"Facts & mistruths about the Durability of Natural Grass Fields"
To the editor:
When I see the statement that synthetic turf is more durable than that of natural fields which is espoused by representatives of the artificial field industry and repeated by lay persons and even printed in newspapers as fact, they are perpetuating a myth that couldn’t be farther from the truth. People see the current conditions of Meszaros Field in Irvington and assume that is what you get from all grass fields. Modern technology however has created a grass playing field at least if not more durable than that of a fake surface.
The majority of the work associated with durability and proper drainage has to do with how you design and build what is below the surface of the field itself. A well designed natural grass field starts with a system of drainage pipes surrounded by gravel a foot or so below the surface. Then there is a layer of sand which absorbs water and stands up to compaction really well. Finally in the root zone of the grass a polypropylene mesh is inserted. This mesh does several things; most importantly it makes the grass incredibly strong and durable but also increases water infiltration rates by increasing pore space, improves the surface stability and evenness and decreases divots, improves recovery time of the grass because the plants are healthier and diminishes the impact shock of the field thus reducing concussion risks. In a field build with this type of subsurface you wouldn’t have to delay games due to rain and it is so strong that you can literally drive a heavy truck on it without damaging the field.
The drainage system is superior to that of a synthetic field with has similar drainage rates of water but the natural field’s advantage lies in the fact that more water can be absorbed into the ground and harmful contaminants such as animal fecal matter and bacteria are naturally filtered from the runoff.
When it comes to the playing surface itself many scientific advances have been made in creating grasses that are much more durable and drought resistant than that of the past. Finally when a section of a natural grass field becomes worn you can simply and easily replant the damaged section. When a synthetic field becomes worn of ripped you have to throw it away and replace the whole field at great cost. The surface proposed for Meszaros only comes with an eight year warranty.
Charles Kibel R.A.
(Charles Kibel was a member of the fields committee in 2008.)