Synthetic Turf Specialist

Synthetic Sports Fields - are we installing the correct products for the correct use?

By jos-mckenzie on July 13, 2017

A synthetic turf field is a large investment for any organisation, and as such you want to make sure that you are getting the best product and value for your intended use and application.

The trend in recent years has been a move to monofilament fields which arguably look better, potentially offer a better quality of game and more realistically replicate a natural turf look and feel.

The origins of the modern monofilament trend comes from R&D by all of the major yarn producers at the request of its customers to make synthetic products that better replicate nature, that offer an improved playing experience primarily at an elite level of the game(s) being played. This is all well in good when the target market is football clubs who have the ability to control access to their fields, and therefore full control of playing hours. Clubs who have in-house maintenance teams, who maintain their fields on a daily basis, refilling penalty and corner spots, linesman’s runs after every game, removing organic and non-organic contamination and ensuring infill levels are kept at the correct levels.

However these monofilament fields have also found their way into public fields installed for municipalities as public spaces where access isn’t controlled, where members of the public can walk the dog, take a bucket of balls and golf club, with unlimited access, very high use and are not maintained after every game or every day. This is not a case of one manufacturers fibre being better than another in a monofilament argument rather it is a case a these fields are the wrong choice and driven by the elite end of the game rather than being “fit for purpose” with longevity and high use in mind.

 

When choosing the best field for your application ask yourself some the following simple questions:

1. Is my field controlled access where I can limit who plays and when?

2. How many hours’ use do I want from my field 20, 60 or more hours per week?

3. Can I control footwear used on my field?

4. Do I have well trained regular maintenance programme in place, top up infill available and staff on hand that meets the use and hours I expect from my field?

If your answer is no to any of the above then perhaps you need to think about what he correct product is for you.

 

What are my options?

Monofilaments

Monofilament synthetic turf fibres are extruded through a spinneret. The die hole of the spinneret determines the cross section of the blade. The design of the turf blade plays an important role in the performance characteristics of the synthetic turf pitch. Traditionally, monofilament fibers have been recommended and preferred in soccer-specific applications, or lighter-use facilities. The main reason mono performs better for soccer is the fibers tend to stand vertically longer, which translates to a slower ball roll and a more natural feel when it comes to ball to surface interaction (think a natural, high performance grass field). A potential drawback that you may experience is more rubber splash. Monofilaments can be used in football/Rugby/AFL/lacrosse applications when participants prefer the look and added aesthetic of the more grass like fibers.

Typical monofilament synthetic turf system                                                                                  A controlled use, monofilament football field, Auckland, New Zealand

 

Fibrillated Tape (Slit-Film)

Fibrillated tape products are produced by foil extrusion. The foil is slit into tape and the tape is fibrillated with a specific pattern. The fibrillation provides a natural look and feel with individual synthetic turf fibres after installation in a synthetic turf pitch. A Fibrillated Tape is a true workhorse. The fibers are prepared to sustain significant activity, with great durability. A Fibrillated Tape field is ideal for a multi-purpose field, to be used by multiple sports, especially Football/Rugby/AFL. The wide tape/film binds better in the backing cloth construction than monofilament fibres creating better filament and tuff bind vs monofilaments. As the field gets broken in, Fibrillated Tape fibers will cross hatch (think a natural, high-performance grass field) and create a cup shape. This condition makes for a quick surface and also has the benefit of encapsulating the infill, which reduces maintenance hours and cost for the field. The increased surface area of the tape provides more fibre per footprint and increases available material in the field.

Typical Fibrillated Tape (slit-film) synthetic turf system                                                                An open, public field, Fibrillated Tape, football field, Auckland, New Zealand

Hybrid Turf

The new kid on the block a system that reinforces natural grass turf with synthetic turf fibres to give a winning formula of the natural grass play ability and a surface that is much more resistant to wear and tear. Hybrid turf is a network of synthetic turf fibres woven into a strong backing material and laid directly on a standard pitch base. The synthetic component is carefully infilled with a special root zone mix and sown with grass seeds. Within days, the grass seeds germinate and grow between

the synthetic fibres and through the backing. This creates an incredibly strong natural grass surface which is more resistant to wear and tear. As the grass grows, the backing material partially biodegrades, leaving more room for the roots to grow through, while still retaining a strong support structure for the grass. The synthetic fibres take some of the pressure of wear and tear off the natural grass shoots, allowing much greater usage than would be possible with a standard natural grass surface. Divots become less of an issue than on a natural field as the structure continues to hold the turf in place.

Hybrid systems can be easily installed on site, requiring only standard pitch installation equipment and utilising a high proportion of local labour. It typically takes the same length of time to install as a standard grass pitch. However, for those clubs in a hurry, fields can also be grown offsite and can be play upon within days of installation. This has enormous advantages for clubs who need to partially or completely re-turf their pitch mid-season.

It is the perfect solution for applications where it may be difficult to maintain a natural grass pitch or where customers not want, or are not permitted, to play on a 100% synthetic turf pitch. The downside of the hybrid option is that it will not provide the same hours of use as a 100% synthetic field falling in the middle of a natural turf field and fully synthetic field in terms of playing hours. 

An open, public field, Hybrid Turf, football field, Denver CO, United States

 

In Summary:

We can’t help but think the high number of monofilament synthetic fields being installed in public spaces is concerning. Many are showing signs of adverse wear, flattening and splitting very early in their lives and leaving their owners looking for answers. If you are not a club with controlled access to your field and the correct maintenance regime and you don’t expect to play at premier league levels then there are alternatives that may well be a smarter choice for you.

Our Sales and technical teams are always available to discuss the merits of the various systems and what might be best for you. www.tigerturf.com

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TigerTurf manufactures and installs high quality products for a range of sports, leisure and landscape applications.

We are committed to providing expert knowledge and advice on synthetic turf products and systems, along with exceptional customer service before, during and after your purchase.