certain biodegradable hydraulic fluids–along with variable speeds and hydraulic pressures–can all provide variable and efficient performance.

Synthetic fields should not be groomed in the same pattern all the time. It should vary each time and use diagonals and crosses to redistribute the infill properly to level the field. Also certain areas will require periodic refills of the infill such as down the center of the field, in front of goals and corners.

Painting and paint removal of lines, logos, end zones, etc., are an important component for playability and appearance. There is a trend away from single purpose fields, and multiuse and multisport venues are more the norm. Some of the earlier fields had multiple layouts of different colors from football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, etc. This was confusing for players and referees in the heat of the game. Now we are seeing fields with just one set of lines for the primary sport. Colored “tick marks” can be installed initially in the field for designating those lines for easy painting. Then those lines can be covered up with the same color as the field and new lines can be put down for the next sport. Then those lines can be scrubbed off and returned to the original lines or for another sport. There are now specialized synthetic paints specifically for easy removal in a variety of colors and durability. Efficient equipment is designed to remove these lines with safe and ecological products. This process can make tournaments and competitions a revenue enhancing advantage for your flexible and variable field sports layout.

The Synthetic Turf Council is a good source of information and recently published a Guideline for Maintenance of Infilled Synthetic Turf Fields.

 

 

About The Author
Ronn Ponath

is the current president of Kromer; he's worked with Tennant Company for 34 years in purchasing, customer service, sales. He's worked in management marketing, sales, leasing, and finances in USA, Australia, and New Zealand. He also has vast experience in all types of surface maintenance—industrial, commercial, retail, military, stadiums, natural and synthetic surfaces.

 

 

 

 

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