Here at M-A, we have many sports fields that serve a multitude of teams throughout the year. Almost all outdoor sports teams play games on Coach Parks Field, the artificial turf field, except for baseball and softball.
During a given season, every sports team wants to use the field everyday, but it is almost impossible to fulfill each team’s requests. Furthermore, seasons usually overlap, which forces teams to use the two other grass fields for tryouts. These fields are in bad condition because they are natural grass— not artificial turf—so the grass is less durable throughout the whole year, especially in the winter. At M-A, getting rid of the grass fields and creating new artificial turf would not only ensure quality playing fields, but provide an environmental benefit as well despite the financial cost.
We interviewed Co-Athletic Director Paul Snow about the future of artificial fields at M-A. Snow explained the field space logistics in general, as well as outlined current plans to add turf, and highlighted some environmental benefits and concerns.
Jake Simon: Do you see a need for more field space? Who will benefit from adding new field space?
Paul Snow: We definitely have a need for more field space, though we are kind of confined to what we got in real estate. Several years ago, well before my time, we got rid of a lot of real estate. So all of these houses behind the stadium field used to be owned by M-A. But they sold it because M-A just wasn’t that big for a long time. But we could have definitely used that space quite a bit. We have to make do with what we got which means instead of adding new fields around campus, we are looking to tear up the old grass fields and make new turf there especially near the upper field.
JS: What is the history behind why some of our fields are grass while Coach Parks Field is turf?
PS: A lot of schools, 15 to 20 years ago, decided to start going turf because it is really easy to maintain and you save a lot of water. Making turf saves us a lot of time and man hours because our district’s groundspeople are completely overwhelmed. They can’t keep up with all the demands… they don’t touch our turf field ever.
This is our second round of turf on Coach Parks Field. The First went in around 13 years ago and then we got a good ten years out of it and probably overused it two years past its time. But this one is on its third year and hopefully it will last eight to ten years more.The baseball program, about right when we put the first turf on Coach Parks Field, fundraised to put in turf along the infield of the baseball field. But [they] could not afford to do the entire field, so the outfield remains grass. We would like to turf the upper field near the swimming facility before anything else and the district has already asked for an estimate for all sites to convert all grass to turf. But it was around 20 million to do.
JS: What has been holding the school back from building turf fields at M-A instead of the grass fields in the past?
PS: So, three things really, money, money, money. The upper grass field would obviously be first. It is a good practice area. It’s not competition size, but we could hold JV games there [and] lower level tournaments play there, and it’s just a great practice facility. So we would love to do that.
The upper field has never been turfed. So, that one would cost around a million dollars to do from excavation, making it flat, then putting down the e-layer, and then finally putting on the turf. But that is in phase three of our construction cost. So phase one is the construction right now in the center of campus [and] phase two is a building over near the tennis courts. So, it’s all classroom, classroom, classroom and athletics/PE is the third stage. They will give us around a million dollars to use… but phase three would not start until the end of next year, preferably next summer.
JS: Do you see any environmental benefits or concerns from creating turf fields?
PS: There are costs and benefits for each. One, you are bringing used tires in and using them to create the rubber. But people say that is terrible to breath and also when the turf fields get hot, they get really hot. The surface level can be… you know, if it’s 80 degrees out, it can be 20, 30 degrees more than that. It could be 100 to 110 degrees on the turf.
Other people are saying that it is linked to cancer. Breathing really hot, ‘fumy’ rubber isn’t great, I’m sure. The infill, the little rubber pellets, are reused material. Other materials you can use for infill are coconut husks and other things that we can explore in the next round. You aren’t using a lawn mower and gas and polluting through the use of a lawnmower every week. You’re saving a lot on water which is huge nowadays since we’re in a drought. There are positives and negatives in it.
JS: Any other thoughts you have about our fields at M-A?
PS: Turf is easier to maintain and also better for the safety of our student-athletes and PE students who use it. Because they’re not well maintained, the grass fields—at least from a safety point of view, especially with the drought when we get cracking and big old ruts—are dangerous. So, we’d love to have turf fields everywhere. But it’s slow in coming. I hope we get it in the next two years.
JS: Adding artificial turf at M-A would benefit our sports teams and our community as well. It will not only make playing less crowded for all our sports teams, but also would create a safe environment for our student athletes. Adding turf also saves a massive amount of water, and our grounds staff would not have to work so hard to keep our fields in good condition. Let’s hope that in the near future, our sports teams would have more and better space to practice on, while keeping the environment safe as well.