Artificial athletic surfaces are part of a complex structure that extends into the ground and beyond the visible boundaries of the field. The synthetic fibers that that make up the playing surface are simply the tangible features. Yet, unseen are many elements that enable the turf to be reliable, safe and enjoyable for the players and the facility.
Part of maintaining a synthetic field is managing the process of replacing the turf surface once it has worn out. This undertaking involves a three-phase process of thorough examination, detailed planning, and step-by-step building.
EXAMINING THE FIELD
See the Big Picture
Although synthetic surfaces are resilient and designed to last for many years, wear and tear from routine use and exposure to the outdoors eventually begins to break down a field. A facility that was once in great condition will, within 10 or 15 years, begin to show its age.
When the time arrives for turf replacement, it is important to approach the issue with the same mindset you would apply to a mid-sized construction project. Properly carrying out such an initiative requires professional inspection and assessment of the current condition of the field followed by the creation of a thorough, comprehensive upgrade strategy.
The plan can then be carried out systematically following policies that are in accord with standard safety procedures and considerations for long-term functionality.
Set Out to Win
From the very beginning, it is important to engage with a team of qualified experts who excel at every phase of turf replacement. As this is a complex process with numerous stages, hiring experienced, well-respected professionals who can commit to the extensiveness and scope of the project will be key to your satisfaction.
Contracting each phase out to the lowest bidder has the potential to expose the project to the pitfalls of miscommunication between companies and non-compliance. This, in turn, can result in an insufficient product and the need to above your budget to correct preventable problems.
Inspect the Surface Closely
When it has become apparent that your artificial playing surface is past its prime, it is important to diagnose the exact condition of the field before you schedule a turf replacement project. The most obvious signs of wear and tear are cosmetic, meaning that the green turf fibers and the white marker lines may have gradually faded from exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
This warrants closer inspection, which can reveal turf fibers that are split in half or severed completely from the base. Further inspection may reveal that the seams holding the long strips of turf together are separating and the field inlays are coming loose.
An overall hard feeling underfoot indicates that the infill has become compressed from years of use. These conditions present significant safety hazards, which means turf replacement is necessary.
Test for Precise Safety Ratings
Safety issues, especially on overly-hardened playing surfaces, warrant a more precise investigation in order to determine the degree of turf replacement that is needed. When a field is beyond its warranty period, technical readings known as GMax, the industry standard for shock attenuation, is recommended. Results that reveal an unsafe level indicate that a new field needs to be considered.
The GMax test calculates the amount of g-force shock the rubber infill can absorb. High ratings indicate to the instruments that little force is being absorbed when athletes make a high-velocity impact with the surface. This means that, in addition to the safety hazards presented by frayed strips of turf, the subsurface filling is outworn and should also be replaced.
Pinpoint All Surface Inconsistencies
Frayed fibers, separating seams and high GMax ratings indicate an overall inconsistent field that, while unsafe, may also not be level. Infill that has shifted and compressed over time could mean that the perimeter transitions from synthetic to the organic surface are inconsistent and the inlays are raised or countersank.
Below all of this, the hard sublayer which holds the infill may have shifted over the years, creating an inconsistent plane.
Diagnose the Field Drainage System
If rainstorms cause pools to form on the field in one or more places, water runoff is most likely a problem. Your field may have a blocked drainage system, or worse yet, none at all. This determination adds another layer of concern to your project.
While poor drainage can render a field useless at times, trapped rainwater can deprive the surrounding soil leaving plants and trees without any source of hydration. This is an important part of your turf replacement assessment — determining what aspects of the drainage system are not working so that solutions can be included in the construction plans.
Determine Uses of the New Field
Now is an opportune time to account for every capacity in which your replacement turf will be used and how this upgrade can meet previously unfulfilled needs. A field may be used for a specific sport, or instead can be outfitted to serve multiple uses — making it functional for soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse, rugby, track and field and more.
If this is the case, it may be prudent to skip the installation of permanent field lines and instead, apply temporary field lines from one season to the next. Also, a multiple-use facility may require more square footage than before, so now is the time to determine those new dimensions.
THE REPLACEMENT PLAN
Creating a Detailed Plan
The condition of the existing field and the scope and size of the replacement turf have been determined at this point based on the intended use of the new surface.
The next step is to identify the individual components that will make up the entire facility. Every field is unique, so the specific needs of athletes, spectators, coaches, management, activity staff, maintenance personnel, and vendors should each be identified.
These considerations will then be integrated into the new schematics based on current trends and those of the foreseeable future. Ideally, your overall turf replacement design will include detailed dimensions for field size, team staging areas, competition zones, bleachers, parking lots, restrooms, lighting and fencing. A professional turf replacement construction company would provide detailed blueprints so that you can review clear plans for your new field.
Select Specific Components
The intended use of your facility will determine the type of surface fiber texture and consistency you choose. A pitch designed for a single sport will have a different look and feel than a multi-use field. Your turf field construction representative can help you make the best choice based on your specific needs.
A turf replacement project designed to accommodate soccer, football and rugby should include specifics such as concrete sleeves so that goal posts can be installed and removed as needed. If the field is to be used for baseball, considerations for dugouts and a backstop must be made.
Based on every identified need and preference, a comprehensive plan and budget that is complete with specific dimensions and descriptions of every desired amenity can now be created.
Develop a Realistic Budget
Drawing up the budget for your turf replacement project is going to be a matter of calculating a balance between the ideal facility and your allottable fiscal resources. This should be seen as the very first step in the actual process of construction.
Before any ground is broken, it is important to factor in every conceivable detail so that unwanted surprises such as cost overruns and underfunding do not disrupt the project.
Itemize Each Component
Within this important stage, the value of each feature of the new field is identified — so that the individual expense can be differentiated from the total cost. If the estimated overall price of the project exceeds the budget, each component can be examined to determine where modifications to the plan can be made that will add up to a workable number.
This phase of turf replacement requires a complete inventory of possible expenses including but not limited to:
- temporary fencing
- overnight security (if necessary)
- drainage system testing
- drainage repairs (if needed)
- base layer pad remediation or replacement
- removal of old turf
- recycling and/or disposal of old turf
- removal of old infill (if necessary)
- recycling of removed infill
- laser grading of the stone base (if necessary)
- turf nailer upgrade or replacement (if necessary)
- new infill
- installation of new infill
- new synthetic surface
- installation of new surface and field lighting upgrades including cost and installation of fixtures and subterranean conduit
Also, upgrades to adjacent amenities and ancillary features should be included here such as:
- service buildings
- goal posts
- goal posts sleeves
- safety equipment such as padding, netting, and fencing
- maintenance equipment including field lining components, dry line markers, turf rakes, turf vacuums, and turf paint
- application of team logos
Finally, a 15% contingency should be factored into the final budget estimate. This will cover any additional costs incurred from working through unforeseen obstacles and the difficulties of bad weather.
BUILDING THE FIELD
Now that every feature of the new facility meets its allotment within the budget, it is time to begin the process of building the field. This sequence of events includes removal of the old artificial material, rebuilding and refinishing of the substructure, installation of the new playing surface, application of field markers, adding of infill beneath the new turf and putting the final fixtures and amenities into place.
Secure the Area
Since this is a construction project, safety for those using the surrounding facilities and residents of the community at large should be a primary concern. An important social gathering place such as an athletic field can no doubt pique the curiosity of the neighbors.
Fencing off the area is prudent for their well-being and for protecting the project during the more fragile stages of being built. In densely populated areas, security personnel may be necessary for maintaining top levels of safety at all times.
Remove the Old Turf
The largest synthetic fields can span across 70,000 to 80,000 square feet. Stripping the existing surface from a facility of this size will take approximately two days. As this is taking place, removal crews can be systematically hauling away loads of debris to the nearest recycling or disposal facility.
Take Safety Precautions
It is important to note that this will begin a near constant flow of construction traffic during working hours as materials are moved in and out of the site. This will create the need for heightened awareness of safety on the part of facility owners and administrators for the entirety of the turf replacement project.
Before the new turf is installed, a conduit for electrical outlets and field lighting is laid in while concrete sleeves for goalposts are poured. At this point, any predetermined repairs to the drainage system are performed as well.
Assemble Secondary Components
Other features that, if installed on new turf might cause damage, can also be erected such as backstops, goal posts, and permanent radius points. This stage will involve coordination of the various tasks according to spatial logistics and priority of what is being installed.
Set the Grade Surface
Laser grading the stone base is crucial for optimal field play and effective rainwater runoff. A professional turf field construction company will use state-of-the-art technology to ensure the foundation of your turf field is shaped to the proper planar specifications.
Assess the Anchoring System
Meanwhile, curbing around the perimeter of the field must be installed which the replacement turf will be nailed to and secured. This structure is made of recycled plastic, treated wood, concrete or a composite of these materials and can often be reused from the previous field depending on what is revealed once the old turf is removed.
Lay Down the New Turf Surface
Long rolls of 15-foot wide replacement turf are rolled across the prepared site, stitched and glued together, then secured to the curbing. At this point in the turf replacement project, permanent game lines can be installed for single-purpose fields, or basic perimeter markings can be cut in for multiple-use facilities.
Put the Infill in Place
Once the surface is secure, a 1” to 2” layer of granular material (infill) comprised of sand and recycled rubber is spread beneath the turf with a top-dressing machine.
Add the Finishing Touches
The final phase of construction involves the placement of benches, bleachers, fences, lighting fixtures, scoreboards and all other secondary features of the facility. If the installation of certain details such as fencing presents the possibility of damaging the new turf, the items may need to be put into place during the “Assemble Secondary Components” phase.
Know What to Expect
Like any construction project, turf replacement is a detailed process with numerous facets and phases. A smooth, safe and successful project can be attained when hiring qualified professionals.
Realize Long Term Benefits
After a project of this scale is concluded, the final product presents a host of advantages for the facility and the community at large. A temporary construction site has now been replaced by a pristine new field to service facilities, players and the community for years to come.