As we look forward to next year and the hopeful comeback of sports across the country, we can bring up a debate that’s been putting sports fans, players and facilities at odds for years: synthetic or natural turf? The question of which turf is better may seem silly to those not as into sports, but for avid sports fans and participants, your field’s material makes all the difference. And while we’re not here today to convince you of one type of turf over the other, Austin Engineering is ready and willing to present both types of turfs and the pros and cons that go along with each. Afterward, it’s up to you to decide which you may prefer.
In recent years, many fitness centers, high-school stadiums and professional sports centers have gotten away from natural turf and replaced their fields with synthetic grass. And while this turf option has a higher upfront price point, there’s a level of convenience that’s difficult to beat.
Resistant to Weather – When heavy rains and storms roll through town, it can make short work of natural turf, potentially waterlogging the field. However, synthetic turf does not have such issues. With no dirt under your feet, synthetic turf keeps the same consistency and is usable after the worst weather can throw at it.
Less Maintenance – Unlike natural turf, synthetic turf can’t grow. It’s fake, after all! Thus, there’s less maintenance that must go into the upkeep of a synthetic sports field. And because of this, your organization doesn’t have to waste time or money on the typical upkeep that goes into a sports field.
Stays in Shape – Football, soccer and other outdoor sports can sometimes get rough. And rough play can lead to your field getting torn up. However, with synthetic turf, this isn’t the case. We make synthetic turf to last, no matter how hard your players go.
Safety – The latest advancements in synthetic turf have led it to be safer than ever. In years past, synthetic turf would cause increased friction compared to natural turf when players fell or slid across it. However, the newest synthetic turf options are developed with a polypropylene surface. Thus, they minimize the risk of friction between a player’s skin and the field’s surface.
Heated Up – While synthetic turf can be used in near any climate or after most weather conditions, it can be difficult to play during a particularly sunny or hot day. Due to the materials used to make synthetic turf, it absorbs heat more than traditional turf. Thus, a synthetic field might be unusable under severe heat conditions.
Lack of Legacy – While not a specific problem with synthetic turf’s material or function, this type of field is still compared negatively when up against traditional turf. And in most instances, such treatment is only the result of a resistance to change. Many folks aren’t ready to adjust to an all-synthetic field over natural grass, even after seeing artificial turf’s benefits.
Limited Flexibility – While the lines painted on your synthetic turf don’t wear off easily, this is sometimes a detriment for a field that serves multiple sports. Compared to natural turf, it’s more difficult to remove and repaint lines when readjusting to a different game field. Thus, most synthetic fields are utilized for one sport and are rarely changed. In recent years, AECI has had success striping fields for multiple sports by using different colored lines for each sport. Ask us about this possibility if you need a field to support multiple sports such as soccer, lacrosse and football.
Prices & Quality Vary – If considering synthetic grass for your field, you must keep in mind that not all artificial turfs are created equal. Some will lean more into the advantages of synthetic turf, while others might implement more chemicals to create, adding a risk of toxic runoff. Additionally, the price for synthetic turf, while never the same for each type, is always a bit higher than natural turf.
It’s hard to argue with the traditional appeal of natural turf. And while a synthetic field has its benefits, natural grass is still one of the most popular choices for constructing or refinishing a sports field. Price and flexibility are also something to be desired when picking traditional.
Play Experience – The way players and equipment function with natural turf has been reported to be better than with the experience on synthetic turf. For example, players have found it easier to run across natural grass. Also, balls interact with it more consistently (bounce, ball roll, etc.). Overall, players feel more comfortable playing on natural turf.
Better for the Environment – Due to the nature of natural turf (being “of nature”), it is much better for the environment. For example, natural turf helps to maintain stormwater runoff better. While water on synthetic grass will run off to the field’s sides, natural grass will control said runoff by absorbing it into the soil. However, the Engineers at Austin are able to design synthetic fields with better stormwater control. So, if you need this at your facility, speak to one of the professionals at AECI.
Flexibility – A natural sports field can be much more flexible than anything synthetic. The truth is, manufacturers design synthetic turf to look a certain way, down to the painted lines on a field. Conversely, with natural turf, you can paint and wash off lines to your heart’s content. Furthermore, this allows your field to be more flexible if looking to have other sports played on it.
Cost – Compared to synthetic turf, natural turf is the best option when it comes to up-front price. If you’re looking to save money during the initial installation of new turf, natural turf is what you’ll be most content with.
Long-Term Maintenance and Associated Costs – If synthetic turf requires little maintenance, natural turf is the opposite. Watering, fertilizing, reapplying grass and more will be a constant when looking to maintain a natural field. And all of this upkeep does require an investment of time and money. Long term maintenance costs for a natural field will far outweigh any upfront savings realized. The question is pay more now (synthetic) or pay over time (natural).
Not as Durable – Alongside maintenance, you’ll find your field needing repairs more often than not. Sports games can get rough and can easily rip up the grass they’re playing on. And in preparation for every game after, you need to ensure you patch any “rough spots” to make players’ experience as smooth as possible.
At the Whims of Weather and Climate – The use of a natural field depends on previous weather conditions. Heavy rainfalls can flood a field and make it impossible to play on safely. Why so many sports games get pushed back is due to rain and its effect on your natural turf. Furthermore, in Illinois, where our seasons’ temperatures can vastly differ, grass goes dormant, and repairs or maintenance must wait till warmer weather.
Risk of Overuse – Back-to-back games on natural turf can put too much stress on your field. Overused turf has a harder time growing back and will come in patchy and rough. To properly take advantage of natural turf, you must let it rest between uses.
Team Synthetic or Team Natural?
The choice is yours, whether you wish to go with synthetic or natural turf. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and either may work better for the area or sports games you wish to support. But no matter your choice between the two, you can count on the experts at Austin Engineering to help install your preference. Our team has incredible experience with landscape design, and we can recommend what we believe would work best for you, based on your needs. So, whether you’re team synthetic or team turf, we can be sure Austin Engineering will always support your next landscaping project. To learn more about our company and the services we offer, call us today at 309-201-0694. Also, we are located at 311 Southwest Water Street, Ste 215, Peoria, IL 61602.