Is a turf field a good investment?

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Photo courtesy Bluesombrero.com

Boys’ varsity soccer celebrates after winning the Division Championship in 2019 on the school’s turf field.

MCPS installed its first artificial turf field in place of grass, in Gaithersburg, in 2012, and it was a hit among students. Since then, MCPS has built a total of 10 fields at middle, elementary and high schools across the county. Are these artificial turf fields a good investment for schools and athletes?

One main reason that the county is hesitant about turf fields is the cost. An artificial turf field can cost over $1 million to install and needs to be replaced every five to 10 years for a cost of $500,000. According to Bethesda Magazine, the Wootton field and stadium cost a total of $1.2 million to install.

However, in comparison to grass fields, the high cost of artificial turf is worth it. MCPS high school fields are used by more than 15 school-related sports teams, plus countless other out-of-school teams and individual athletes, which causes a high amount of wear on the fields. According to STMA, constant use of a grass field without proper care and maintenance can lead to injuries such as twisted ankles and knees.

In order to avoid injuries, grass fields need a large amount of weekly maintenance in order to keep up with the constant use they receive. This maintenance turns grass fields into a money pit. According to a study conducted by the Australian government, “The cost of maintenance of a grass field over 10 years can be almost twice that of a turf field.”

Also, grass fields can get destroyed if they are used in wet weather, causing cancelations and delays of sports events, while turf fields can be used in almost all weather, without the threat of damage. A study by MCPS and Montgomery Parks showed that “the hours of use of an artificial turf field range from 1.7 to 7.7 times the use of existing natural grass fields.”

Turf fields are a great place to work out and offer space for multiple sports to train.”

— Lindsay McNey

Artificial turf fields are also more versatile and offer an even playing surface for sports across the county. By installing turf fields at high schools, athletes don’t have to worry about the quality of the field they are playing on. “Turf fields are a great place to work out and offer space for multiple sports to train,” freshman soccer player Lindsay McNey said.

Even though the cost of turf fields is high, the county isn’t the only entity that is bearing the price tag. According to Bethesda Magazine, the school’s field was funded by the Booster Club, MCPS and Bethesda Soccer Club.

By installing turf fields, students are more encouraged to spend time using school fields to exercise and get fresh air. Currently, the mental health of students is a top priority for MCPS and the county has spent a large portion of its $2.8 billion operating budget on counselors and psychologists. According to the NIH, “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.”

Despite a high initial cost, turf fields are the obvious choice to lower injury risk, boost the mental health of students, reduce field maintenance costs and literally level the playing field for athletes.