Selecting the Best Partners for Your Synthetic Turf Field
Posted May 21, 2009
Recreation Management (May 2009) – From small schools and community rec programs to big-name colleges and universities, sports programs are expanding and evolving. And as they do, synthetic turf continues to gain in prevalence and popularity by delivering on the promise of providing consistent playability, outstanding durability and increased safety. So it stands to reason that as our schools and communities invest sizable green to upgrade their grass, the expectations for the project and the product are greater than ever. And that means big pressure for the decision-makers responsible for selecting the right field builder for the job.
When deciding which company is best suited for a field project, many face the choice of working through a general contractor who hires subcontractors, or working directly with a field builder who handles the entire job. While both situations can provide positive results and satisfied customers, there are a few key benefits to selecting a field builder that has the capability and expertise to serve in the role of general contractor, providing a design-build process:
Whether a project goes well or not is very much a function of the company behind the project and the product components. A vertically integrated field builder can act as general contractor, applying expertise to all aspects of the project, including excavation, the perimeter, the crushed stone base construction, turf systems materials and installation. An overwhelming majority of synthetic grass fields are installed on some variation of a crushed stone base. Because the base is critical to the long-term performance and aesthetics of the field, expertise in this area is crucial. An experienced and reputable field builder is intimately familiar with the field-building process and understands the more demanding tolerances required when building a crushed stone base for an athletic field compared to other applications such as road and parking lot construction.
Because purchasing a synthetic turf field is a large, long-term investment, it’s important to hire a company that is committed to being there for the long haul. Are you hiring a company or a partner? When working directly with a field builder, schools are afforded a direct point of contact over the 12- to 15-year life of the field. That means regardless of the concern—turf, drainage, seams or field markings—there’s only one company to call. Working with a reputable, financially sound field builder increases the likelihood of partnering with a company that will be in business for the length of your warranty and beyond.
Building synthetic grass athletic fields is major construction and requires sound project management. Having one company handle the magnitude of paperwork involved not only creates an efficient process, it can also mean peace-of-mind. Bid forms, contracts, submittals, progress invoicing, scheduling and close-out documents are all crucial administration details. How these tasks are handled can mean the difference between a successful field installation and a problem project.
Case in Point
For St. Joseph Collegiate Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., which recently built an impressive 183,000-square-foot multi-sport, multi-field synthetic turf facility, the benefits were clear. Consultant Paul Bieron who led the project for St. Joe’s, said the decision to work directly with a field builder ultimately came down to guarantees—on quality, expertise and the commitment to get the job done right.
After years of playing on a traditional natural grass field, the new synthetic turf field offered the promise of durability for year-round usage, consistent playability and no more weather worries due to harsh winters and rainy springs. For the school’s baseball team, the new field would mean early season outdoor practices—a luxury in Western New York.
“We were given a commitment that our project would go, that they would take care of everything and we would only have to deal with them,” Bieron said. “Everything was guaranteed, coordinated and handled by one company.”
The “everything” St. Joe’s was counting on included the field, the track, water and fiber-optic lines and the installation of the scoreboard. And while everything was well planned, even the best plans on paper have a few bumps.
“The backstop needed for the baseball portion of the field was a unique problem. This became a real issue for the installer due to the circumference needed and the fact that we had to anchor the backstop to the cement curb. It just didn’t work as planned,” Bieron explained. But working with the field installer, they put in a second curb, a workable solution.
Solutions were needed again when the school decided to add fiber optics to the plan. In this case, the answer was easy—dig another trench. The trouble came when the crew installing the fence cut right through one of the fiber-optic cables. What could have been a major issue involving an architect, a change order and added expense turned out to be a minor disruption. Bieron credits the streamlined process to working directly with the field builder that delivered exceptional expertise and customer service.
“I could call them any time I wanted. I could meet with them any time I wanted.
I had unlimited accessibility from day one—and we got what we wanted and we got it done right.”