(HIRAM BITHORN STADIUM, SAN JUAN)
Many of you have played on or seen the new synthetic turf "infill systems". In 1998 we inspected the turf before they placed it on the field in the Tropicana dome. They laid out a couple of pieces from the makers and we hit balls on them to players. That was the first one in the Majors. At that time there was a hand full of companies selling the various types of polypropylene, nylon and polyethylene type grasses. Now….there is about 60 of these companies weaving the turf in Dalton Georgia.
In the natural grass industry many of my peers see the new synthetic turfs as a threat to their jobs. I can see how they can think like that when the sales staff from these companies tell owners that you will cut your maintenance by 80%!
Before you jump out there and buy some plastic the natural turf folks have found that after further review the cost reduction as stated is not the case at all. Sure you will save on fertilizing and mowing but many systems require irrigation systems especially in the south. Sweeping of the clays out of the lips, hand sweeping of trash, continued tarping of the field and of course the mound and plate maintenance. They can reach temperatures of up to 167 degrees. (That’s what I hit in San Juan last year when we were maintaining the turf for the Montreal Expos) Yes….. I fried an egg or at least turned it white!
Of course most of America would prefer to play sports on natural grass but sometimes that’s just not possible when you have one field scheduled for 12 months out of the year with 300+ events planned on it. I can clearly see that the main value of the synthetic turf is the added events which equal owner revenues. The construction costs for synthetics are a bit higher and the warranty ranges from 8 to 10 years. There are a lot questions about the new synthetic turfs as they relate to safety, cleaning and disinfecting, and general maintenance. I believe many are just taking a wait and see attitude.
Major League fields in Toronto, Minnesota and Tampa are the last three in with synthetic. The industry that the turf is really having an effect on over the past 3 years has been the NFL.
I could talk on this topic for hours and have walked on probably 30 of the 60 types that the vendors are selling. You can literally get lost in the sales process unless you spend some time researching the products before you meet with a synthetic vendor. From "G-Max ratings" to the amount of fiber per sq inch, the matting the denier the sub base, the infill blend the"…….it can get confusing while deciding what is best for your field. If it was up to me, I would say keep your grass unless you live in a domed stadium or somewhere above the 53 degree longitude line!
Let me know what you think about your field and synthetics. Good or bad!