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Artificial Turf vs. Natural Grass

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Artificial turf installation

Cost: $700-900k

Installation time: 8-12 weeks


Natural grass renovation

Cost: $100-150k

Installation time: 12 weeks

A synthetic turf field usually has a higher upfront cost, but the field often pays for itself over time, proving to be a cost-effective investment for some schools.

Prices vary from region to region and from product to product. It also depends on the sports your field turf surface will be used for.

A general estimate of the initial cost of an artificial turf football field is broken down into two parts:

• Drainage base: For a typical full-sized football or soccer turf field, approximately $4 per square foot should be budgeted for the drainage base.

Drainage bases can have a life expectancy of 20-30 years – the life of 2-3 turf fields.

• Turf: For typical, full-sized football or soccer turf fields, a conservative price of $4.75 per square foot should be budgeted. Football and soccer fields are approximately 80,000 square feet.

Synthetic turf fields can typically be utilized for about the same cost as three to four well-maintained natural fields – with no rest. In addition, synthetic turf maintenance costs are two to three times less than natural turf, since no mowing, irrigation or chemicals are needed. Because of its consistent availability, a synthetic turf field is also a reliable source of rental revenue for schools and communities.

The cost of installing and maintaining a synthetic turf sports field over a 20-year period (including one replacement field) can be less expensive per event than the cost of a grass field over the same period of time. This is because many more events can be held on a synthetic turf sports field.



Increasing demand for high quality playing surfaces and intense competition for field accessibility has given rise to a new generation of synthetic turf systems. While the first artificial turf systems used in the 1960s and 1970s were hard, significant advancements have been made during the past few decades. By the 1990s, the first synthetic turf systems with sand and rubber infill were introduced, which dramatically improved player performance and safety.

The latest generation of synthetic turf is a grass-like ground cover that replicates lush natural grass in appearance and function. When used on athletic fields, it provides a consistent year-round, all-weather playing surface built to withstand extended use without downtime for recovery.



Most synthetic turf systems installed today include a drainage layer, a multi-layered backing system and resilient blades that are infilled with a granular filler to resemble natural turf. Infilled means that the man-made grass blades are interspersed with a top soil created with sand and/or granulated recycled tire rubber. Infill materials provide the necessary stability, uniformity, and resiliency for athletic action. Each blade customarily stands above the infill material. The typical blade length and system characteristics are determined by the specific activity requirements. In some applications, the synthetic turf system includes a pad or elastic layer underneath the turf, often in combination with lower pile height and less infill.



Synthetic turf sports fields are typically warranted for eight years, but their life expectancy will depend to a great extent on the amount and type of usage and the maintenance it receives.

Ultra violet rays can have a shortening affect on the life of your field – the greater the intensity of the sunlight, the shorter the lifespan of the fiber. A field in Texas will have a shorter lifespan than one in Greenfield.



Sod provides a two-year head start in the goal of achieving a thick natural turf. Sod installation adds instant beauty and erosion prevention.

Best time of year: With good site preparation and adequate care, any time of the year is suitable. Summer’s heat will require a bit more water for new sod than spring or fall. Some large installations may require installation in stages to allow for thorough watering.

Heat impact: During the summer months, natural grass fields can be significantly cooler than synthetic turf. In such conditions on synthetic turf, many coaches will schedule practices and games for the cooler times of day, and limit the number and duration of practices. Permanent sprinkler systems can be installed with synthetic turf fields to combat excessive surface heat. Synthetic turf fields can also be watered by hand or with temporary sprinklers.



In demand

• Because of the escalating need for durable fields that accommodate multiple sports teams and activities, the cost of maintaining a grass sports field, and the need to conserve water, a rising number of schools have turned to synthetic turf to meet their program needs.

• Demand has grown to the point where more than 8,000 multi-use synthetic turf sports fields are now enjoyed in North American schools, colleges, parks and professional sports stadiums.

• About half of all NFL teams currently play their games on synthetic turf.

Playing time

Synthetic turf playing fields increase playing and practice time because they can be used daily and in all types of weather, without worry of damage.

While turf grass managers recommend against using a natural field for more than 20 - 24 hours per week or 680 - 816 hours per year for a three-season window, synthetic turf can be utilized around 3,000 hours per year with no rest required.


Synthetic turf needs to be maintained to maximize playability and the lifespan. Clean debris away and rinse as needed, based on traffic and use.


SOURCES: Greenfield-Central CSC, Synthetic Turf Council, fieldturf.com, motzturffarms.com

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