We asked industry experts: “What’s one essential thing a sports turf manager needs to keep in mind to maximize the performance and playability of a synthetic athletic field?”
Here’s what they had to say:
After-Sales Service Manager/FieldTurf
The secret is as simple as the acronym BARS: Brushing, Aerating, Raking, Sweeping. By adhering to a consistent maintenance schedule following the BARS guidelines, you can expect your field to provide long-lasting performance for its lifespan. Brushing rejuvenates matted fibers and levels the top portion of the infill (recommended every four to six weeks). Aerating involves rotating tines that are designed to penetrate and loosen the infill to avoid minor compaction (recommended a maximum of three times per year). Raking prevents fibers from becoming matted and keeps the top layer of infill loose (recommended every four to six weeks). A clean field helps ensure that foreign material or debris doesn’t get into the infill. Sweeping the field must be done immediately following any other maintenance procedure.
Sales Manager, Sports Fields & Grounds/Wiedenmann North America
The number one priority is a maintenance program that includes surface debris collection and consistent grooming of the fibers, which should be completed every 80 hours of use (or as needed). By collecting the surface debris, such as sunflower seeds, discarded athletic tape, leaves, metallic items, etc., the field has a cleaner look and is safer for athletes. Following up with grooming the field with a quality brush that levels the infill material and stands the turf fibers upright should be the next step. By completing this process in this order, the turf manager is removing debris that would otherwise be driven into the canopy of the turf by just grooming alone. This program prevents the profile from becoming contaminated with debris would otherwise result in premature fiber wear and negative drainage capabilities of the field.
Dan Bond, MSM, CAE
President & CEO/Synthetic Turf Council
Sports turf managers really need to stay on top of the maintenance program. These fields are not maintenance free. Are you getting seam and inlay repairs done? Is your equipment working properly? Are you regularly checking your infill depth in high-wear areas? Specific grooming techniques and frequency rates are typically found in the maintenance manual provided by the manufacturer upon installation. Proper care will extend the life of the field and save dollars in the long run. I’d also recommend checking out the Synthetic Turf Council’s Guidelines for Maintenance of Infilled Synthetic Turf Sports Fields at SyntheticTurfCouncil.org. It provides owners with objective guidance to enhance the maintenance requirements and procedures of the company or companies providing the warranty for the field and the installation.
Executive VP/Redexim North America
Cleaning is extremely important — you want to prevent debris from migrating down through the infill, which restricts drainage of the field. Also, athletes don’t want to ingest garbage. Synthetic fields are inorganic. Anything deposited on them stays there until they’re cleaned. Grooming is extremely important in order to keep the fibers standing up. You want the investment of the field to last as long as possible. If fibers start laying over, athletes will be playing on both sides of them. This causes the turf to wear out quicker and also makes it a little slicker, which can lead to knee injuries. It’s also important to decompact the field whenever the infill gets too hard. A high GMAX rating can lead to serious head injuries.
VP, Turf Operations/Hellas Construction
Cross-brushing your synthetic turf is the most effective way to maximize its performance and playability. By brushing against the grain, the fibers are “fluffed up” rather than bent over and matted, which keeps the field looking new and traction or ball roll at its best. Foreign or loose particles will pop up out of the turf and can be swept up or blown away easier, ensuring the field sweeper will clean at its best. Cross-brushing a standard size football or soccer field takes approximately two hours. It should be performed biweekly during heavy use times of the year and once a month in the less-utilized time periods. During the first six weeks after initial field installation, cross-brushing twice monthly is recommended.
Consistent depth of the infill across the field should be regularly monitored to maximize the performance and playability. This will ensure consistent performance and optimum safety while avoiding uneven fiber wear. Using a simple depth gauge, the sports turf manager should check the level of the infill through the field. It’s important to pay extra attention to the high-wear areas, such as soccer goals, corner and penalty kick spots, and lacrosse creases. We recommend keeping extra stock of infill to topdress these areas, using a stiff broom to raise the fibers and work in the material. Also, note that some types of infill will migrate more than others due to field action and heavy rains; thus, fields installed with those infills will need more frequent attention and maintenance.
Director of Research & New Product Development/The Motz Group
A field that you don’t have to mow or fertilize doesn’t necessarily mean a field you don’t ever need to care for. The American Sports Builders Association spends a lot of time working to convince people that for any field to look and perform its best, a regular schedule of upkeep duties is needed. Always remember that synthetic turf fields aren’t maintenance free. In addition, maintenance is more than pulling a grooming brush across the surface every couple of weeks. Attention to details — like maintaining infill depth at high-wear areas and inspecting for minor repairs — will increase the useful life and performance of your investment.
President/Synthetic Surfaces, Inc.
Loose seams are a major safety problem on synthetic fields. Avoiding or eliminating seam problems begins with the installation of the field, not after it’s installed. When installing the field, it’s essential to use experienced professionals, wide seaming tape and a quality, outdoor solvent-based urethane adhesive to create a tight, durable, weather resistant bond between the turf and seaming tape. These components make a difference whether the seams start out well and continue to last. When a seam problem arises, repair it immediately. Waiting can turn the problem into a major safety and cost issue.
Export Manager/Dennis & SISIS
Synthetic turf has developed significantly over the last few years and now provides a premium playing surface for many sports. Synthetic surfaces require regular maintenance to maintain player safety, extend asset utilization and ensure the highest standards of playability and surface performance. A maintenance schedule should include key tasks such as removal of all debris and cleaning of the surface, infill redistribution and surface decompaction. Integral tasks are sweeping, brushing and grooming. Sweeping will not only remove the debris from the surface, but it will also pick up any loose fibers that are especially common in new installations. A well-designed drag trail or mounted brush will help stand the fibers up and redistribute infill. An oscillating brush system will stand up fibers, agitate the infill and level it within the surface. These actions help reduce compaction and promote efficient water infiltration rates, resulting in maximum playing performance and life expectancy.
Director of Operations/AstroTurf
Usage and upkeep directly affect your synthetic turf field’s lifespan. Routine, disciplined maintenance is the key to ensuring performance and longevity. Maintenance is more than just sweeping and cleaning debris off the surface. It’s recognizing premature aging and wear patterns early and creating a proactive plan to manage and prevent them moving forward. Detailed maintenance and usage logs will help you see activity patterns that create uneven wear. That data can also help you develop a plan to rotate events and protect the surface. We also recommend an annual deep cleaning. Our in-house professionals come in with specialized equipment to rejuvenate the fibers, as well as decompact and redistribute the infill. A consistent infill level will improve performance and protect the fibers throughout the useful life of your field. Staying in touch with your manufacturer on an annual basis will also bring awareness to your maintenance practices and avoid potential issues down the road.
VP/Sports Turf Company
A traditional infill system is like what we have in the realm of natural grass, because we have to manage high-traffic areas. This applies to synthetic turf, because if we don’t manage that traffic and move it around over time, the fibers of the synthetic system are degraded and the infill becomes compacted. This increases the amount of maintenance and repair required to keep the field playable and safe. As with any surface, proper maintenance is essential if we want to maximize the performance and playability of that surface; this holds true for synthetic athletic fields. In the early days of synthetic turf, the predominant thought was that they were very low maintenance. Because of this misconception, it can be difficult for sports turf managers to get approval to purchase the equipment necessary for proper maintenance.
Senior Research Agronomist/Toro
As with any surface, proper maintenance is essential if we want to maximize the performance and playability of that surface. With early synthetic fields, the predominant thought was that they were very low maintenance. Because of this misconception, it can be difficult for field managers to get approval to purchase the equipment necessary for proper maintenance. Recent research shows that synthetic fields do require frequent attention and that playability and performance will suffer greatly without that attention. It’s surprising that upwards of $1 million is invested in a surface that’s then mostly ignored for the next 10 years. No one would ever do that with a gymnasium floor. Therefore, it’s important that proper maintenance is understood, planned for and all necessary equipment is made available beginning on day one.