FieldTurf: The Grass Is Always Greener

    The proposed installation of artificial turf on Muir Field is a very controversial item in the Campus-Life Fee Referendum. It may also be one of the most misunderstood, according to Don Chadwick, UCSD’s director of sports facilities.

    What he said students are voting on in the special election this week is not the typical green-colored carpet seen in many domed sports stadiums played on by the NFL and Major League Baseball.

    “”It won’t look like someone’s back patio,”” Chadwick said. “”This stuff looks just like the real thing.””

    The product being considered is called FieldTurf, which is the newest technology in artificial surfaces designed to simulate the look and feel of real turf, without the inherent drawbacks of natural grass.

    FieldTurf is a synthetic grass covering that differs from what is popularly known as Astroturf; it is not a green plastic carpet laid over a thin layer of underpadding.

    Instead, a mixture of silica sand and small pieces of rubber is distributed among the blades of artificial grass, creating a surface that is soft, does not compress, has superior drainage and provides ample traction and footing.

    The rubber is made of reconstituted rubber from Nike athletic shoes.

    According to Campus Recreation Director Chuck Gormley, Muir Field is a nightmare to maintain because it is so frequently used by students and sports leagues.

    “”We’ve redone Muir Field twice, and it still won’t come up right,”” he said. “”And it’s anguishing to tell teams that they can’t use the field because it rained for two days.””

    Gormley said that the main advantages of FieldTurf are its virtual immunity to negative affects from inclement weather and its relatively low maintenance cost.

    He estimates the current cost of maintaining Muir Field at $100,000 per year, including the cost of watering, fertilizing and repairing the turf.

    Gormley said that installing the artificial turf would be cost-effective in the long run, despite its upper six-figure price tag for the initial installation.

    “”It ends up being cheaper [than a natural field],”” Gormley said. “”The only maintenance is … every couple of weeks a machine is driven over the field to redistribute the sand and rubber.””

    The company that produces FieldTurf advertises that the surface has a 12- to 15-year lifespan. However, the company is only three years old, so these claims cannot be confirmed.

    FieldTurf was recently installed on football fields at Grossmont College and La Jolla High School, the only two fields of their kind in California south of Ventura.

    La Jolla High School freshman Thomas House, who played center for the junior varsity football team, said that the surface provides superior traction in both cleats and regular athletic shoes, and that the rubber provides a certain amount of bounce.

    House, however, did have two complaints — one being that sliding on the turf could be painful.

    “”I still have a burn on my knee from football season,”” he said.

    Chadwick acknowledged this concern.

    “”The one criticism is that if you slide on your bare skin it’s like a mild rug burn, if that,”” he said.

    House also noted the artificial turf’s behavior when wet from rain.

    “”When it’s wet, it’s a little bit slippery, and sometimes the rubber gets up in your eyes,”” he said.

    La Jolla High School varsity football player Cody Ford, a senior, played on the field before and after the FieldTurf surface was installed.

    “”Sure, the rubber would stick to your arms and stuff when it was wet, but it wasn’t muddy at all, which was nice,”” he said.

    Ford said he did not see a major problem with people getting burned from sliding on the surface.

    “”A few guys got a little burned, but it’s not really an issue,”” he said. “”I played the whole year at linebacker and I never got burned.””

    He also said that the FieldTurf seemed to get hotter than the old field did in the sun.

    Despite the drawbacks they mentioned, Ford and House agree that they prefer the artificial turf to natural grass.

    “”It’s great — perfect,”” Ford said.

    House concurred.

    “”It’s the best field I’ve ever played on,”” he said.

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