Friday, July 3, 2020
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Towson H.S. to install artificial turf

Construction of an artificial turf field is expected to begin this fall at Towson High School in Baltimore County, Md. When complete, the facility will be used by the high school as well as the Towson Recreation Council, which is contributing part of the cost.

The Towson Times said the council will put in about $150,000 toward the installation of the $600,000 turf field, the school’s booster club will pay $50,000, and the school district will make up the difference with money from funds allocated to the district through the county. Then, as long as the high school isn’t using the field, lacrosse and soccer teams from the council will be able to use it, based on an agreement carved out within the last month.

“As long as I’m here, with the contributions they’ve made, they have first crack at the field when we’re not on it,” the paper quoted Towson High Athletic Director Justin Nash as saying, referring to the council. “They’re making the financial investment in our school. They deserve to be able to be on that field when it’s available.”

Artificial turf fields are generally considered more expensive to install than grass but less expensive to maintain over the years. Some natural grass proponents, though, have raised concerns that the rubber pellets used as infill pose an environmental risk, although several options are available, many of which are made of less porous material that tends to stay in place rather than leach into the environment surrounding the field.

Turf is also more consistent than grass, mainly because turf has better drainage and can be used even when it’s wet. Grass gets muddy, slippery, uneven, and filled with holes, all of which can be dangerous for athletes or marching band members running at full steam. Grass fields also create an enormous burden on groundskeepers and coaches, who often can’t use the field during expensive periods of maintenance. In addition, because artificial turf won’t require chalk, drying agents, or clay, as is required to mark up grass fields, additional cost savings can come to thousands of dollars annually.

Don’t misunderstand: Artificial turf fields require occasional maintenance, such as replacing the infill. But they don’t require constant watering or cutting, as is the case with grass.

The paper quoted Ellen Kobler, a spokesman for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, as saying the new turf field would give the recreation council more access than the council had with a grass field because the field was constantly being re-sodded. This confirms an assessment expressed by athletic directors and marching band directors across the country about the long-term cost savings and the generally enhanced utility of artificial turf compared to grass.

Plus, I have found that athletes play more confidently on artificial turf than they do on grass. “It’s much cushier than hard ground or regular grass,” Voxitatis quoted John Bell, director of bands at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, as saying back in April about artificial turf. The rubber pellets used as infill on most artificial turf fields provide cushioning for marchers and athletes and may play a role in reducing the expected number of stress-related injuries. “Also, because it is artificial, the length of the blades is even, giving the marchers an even surface on which to march.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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