It’s a muddy Friday afternoon in October. Riverside’s 2021 homecoming weekend is supposed to begin with a football game against Northern, but the conditions outside are nearly unplayable. No one knows if the game’s going to happen.
“When making a decision whether or not we play, we determine if the field is in good-enough condition to play on,” said Riverside athletic director Robert Duncan.
Weather during fall of 2020 rendered the field unplayable. It was so bad that all of Riverside’s home games were at the Durham County Stadium. We practiced in a field of mud, holes, ants , and even puddles of water.
Would be very different if Riverside had a turf field. Duncan thinks so.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to worry about any rain, which we get a lot of here in North Carolina. And it would attract more fans as well as be a better playing field for athletes.”
HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS
None of the schools in the Durham Alamance Chapel Hill ‘’(DAC-7)’’ (Northern, Chapel Hill, East Chapel Hill, Hillside, Southern Alamance, Jordan and Riverside) have turf fields. But many local schools do, including Durham Academy, Voyager, Green Hope, Cedar Ridge.
These certain schools have different resources and funding. Some are private and charter schools, while others are part of districts with different athletic and school-level budgets.
While DPS schools sometimes play at Durham County Stadium, which has turf, none of the district’s schools have turf on campus.
PROS AND CONS
Duncan calls a turf field “a goal and a dream.” But while it’s weather-proof and easy to maintain, turf isn’t perfect. Schools have to weigh many pros and cons before making the switch.
Once installed, turf is much cheaper to maintain. Price is a big factor. The cost of maintaining natural grass football fields ranged from $40,000 to $100,000 in 2021, according to Turf Factory Direct, a Georgia-based company that installs and maintains turf athletic fields. Maintenance costs for schools that have a turf field average only $8,000 per year.
Turf also saves schools time, as it does not require mowing or lines to be painted. Duncan said Riverside athletic staff spends 3-4 hours per week cutting grass.
“We’re investing $10,000 a year, for a digital paint machine that will paint the field,” he said.
Turf would also increase playability. Seven of Riverside’s athletic teams – football, men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse, field hockey and track and field – play on Riverside’s main field.
Additionally, If a turf field was used, there would be fewer injuries, less stress on the trainer, and more events could be held.
Artificial turf fields are far more durable than natural grass fields. They can be played all year. The problem of spring and fall rains, which result in the cancellation of numerous games and practices scheduled for grass fields, is eliminated; and one match on a muddy field can ruin the field for the rest of the season.
Unlike natural grass, artificial turf does not require pesticides or fertilizers, according to Lindsey Barton Strauss, a co-writer and researcher for the MomsTEAM PBS documentary, The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer.
Pesticides contaminate the soil, reducing reproduction and growth, and contaminate water, which can eventually render it unfit for both human and agricultural use.
“Pollution of surface and groundwater is a serious environmental issue,” according to NC State University’s department of crop and soil sciences, which publishes lists of best practices for water quality and commercial lawn care. “Improper fertilization practices, particularly poor timing, excessive applications, or use of inappropriate forms of phosphorus and nitrogen, pose a risk to water quality.”