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Grass Fields

Natural grass fields provide a soft, resilient, and safe playing surface that constantly re-grows itself, keeps athletes cool, handles body spills naturally, and looks and smells great. 

Cost: Costs depend on whether you wish to rehabilitate an existing field, or completely rebuild your field. According to a study by Michigan State University, the total construction cost of a new grass sports field (tile drained, slit drained, irrigated, fully lit and fully fenced with bleachers, players benches and goal posts), is estimated at $480,000. (1) According to the Sports Turf Managers Association, the cost of constructing a high quality natural grass field is between $7 and $10 per square foot, or roughly $400,000 to $570,000 for a typical athletic field. (2) You can also improve the quality of an existing grass field at a much lower cost, by incorporating basic organic management practices. 

Most costs associated with grass athletic fields are related to maintenance. These costs can vary widely depending on field use needs. The Sports Turf Managers Association estimates that annual maintenance costs for grass fields range from $13,000 to $30,000. (3) TURI documented annual costs to maintain athletic fields using organic practices for three Massachusetts communities. For example, the City of Springfield, MA manages its athletic fields at a cost of about $1,500 per acre annually. These costs are summarized in the table below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

TURI. Natural Grass Playing Field Case Study: Martha's Vineyard, MA. 2020. https://www.turi.org/content/download/13432/205432/file/Natural+Grass+Playing+Field+Case+Study+MV+MA.Dec2020.pdf

 

TURI. Natural Grass Playing Field Case Study: Marblehead, MA. 2019. https://www.turi.org/content/download/12705/198916/file/Natural+Grass+Playing+Field+Case+Study+Marblehead+MA+revised.Nov2020.pdf.


TURI. Natural Grass Playing Field Case Study: Springfield, MA. 2019. https://www.turi.org/content/download/12156/190509/file/Natural+Grass+Playing+Field+Case+Study+Springfield+MA.+June+2019.pdf

 

Maintenance: Natural grass fields require regular maintenance throughout the growing season. Organic grass management focuses on building healthy soil to create an environment for resilient grass growth without the need for pesticides or herbicides. Core organic maintenance practices include frequent mowing, regular aeration, soil testing, and addition of fertilizers and soil amendments based on results from soil testing. Communities can successfully achieve a grass field that meets their athletic needs without the need for pesticides or herbicides.

Life Expectancy: Natural grass fields can renew themselves season after season. Properly managed, the lifetime of natural grass sports fields can be 20 years or more before full renovation is required. (4) Cost of total renovation is $50,000 to $250,000. (5)

 

Safety and Preference:  Natural grass fields can provide safe, cushioned surfaces for athletic play. As with all types of athletic fields, it is important to periodically test impact protection of fields. Compaction on grass fields can be alleviated with aeration. Natural grass is overwhelmingly preferred by professional athletes. (6)

 

Body Spills: The soil microbes that exist in well maintained healthy soil handles all types of body fluids without the need for applications of disinfectants (pesticides). (7)

 

Temperature: Natural grass fields keep athletes cool on hot days. (8) (9)

Weather: A well constructed grass field has good drainage and allows excess water to flow away from the field. Additionally, soil that is regularly aerated and has balanced organic matter content has higher water holding capacity. Communities that have invested in good field construction and organic management of their fields find that weather-related cancellations on these fields are rare. 

 

Environmental Impact: The environmental impact of natural grass fields is minimal, unless synthetic high nitrogen fertilizers and toxic pesticides are used for maintenance. (See natural grass management).

 

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Springfield, MA
Marblehead, MA
Martha's Vineyard, MA
Area of natural grass maintained naturally
67 acres of athletic fields, recreational space, and general use city property
20 acres of athletic fields
8.6 acres of athletic fields
Products
Organic fertilizer, lime, soil conditioner
Organic fertilizer, lime, soil conditioner
Organic fertilizer, humic acid, calcium silicate, loam/sand, seed
Labor
City environmental and maintenance staff
City staff
The Field Fund staff and contractors
Rentals and other maintenance
Periodic irrigation maintenance, equipment maintenance
Periodic irrigation maintenance, equipment maintenance
Periodic irrigation maintenance, equipment maintenance, aerator rental
Total cost per acre
$1,500/acre
$4,140/acre
$7,600/acre (includes 30% "island markup")

Citations:

[1] https://archive.lib.msu.edu/tic/stnew/article/2002mar12.pdf (adjusted for inflation).
 

[2] "Natural Grass Athletic Fields," Sports Turf Managers Association, https://netforum.avectra.com/Public/DocumentGenerate.aspx?wbn_key=2477cbb1-83a2-4b1a-8789-1d2997bd6152&Site=STMA.

 

(3) http://www.stma.org/sites/stma/files/STMA_Bulletins/NaturalGrassFields.pdf

(4) https://cgs.rutgers.edu/sites/cgs.rutgers.edu/files/documents/public_works/Athletic%20Field%20Maintenance.pdf

(5) Sports Turf Alternatives Assessment: Preliminary Results. COST ANALYSIS Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute September 2016. 

(6) Sports Turf Managers Association. https://sturf.lib.msu.edu/article/2009mar31.pdf

(7) New Jersey Education Association. Accessed at http://www.synturf.org/images/HS_GrassTurf_May08_1_.pdf

(8) https://www.galeassociates.org/knowledge/from-our-blog/athletic-facilities-planning-design/natural-v-synthetic-turf-athletic-fields/#:~:text=Environmental%20Benefits%3A%20A%20natural%20turf,markedly%20cooler%20than%20synthetic%20turf.

(9) https://www.stma.org/natural-grass-athletic-fields/

Links:

Organically and Sustainably Managed Grass Athletic Fields: Information for Schools and Municipalities

www.turi.org/organicgrassguide