October 2017

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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Page 49 of 51

Q: An email came across my desk in August, sent from a gentleman in California whose local high school synthetic football fi eld was deemed too hard. It had failed nine out of ten fi eld hardness tests and so had been taken out of commission for the fall playing season. This had caused some ripples in the community. The fi eld was 11 years old and the questions were: Was it possible to rip out the synthetic and install a grass fi eld in time to save the season? And what would that entail? A: My initial response is yes. It's always possible to rip out the fi eld and replace it with a natural grass fi eld, but that's not a quick or cheap fi x. It would involve removing 0.5 millions lbs. of sand and crumb rubber infi ll and fi nding somewhere to accept it as waste, removing the carpet and gravel base, salvaging or installing irri- gation and drainage systems, bringing in new rootzone material, grading it, and covering it with thick-cut sod. The timeline for this would depend upon many factors, like availability of local fi eld construction companies and availability of thick-cut sod. The renovation would take several weeks, cost a lot of money and might only result in a couple of saved games. Looking at this problem a little deeper, it would have been good to know why they wanted to re- move the synthetic fi eld. Is it because players and staff prefer natural grass? That was the case for the Baltimore Ravens where the team (and fi eld man- ager Don Follett) voted to switch back to natural grass in 2016. Don felt, as I do, that the improved turfgrass varieties available now, plus advances in technology and maintenance equipment, means that natural grass fi elds could be very successful, regard- less of local environmental conditions. If that is the case in the CA situation, a natural grass installation should defi nitely be planned and budgeted for, espe- cially since the fi eld is 11 years old and has come to the end of it's life anyway. But if they really like the synthetic and are only looking at this option because they want a quick fi x this fall, maybe replacing just the carpet and infi ll is the better option. It would still take time to rip out and dispose of the infi ll and car- pet, then 2-3 weeks for carpet manufacture and two to three weeks for installation. The fi eld's age and its being too hard for safe play means both of these op- tions need immediate, deep discussion. Both options will be costly and will need to take into consideration school preference, fi eld usage and available resources. In retrospect, it would have been easier to monitor fi eld hardness and have those conversations when the fi eld was 5 or 6 years old, or mid-life. Regular annual or bi-annual Gmax testing with either the F355 (Gmax <200) or Clegg (Gmax <100) would have shown the increase in fi eld hardness before it was too late to do anything about it. There are also recommended main- tenance procedures to prevent and control fi eld hard- ness. Regular grooming and periodic topdressing with fresh infi ll material are both key operations. Keeping infi ll levels at the correct depth is safer for players and extends the life expectancy of the fi eld by a couple of years. Since there is such a strong correlation between www.spor 50 // October 2017 Quick fi x for unsafe fi eld? Q&A with PAMELA SHERRATT Sports Turf Extension Specialist Questions? Send them to Pamela Sherratt at 202 Kottman Hall, 2001 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210 or Or, send your question to Grady Miller at North Carolina State University, Box 7620, Raleigh, NC 27695-7620, or email Continued on page 49

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