Check out the options to determine which irrigation products and what type of placement work best for your synthetic fields.

Football, soccer, baseball and softball generate the most field use, the most spectators and the greatest revenues for sports facilities. Whether your fields are used by NFL players, recreation league teams, university teams or 4-year-olds, each game is a big game. Your fields are a component of the athletic experience for these individuals, as well as the cornerstone on which your facility’s sports program is built.

State the rules

Whether you add synthetic fields to your existing natural grass field facility or incorporate them into a new mixed field complex, help the users understand that there are different rules for the two types of surfaces. Start spreading the message in the preconstruction publicity and carry it through in preseason meetings with the field user groups. Post the rules for both types of fields in a prominent place. For fields enclosed by fencing, a great spot for the rules is right beside the entry gate.

Choose wisely

Become part of the planning early in the process. Understanding what’s happening in the industry along with your knowledge of the long-term maintenance needs of the fields should be major considerations during field design, construction and renovation.

Be prepared to present the data necessary to support your input during these meetings. Explain why you recommend a specific change or product and the impact it will have on field quality, performance, longevity and maintenance requirements. Take photos of other fields to provide a visual demonstration of what your recommendations would accomplish if adopted.

Check out all the options during the selection process. Visit different field sites when possible, and observe product demonstrations under varying conditions. Ask other sports field managers about product or field construction performance under different types of use, weather conditions and maintenance programs. Be realistic when comparing budgetary parameters to your specific circumstances.

Work directly with your suppliers when possible. Select the sod source that best fits your needs and talk with the grower to develop the specifications. Visit the sod farm during the growing process and plan to inspect the sod at the time of harvest to avoid any misunderstandings.

Experiment with the scheduling of maintenance procedures to determine what works best for your program. Here, one crew member mows while another follows to paint the lines and markings.
Check out the sod you’ve ordered for your fields at the point of harvest to ensure it meets the standards you and your grower have agreed on. These small rolls show the color, texture, density and root development of the turf and the consistency of the cut.
High-top, waterproof boots protect the operator from wet feet and paint splatters on shoes and pant legs.
Barriers, such as this strip treated with a nonselective herbicide, keep turfgrasses from infiltrating synthetic field surfaces.

Borrow and tweak ideas

There’s no one right way to handle field maintenance, so you often adjust the ideas you borrow to meet your specific needs.

Infield grooming time is limited when a sports complex has multiple fields with heavy use schedules. Determine which infield material will give your program the flexibility needed under your specific conditions.

If you want irrigation capabilities for your synthetic fields, you need to decide what type of system works best and how it will fit your program. You may want to imbed the piping inground with removable covers to connect the irrigation heads when desired, or you may want to install taller pipes with mounted irrigation heads. You may prefer to work with portable irrigation systems that can be moved from field to field. Whichever method you adopt, test the throw pattern in relation to your various wind conditions to make sure it will cover the area within an acceptable time frame for your needs.

Even desirable turfgrasses become weeds when they invade areas where you don’t want them. Grass infiltration into synthetic field surfaces can be one of those situations. Some facilities are installing permanent barriers around their synthetic fields, while others are using nonselective herbicides to create a barrier, sometimes painting the treated strip. Experiment with different materials and treatments, and the width of the barrier that works best.

Work with your crews to come up with the best scheduling of maintenance procedures for the daily routine and when prepping for special events. When all the fields aren’t mowed daily, some facilities wrap up the mowing on one day and do all the painting the next day. Others have some crew members mowing, with others striping and lining the fields following in the same sequence behind them.

Facilities with multiple fields to line often time their field painting for when existing lines are fading, but still visible.

You and your crews put in long days, so paying attention to personal comfort is important. Consider adding high-top waterproof boots to for crew members working in wet conditions, or to avoid paint splatters on shoes or pant legs.

The author is a contributing editor for SportsField Management.