Taxpayers Fooled On Cost Of Artificial Turf

The high cost of synthetic turf sports fields compared to natural grass is finally getting some national and international publicity.


Texas Multi-Chem | Myths About Synthetic Turf | Forbes | Taxpayers Fooled About Cost of Artificial Turf

So why are some municipalities still spending big bucks to install artificial turf fields? Main reason: taxpayers have been getting hoodwinked by bogus analysis into thinking artificial turf fields are cheaper than natural grass.

Forbes has a story making the obvious point that "natural grass sports fields are a bargain compared to artificial turf due to the huge costs taxpayers get stuck with to maintain and replace artificial fields after their warranties expire".

Link To Forbes Article - How Taxpayers Get Fooled On The Cost Of An Artificial Turf Field

Lies About Synthetic Turf Costs

The article points out the bogus analysis and phony math used by the synthetic turf industry. Using ridiculous notions like "cost per event", deceiptful charts and spreadsheets are created and used as lies attempting to show that after many years, a synthetic turf field magically becomes "cheaper" than a natural grass field. Based on our years of experience, far too many architects, superintendents, school board members and other administrators (basically anyone that WANTS synthetic turf) also use this deceitful information to convince taxpayers to pay for synthetic turf fields. It's like the magic bullet theory all over again except this time far too many people are believing it.

Taxpayers are presented these lies as an attempt to make the case that synthetic turf fields are needed at their school district or city when in fact perhaps the main reason is simply a case of 'keeping up with Joneses' as well as coaches and/or athletic directors want a field they think everyone can use all day every day with no negative side effects. Synthetic turf fields are fragile. You cannot simply play on them and abuse them.

There are valid reasons for choosing synthetic turf field over natural grass. For instance, if water for irrigation is scarce, of poor quality or very very very expensive, then synthetic turf is likely needed. If a field's location is unique (e.g. next to the ocean) and the topsoil is persistently loaded with sodium preventing a decent stand of grass to grow and thrive, then turf is likely needed. If a school or other organization has only one field to play on with no other land options available for expansion to build additional practice areas to reduce field traffic, synthetic turf is likely needed.

Even in these situations, there still is a choice to make and the decision must be evaluated to determine whether if choosing the highest priced product is worth it or not. Don't forget, synthetic turf fields need to be replaced about every 10 years...forever. The cost - usually around $400,000 as of 2014 - to replace an artificial turf surface never goes away and must be budgeted for as long as the field exists. Apparently, to many decision makers responsible for spending public money, it's completely sensible to spend ~40% of ~$1 million dollar initial up front cost every 10 years for the rest of time. It seems money really does grow on trees.

It's incredible when you really think about it. For decades school districts and organizations claim they never have enough money and/or time to maintain a decent natural grass sports field but all of a sudden there are millions of dollars available to spend - in perpetuity - on a single new fragile synthetic turf playing surface that everyone claims can be used and abused with no negative side effects.

Breaking Down The Bogus Numbers

Click the image below to view a sample piece of literature used to help justify a school district choosing to go with synthetic turf. 

Texas Multi-Chem | Synthetic Turf Numbers | Myths About Synthetic Turf Costs | Taxpayers Fooled About Cost of Artificial TurfClick To Enlarge

Here are some points to make that dispute almost everything on the above referenced literature and the bogus numbers involved:


  • Maintenance: If you avg ~$38,000 per year maintaining natural probably have a very nice sports field and the public is likely not clamoring for a higher priced replacement. There's nothing telling us where this number came from but in our experience that number is not realistic (about $10K higher than it should be). We work with hundreds of school districts across Texas and no one comes close to spending this amount even on the best natural grass surface.
  • Maintenance / Replacement: No school district spends $100K to replace their natural grass field every 10 years. It doesn't happen. If you are in fact spending ~$38K per year in maintenance...why would you need a major renovation that frequently anyway?
  • Water: That's actually a decent estimate for the amount of water that SHOULD be applied to an average sized football field per year if you are following good agronomy guidelines. On average, that would be ~1" of water per week. If you get above average rainfall (for Texas), the amount will be lower; with less rainfall you will need to irrigate a little more.
  • Events Per Year and Rental Revenue: If you aren't even hosting 1 event per week (48 each year according to the chart) on a football field AND you are spending $38K on maintenance, AND you are watering properly that field would very likely be in REALLY NICE SHAPE. Again, it would be the sort of field that the community would very likely be quite proud of rather than wanting to spend a lot of money on to improve.

Synthetic Turf 

  • Install: ~$1M install price in year one seems about right.
  • Maintenance: ~$2,800 per year for maintenance? That's quite low and - if true - would be an indicator as to why a field fails within it's warranty period (see the paragraph on lawsuits below). This number should be at least twice that amount. Contrary to what an artificial turf sales person may claim, a synthetic turf field is fragile and should be regularly swept for trash, metal and other debris, groomed at least weekly to keep the turf fibers standing up along with keeping infill level, regularly sprayed and disinfected and deep cleaned at least twice per year (more, if you are hosting as many events on the field as promised during the pre-sales process and the leadup to the bond vote by taxpayers).
  • Replacement: $315,000. That number is about $100,000 LOW. Synthetic turf surface replacements cost at least $400,000.
  • Water: $0. That's ridiculous. For several years now, even the Synthetic Turf Council recommends an artificial turf installation include an irrigation system. In warm/hot climates like Texas, applying water on an artificial turf field temporarily relieves the insanely high surface temperatures (often in excess of 120 degrees F on the warmest days). Synthetic turf surfaces are fragile and need protecting. Liguid spills from sugary drinks promote mold growth and must be cleaned up. It's gross, but vomit, spit, blood, animal droppings all need to be cleaned off synthetic turf field regularly, often with cleaning products. These things are handled more naturally on a natural grass field but humans must do all the work to clean and reverse the effects of these negative forces on synthetic turf.
  • Events Per Year and Rental Revenue: Ah yes, the argument that every new synthetic turf field will become this wonderful source of new revenue for years and years and years. According to the pre-sale claims and spreadsheet figures a synthetic field can host at least one event on it each day of the year and make money! IT. NEVER. HAPPENS. THAT. WAY. If a school district never thought to charge other local organizations to play on their natural grass field before (remember, allegedly they were spending ~$38K per year to maintain their field so it should be in really good shape), do you think they will start charging for access to this new, expensive, fragile field? They should...but they very likely won't. Let's say, for argument's sake, a school does charge to use this awesome new turf field. More traffic on the field means the field will need more regular maintenance, which means the field wears out faster, which means there should be far more than ~$2800 per year budgeted for maintenance (as was prescribed in the bogus numbers provided).

All of these so-called data points are very disingenuous and are simply an attempt to tell a story that is not at all reflective of reality. 


The other startling issue brought to light in the article by Forbes is the fact that FieldTurf - one of the most successful artificial turf companies - is involved in many lawsuits with school districts and other organizations in dispute over the warranty replacement of turf fields (several of them in Texas - Arlington, Port Neches, New Braunfels, Breckenridge). Who knows how many other school districts have settled with companies like FieldTurf, costing taxpayers additional money just to keep their turf playing surfaces from being condemned.

Cost Comparison

We created our own white paper containing analysis and cost comparisons of synthetic turf vs natural grass sports fields. The analysis was also part of a blog series as well:


Don't Be Fooled. There Is A Choice

Once a school district or other organization makes a decision to spend money on upgrading it's athletic facilities, there is a choice to make regarding what type of field to install. In no situation will a synthetic turf field be cheaper than a natural grass field. Therefore, taxpayers should be informed (if not very wary) when administrators, school board presidents, trustees, athletic directors, coaches and even architects attempt to make the case that synthetic turf is cheaper and is needed.

There is a choice. If new field construction is inevitable, a high quality natural grass sports field is far more affordable and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars less when compared to synthetic turf (the cost savings will total millions over time). The up front cost is significantly less for natural turfgrass and the field will not require budgeted, high priced scheduled resurfacing. Depending on overall field traffic and regular maintenance practices, minor renovations (like resodding high traffic, worn areas) may be beneficial or needed on occasion. The cost of this work is minimal (usually in the tens of thousands of dollars, worst case).

Be informed. Don't believe the lies.


Ingram Football Field Renovation

Ingram ISD is a growing school district located in western Kerr County. An important part of managing growth within a district includes expenditures for new and improved facilities. One of the first improvements scheduled for Ingram's current growth plan was a major renovation to their football field by TMC.
Ingram's new football field renovation involved removing the previous common bermuda grass surface, installing new field drainage, a new irrigation system, improved sandy loam topsoil and new hybrid bermuda turfgrass. 

Ingram Football Field Renovation | TMC Sports Turf


“Our new field looks and feels amazing. The sense of pride it has brought our kids and community is remarkable. - Bobby Templeton, Superintendent at Ingram ISD 


Remove The Old Surface

Ingram Football Field Renovation | TMC Sports Turf | Strip Field of Old Turfgrass SurfaceThe day after graduation we began spraying to kill the existing vegetation on the field. We then stripped and hauled off the original surface creating the subgrade. Natural grass athletic fields like this need to have some sort of engineered slopes to promote positive runoff of surface water. We laser graded the field giving it a precise, uniform crown. Once that was complete, it was time to install the drainage system. 


Field Drainage

Ingram Football Field Renovation | TMC Sports Turf | Field DrainageIngram's field already had a fairly consistent downhill slope but it only had a single 4" drain inlet to take accumulated surface water and run it off the field through a small drain pipe beneath the running track. Anytime there was a moderate rain event, the water would hold on the field for a very long time as it SLOWLY drained through the small 4" inlet. In addition, the location and elevation of the existing high jump pad near the south end zone helped create a "bowl effect" that prevented the water from ever reaching the existing undersized drain. As a result, surface rain water would pool on the field and remain there for days, sometimes even running up and over the track in extreme situations.
We improved the field's ability to drain water by removing the high jump pad, grading the subgrade and installing 6 catch basins down each sideline designed to take water from the surface and deposit it into underground drain pipes. These newly installed underground sideline pipes slope downhill and tie-in to two new 8" exit drainage pipes beyond the south end zone. These pipes were installed after boring two new exit pipe locations under the running track. Two more catch basins were installed near the exit pipe locations to take any surface water off the field and into the exit drain pipes as well.

Photo Gallery - Ingram Football Field Renovation by TMC
Visit the photo gallery
 to see all of the photos from Ingram's football field renovation.



Ingram Football Field Renovation | Ingram Tom Moore WarriorsA brand new irrigation system was also installed as part of Ingram's new football field renovation. A new six row Hunter system designed to use their existing water well flowing up to 90 GPM from a 3 inch mainline. The well is situated atop the hill above the stadium and offers ample pressure aided by gravity. 

New Sandy Loam Topsoil

Ingram Football Field Renovation | Texas Multi-Chem | Sandy Loam Topsoil InstallationLike so many old natural grass athletic fields, Ingram's field was built a heavy clay topsoil many years ago. It's very hard to consistently grow high quality, healthy turfgrass in clay soil. A sports field with a heavy clay root zone is prone to compaction. Turfgrass cannot grow in heavily compacted soil profile because there is not enough oxygen due to the reduced pore space. This limits the overall plant growth due to restricted air and water movement into and through the soil.
We imported over 2100 cubic yards of clean sandy loam topsoil and laser installed it over the prepared subgrade. This allowed us to create a solid 6" sandy loam root zone over most of the field. This enhanced root zone is a significant improvement and will allow the school district to maintain a very high quality and durable grass surface. 

Tifway 419 Turfgrass

Ingram Football Field Renovation | Texas Multi-Chem | Tifway 419 Grass InstallTifway 419 hybrid bermudagrass (big roll sod, grown on sand) was intalled on July 21st as the new turfgrass surface. Tifway 419 is a significant upgrade from common bermudagrass and was developed specifically for athletic fields. It has a dark green color, is extremely durable, grows/repairs quickly and is far more resistant to draught conditions and diseases. With regular weekly mowing (ideal is 3 times per week during the growing season) at heights anywhere from 1/2" to 1", Tifway 419 has been an excellent sports field turfgrass for over 40 years and is an excellent playing surface for Ingram's new football field.

Ingram Football Field Renovation


From Grass Install to Game Time In Six Weeks

After only nine days, the field was ready for it's first mowing. After about two weeks we topdressed and fertilized for the first time and remained on our controlled grow-in irrigation schedule. Mowing three times per week during the maintenance grow-in period helped the field begin to develop a more dense growth habit as early as possible and was ready for the first game within six weeks.

“ I was unbelievably impressed with the job that was done. TMC kept us in the loop the entire way, stayed on schedule and were available anytime we had questions. They are absolute perfectionists and it shows in their product…and in their customer service. I would recommend TMC to anyone interested in a new or upgraded athletic facility. I have been dealing with athletic vendors for over twenty years and they are as good as any I have ever worked with. - Bobby Templeton, Superintendent at Ingram ISD 


Ingram ISD Football Field Renovation


Football Field Renovation by TMC

Is your football field due for a major renovation? Call TMC at 1-800-292-1214 to discuss the many available affordable options.  

Texas Multi-Chem | TMC Sports Turf | Texas Sports Field Contractor


Synthetic Turf Crumb Rubber Infill

In another post we highlighted the fact that the EPA recently changed their opinion regarding the lingering safety questions surrounding synthetic turf playing surfaces using crumb rubber infill material. Synthetic turf | Crumb rubber infil | Artificial Turf

Turfgrass Producers International released an article in 2011 that presented the growing concerns of health care professionals regarding the consequences of carbon black nanoparticles present in the crumb rubber infill most commonly used on synthetic turf fields. The health threat of inhaling carbon nanotubes is compared to that of asbestos and it's ability to cause mesothelioma (cancer of the membrane lining the body's internal organs).

Article: "Is Artificial Turf Hiding an 800 pound gorilla?"

The article goes into depth on how nanoparticles can get to brain tissue and raises many questions regarding the safety of synthetic turf playing surfaces with crumb rubber infill. The case is made for a signficant increase in the level of testing of long term health affects of carbon black nanoparticles, calling it the "800 pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about".


Infield Dragging

Skinned Areas

Infield skinned areas are the most used portion of any baseball or softball field and therefore need constant attention to insure good playing conditions. Infield skinned area soils should have 20 - 30% clay content. Because of this higher clay content, skinned areas can become too compacted which negatively impacts the overall quality of play.

Texas Multi-Chem | Infield Dragging | Baseball Field Infield Maintenance | Softball Infield Maintenance | Skinned Area Maintenance | Infield Conditioner

Infield conditioner products - such as Diamond Pro’s red infield conditioner - are mixed with the top layers of infield dirt to help keep the surface from becoming too compacted. The conditioner material absorbs and holds water which will help the field to dry out after a rain. It also allows you to water before an event without making the surface “sticky”.

If you have a good mix of sand, silt, clay and conditioner, you should be able to maintain a firm infield that will be workable, allowing you to create a quality playing surface.

Nail Dragging

The goal with infield skinned areas is to maintain a firm soil base with a ½ inch layer of loose soil and infield conditioner on top. Nail dragging will help achieve this goal. Nail dragging should be performed any time the surface of the skinned area gets too hard or divots are visible from recent player activity.

Prior to nail dragging, first wet the soil thoroughly and allow some time for the water to soak in. While the surface is still moist, pull a nail over the surface. If the nails or spikes do not penetrate the surface, put some extra weight on top of the drag (see above image). You may have to go over the surface several times in different directions to loosen the soil. After nail dragging, use a steel mat or cocoa mat drag to smooth the surface. Water the surface at the end of the day.

Infield Dragging Maintenance Reference
Nail Drag 1-2 times weekly In-Season
  Every 2 weeks Off-Season
Mat Drag After every use In-Season
  Once per week Off-Season


Mat Dragging

Mat dragging should be performed every day an infield is used. This will help keep the surface smooth. Take special care to fill in divots and other slow spots that may be developing. Apply a generous dose of water on the skinned area after your final drag.

Stay at least 6 inches away from the grass edge to keep from depositing infield dirt onto the grass. This will help prevent “lips” from developing around the infield edges.


Safety Of Synthetic Turf Infill In Doubt

Renewed concerns surrounding crumb rubber infill material has caused the EPA to change it's official public stance regarding the safety of synthetic turf playing surfaces.

Here's the link to a recent article discussing the issue further.


Synthetic Turf Fields - Are They Right For Your Organization?

The short depends. Individuals in charge of making sports field purchasing decisions should be aware there IS a choice. It's been our experience the valid reasons for choosing a synthetic turf playing surface over a natural grass field are primarily due to the overall water availability at a facility and the anticipated traffic patterns/usage of a field. Comparing real costs of natural grass athletic fields versus a synthetic turf surface will never come up in favor of synthetic turf. With higher initial construction costs and perpetual surface replacement, synthetic turf simply doesn't compare favorably in real world cost comparisons.

See our in-depth blog series on the subject for more information.

Texas Multi-Chem | Cost Comparison Natural Grass Synthetic Turf


Ryegrass Irrigation and Maintenance for Sports Fields

In another article we discussed the various aspects of overseeding sports fields with ryegrass. One of those aspects involved irrigation. This article provides further details on proper irrigation and maintenance for successful ryegrass germination on your athletic fields.

Pre Germination Texas Multi-Chem | Overseed Ryegrass Sports Fields

  • Set your irrigation controller for 5 or 6 start times per day.
  • Run times should be 5 to 8 minutes per cycle: 5 minutes for large sprinkler nozzles; 8 minutes for small nozzles.
  • If water begins to pool or run off the field, cut back on run times. Keep 5 to 6 start times.
  • Make adjustments according to weather conditions as needed.
  • Continue this process until you see seed germination.


Post Germination

  • Once seed has germinated, cut back on cycles to 2 to 3 start times daily.
  • Increase run times to 8 to 12 minutes each.
  • Avoid water pooling, adjust run times as needed.


Maintenance Irrigation and Mowing Texas Multi-Chem | Mowing Ryegrass Sports Fields

  • Once a solid stand of ryegrass is established, cut back start times to once per day. Increase run times to 15-20 minutes.
  • When ryegrass growth reaches 1.5 inches tall, it's time to start mowing.
  • Cut back start times to every other day, once per day.
  • Run times should be 20-30 minutes.
  • Watering more deeply, less frequently allows the field to dry out for mowing days.
  • Mowing is an important cultural practice to help the ryegrass cultivar reach maturity. Try to mow the ryegrass field at least 2 times per week at this stage of development.


In-Season Maintenance

  • To maximize turf quality, mow on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • Mowing height should be 1 inch to 1.5 inches.
  • Irrigation in the early morning hours on the non-mowing days.
  • Run times should be 20-30 minutes each.


Sports Field OverseedingTexas Multi-Chem | Sports Field Maintenance | Sports Field Overseeding

Need help overseeing your sports fields? Contact TMC today at 1-800-292-1214


Overseeding Athletic Fields Q&A

Sports Field Q&A with Lee Smith of Texas Multi-Chem

What Is Overseeding?

  • The term overseeding refers to the process of applying a cool season grass seed over an established warm season turfgrass. In our case here in Texas, this means applying a blend of perennial rye seed over a bermudagrass sports field.

Texas Multi-Chem | Overseeding Sports Fields

Why Do We Overseed?

  • As the temperatures become cooler in the fall and the nights get longer, warm season grasses will begin to slow their growth rate, eventually stopping their growth almost completely. As the growth slows the grass becomes dormant until the night time temperatures rise again in the spring.

  • Since the growth is largely shutdown, the grass cannot recover from the wear and tear of athletic play. Overseeding with a cool season grass provides a playing surface that can withstand traffic during the cool season's winter months.

  • Aesthetics is another reason many people will overseed a bermudagrass sports field. As the bermudagrass goes dormant it will turn brown and stay that way until it comes out of dormancy. Adding a cool season grass to the playing surface will give you an aesthetically pleasing green surface throughout the winter months. 

When Is The Best Time To Overseed?

  • In Texas, the best time to overseed is generally mid September to late November. This window typically offers cooler temperatures which is needed for the germination and establishment of cool season turfgrass. During this window the bermudagrass growth is slowing which makes it less competitive with the new ryegrass that is trying to root in during germination.
  • Field use plays a big role in determining the proper day to prepare the surface and plant the seed. Excessive traffic after planting can cause poor and sporadic germination. Once planted, it's best to keep traffic off the field until the seed has germinated and the grass is established well enough to cut with a mower.  
  • TMC Sports Turf | Super Rake | Verticut & Vacuum | Whataburger Field


How Should I Prepare A Field For Overseeding?

  • Leading up to the date of planting you should gradually lower the mowing height to .75 - 1.5 inches.

  • Super Rake (verticut and vacuum) the turfgrass playing surface. This process removes the thatch layer and breaks up the top surface of the soil creating a more favorable seed bed.

  • Once the field is seeded you may topdress with sand. A light topdressing of the seed helps secure the seed in place and creates a constant contact with the soil surface to help germination.

How Much Seed Do I Need And How Should I Apply It?

  • We typically recommend anywhere from 5-10 lbs of seed per 1,000 sq ft. Higher traffic areas or fields would require more seed than a lower traffic field. The average field usually applies 8 lbs per 1,000 sq ft.

  • Seed should be applied with a rotary spreader in several different directions. Applying it in multiple directions will help insure a more uniform coverage. For edges of baseball and/or softball infields it is generally best to use a drop spreader to get a more consistent edge.

How Should I Water It?

  • A heavy watering should be applied immediately after seeding to help push the seed down to soil (but not so heavy that you get surface movement of the water). Then, over the next week a light watering 3-5 times a day should occur to keep the seed and surface moist. Once the seed has germinated, reduce the number of waterings per day but increase the run times. (Example: cut back from watering 4 times per day at 10 minutes per watering to 2 times per day at 15 minutes.)

  • Once grass is fully established and regular mowing can occur the watering can generally be cut back to once or twice a week.

How Should I Mow It And When?

  • The first mowing can usually take place 2-4 weeks after germination. Once the grass has reached about 1-1.5 inches tall it is ready to mow.

  • Prior to mowing the grass you should make sure the reel or blades on your mower are sharp. A sharp blade will cut the grass and not pull or tear the grass. It is always a wise idea to have a sharp blade when mowing any grass.

How Should I Fertilize My Ryegrass? Texas Multi-Chem | Turf Fertilizer | Turf Programs | Athletic Field Fertilizer

  • A starter fertilizer such as TMC's Sprout (10-12-8) should be used at the time the seed is applied to the field. Apply at a rate of .5-1 lbs N per 1,000 sq ft.

  • Once the grass is established you can apply a general fertilizer like Fast Start (14-6-8) by TMC every 30-60 days during the winter. Apply at a rate of .5-1 lbs N per 1,000 sq ft.

How Can I Help Transition The Ryegrass?

  • To transition your field's turf grass from cool season to warm season, we recommend applying a post emergent herbicide such as a TMC spray application of Celsius or Certainty in late spring after your season has ended. This will kill the ryegrass without harming the bermudagrass. This approach helps the transition because it stops the ryegrass from competing with the bermudagrass for water and nutrients as the bermuda is trying to come out of dormancy.


Overseeding Athletic Fields - Sports Field Q&A with Lee Smith of Texas Multi-Chem

Lee Smith is a sales representative with Texas Multi-Chem. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy from Texas A&M and helps manage hundreds of natural grass sports fields for our customers around Texas.

Would you like help maintaining your natural grass sports fields? TMC can help...give us a call today at 1-800-292-1214.