Gilmer County High School in Ellijay, Georgia, recently became the first school in the Southeast to play on the AstroTurf Golden Series, a new advancement in synthetic turf technology.

By selecting a high-density, short-length fiber, a ZeoFill infill turf system (DT32) and a pad, Gilmer County embarked on its journey to revolutionize its football field before its 2016 graduation ceremonies.

With California leading the way in new synthetic turf technology, AstroTurf recently invested in a new, alternative infill design for the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department that has now been installed across the nation at high schools, municipalities and universities. Driving the invention of this product was a desire to create consistency in safety and high durability, utilizing a pad, a “no fly-out” infill system and fibers that had already been proven to lower field temperatures.

“We had a table full of turf samples,” explains Jimmy Newsome, of the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department. “After reviewing the products one by one and eliminating the ones that didn’t fit our needs, we had an empty table.” This drove the city to develop its own product, alongside the experts from AstroTurf.

The field

The Gilmer High School football stadium project was awarded to Sports Turf Company, Inc. after a proposal process. Construction began in February of 2015, which meant working through North Georgia’s unpredictable winter weather.

Sports Turf Company began by excavating down to subgrade to remove all materials from the previous natural grass surface and laser grading. A 6-inch, porous stone base was installed, accompanied by a full underdrain system to allow a minimum of 60 inches per hour to drain successfully from the new synthetic field. Exterior field drainage was also installed inside the track.

The Brock SP15 pad was installed over the stone base, followed by AstroTurf’s Golden Series DT32 system, which utilizes both slit film and nylon. The last step of the field construction, 1.5 pounds of sand per square foot, was incorporated into the synthetic turf system as a ballast before the ZeoFill was groomed into place.

The track

Sports Turf Company’s certified track builders found that widening the field to allow for a regulation soccer field wouldn’t eliminate a lane of the track, based on where the home grandstands were built. The orientation was redesigned, shifting the field toward space on the home side to best suit Gilmer High School’s needs and allow for the regulation soccer field. The entire field was enlarged, the distance between the measure lines for the track were changed and the straightaways were shortened. The curves were made longer and wider to accommodate the new, wider field while also maintaining six track lanes.

The technology

The Golden Series surface replaces traditional rubber infill with ZeoFill, a brand of zeolite sourced for its optimal purity and hardness. ZeoFill is a part of a group of organic minerals that are formed slowly over millions of years through crystallization in shallow marine basins. ZeoFill is able to absorb 81 percent of its weight in water and releases it slowly to create an evapotranspiration effect, cooling the field. In effect, ZeoFill can decrease the temperature of a synthetic field by 20 to 30 degrees.

The turf in the Golden Series system, DT32, contains 80 ounces of fiber per yard in a 1.25-inch tall pile, with each row spread apart only 0.1875 inches. This increase in fiber density, compared to conventional synthetic turf systems with only 36 ounces of fiber, means it’s twice as heavy and four times as dense, contributing to the system’s longevity and performance.

The Brock SP15 pad allows the surface to maintain a low GMAX rating throughout the life of the system, making it one of the safest on the market.

“Our new complex is top-notch,” says Terry Luck, Gilmer High School athletic director. “Our community loves it. Our players like playing on it. It’s made a huge difference compared to our old field.”