This has made synthetic turf an increasingly popular surfacing solution for university athletic facilities. In 2013, according to the Synthetic Turf Council, there were between 1,200 and 1,300 synthetic turf fields installed in North American schools, colleges, parks, and professional sports stadiums.
What You Need To Know
Why are school administrators and athletic directors making the move to synthetic turf?
It comes down to the fact that synthetic turf is more durable, versatile and requires less maintenance than natural grass. Many areas of the country are experiencing record droughts. Synthetic turf delivers a consistent playing surface while eliminating the need for lots of water to grow grass. Simply put, synthetic turf fields allow more players on the field, more often, and for longer periods of time.
Synthetic turf surfaces can provide your university’s athletic facility with a multitude of benefits, however in order to successfully enjoy these benefits there is one very important caveat: your synthetic field must be installed properly.
As synthetic turf fields have become more popular in recent years, there have been a large number of installation companies that have sprouted up in the industry (thrown their hats into the ring).
While there are plenty of exceptional synthetic turf installers in the business, there are also a significant number of companies that may not take the proper considerations during the field construction process.
The majority of turf installations occur during the summer months while students are out of school.
Thus this compression means that the most highly qualified resources have limited availability during the prime install season. So how do you avoid potential pitfalls when you are installing a synthetic turf surface at your athletic facility?
The Three Most Important Qualities For a Synthetic Turf Installation Company
Focus on Safety and Performance
Athlete safety should be of the utmost importance for any synthetic turf installation company. Make sure the company you are hiring consistently follows ASTM and ADA compliance standards and only uses high-quality materials during their installation.
Not all synthetic turf is created equal. While there have been major improvements to synthetic turf as a whole, some synthetic turf products are constructed better than others. There are a few things to look for when selecting a high-grade synthetic turf.
First, you will want to make sure that the overall fiber count (face weight) is high. Lesser-quality synthetic turf is constructed with lower yarn face weights and requires a much larger percentage of infill to keep its blades standing upright.
Premium quality synthetic turf should replicate natural grass in appearance. Athletes should be competing on the turf surface not on infill. Turf with lower yarn density is cheaper to produce, but it will require more frequent upkeep to maintain consistent performance.
It’s also important to make sure that the turf you are installing has the right type of backing system. The backing system is what holds all of the fibers together, and it’s primarily responsible for the overall drainage rate. Urethane is the most common backing system material, and it is offered in either perforated or non-perforated styles.
Perforated urethane systems tend to drain at a slower rate and run the risk of getting clogged with infill, while non-perforated urethane backing is slightly less durable.
There are viable alternatives to urethane. One time-tested option is polyolefin based Duraflo that delivers exceptional permeability with higher drainage rates. An additional benefit is that this product is 100% recyclable.
Finally, you will want to make sure that the synthetic turf installation company that you work with offers warranties and third-party insurance in the event of field failure. It’s important to research company policies and identify the protection that they offer in the event that the field needs additional work or replacement after installation.
Extensive Installation Experience
Installing a synthetic turf field requires expert design, planning and implementation. In order for your school to see a positive return on your investment, you’ll need to make sure that you hire a company that has extensive installation experience.
Due to the complicated nature of synthetic turf installation, it’s imperative that you find a synthetic turf company that sends out their own installation teams, rather than outsourcing the work to third-party contractors. In-house installation teams are highly-specialized and know the ins and outs of synthetic turf field installation. While third-party contractors may be able to perform a basic field installation, you run the risk of allowing small mistakes or oversights, which could affect the longevity of your synthetic turf surface.
Synthetic turf surfaces do not maintain themselves. Be sure that your provider has educated you about the proper maintenance required to maximize your return on investment. At a minimum, be sure that you identify the maintenance equipment required and insist that your staff be trained on its operation. Your synthetic turf partner has an obligation to provide all of the options available to you.
Additionally, you will want to find installers that offer long-term maintenance plans. These annual maintenance agreements available may actually carry an extended warranty.
While synthetic turf surfaces are much more durable than natural grass surfaces, they still require intermittent maintenance. Proper maintenance by synthetic turf professionals will ensure that your synthetic turf retains exceptional playability, protects your athletes and will last for years to come.
Another area of emphasis is safety. There has been much concern about head trauma and concussions recently. A properly designed, installed and maintained synthetic turf surface is safe. Make sure that you establish a protocol for Gmax testing the field for proper attenuation to ASTM standards. Both after initial completion, as well as every year or two afterwards additional testing should be performed and evaluated. There are industry standards that need to be met throughout the life of your field. This allows you to be confident that you are providing a safe surface for your student athletes.
Honesty and Reliability
It’s important to hire an experienced synthetic turf installation company, but it’s even more important to hire an honest company. Any company that offers a standard synthetic turf solution should provoke a major red flag, as the options are nearly endless when it comes to manufacturing and installing a synthetic turf surface.
There really isn’t a one-size fits all solution, because every facility is different. That’s why you’ll want to find a synthetic turf company that will listen to your needs and will develop a customized solution, tailored to meet your facility and activity requirements. Finally, it’s crucial that you hire a synthetic turf company that will remain accountable throughout the entirety of the installation process. Oftentimes, a reliable synthetic turf company will assign a devoted project manager or superintendent to each field construction.
This ensures that the lines of communication are always open, and that the installation company is available to answer questions and address concerns before, during and after construction of the field surface.
Installing a synthetic turf field is a major undertaking (and investment), so it is imperative that you spend the time to research and select a company that will install your surface with extreme care and professionalism. This will ensure that your synthetic turf surface is constructed to meet safety and performance standards, and will diligently serve your athletic needs for foreseeable future.