In October 2018, The Wheeler School, an independent N-12 school in Providence, R.I., made a revolutionary decision to install an environmentally-friendly artificial turf field. The field switched out the traditional “crumb rubber” that was typically used as field infill, and made from old shredded automobile tires, in favor of a product made from U.S.-grown crushed walnut shells.
Six months after installation, the Safeshell natural infill has been quite the hit.
“In the first six months, Safeshell has lived up to our expectations as being low-maintenance, durable and safe,” said Keith Estey, The Wheeler School’s maintenance manager.
Like many other schools across the Northeast United States, when The Wheeler School made the decision to install an artificial turf field, they knew they didn’t want crumb rubber to be used as infill. Among some common complaints, crumb rubber makes the playing surface very hot, it’s dirty, it smells bad and it includes a long list of chemicals.
Officials from the school evaluated six different products and quickly narrowed their choice down to Safeshell, a natural product manufactured by only one company in the world, Cincinnati-based USGreentech. The product is a proprietary blend of crushed black walnut shells and English walnut shells – the combination of which provide strength, durability, traction, firm support and natural ball bounce, all while being safer for the players and the environment.
What’s more, the Safeshell product can be composted the same as any other agricultural product at the end of its useful lifespan.
The first impressions from school officials were great. They described the installation process as easy and pain free. When they saw the turf being installed, they could easily tell the Safeshell infill was durable.
When The Wheeler School chose Safeshell as the infill product to be used for their artificial turf field, they decided to educate parents, students and the school community about the product with the help of USGreentech members, who helped explain, among other features, how the product is allergen-free.
“All of the parents’ questions surrounding the topic of Safeshell and allergens were answered thoroughly by USGreentech,” said Gary Esposito, the school’s director of operations. “No issues have surfaced since the athletes have been playing on the field.”
Not only has there not been one report of an issue during the first six months of play on the field, athletes have said they love playing on the artificial turf field with Safeshell infill. Other teams have even been wowed by the field because of how beautiful it looks and how consistently the ball rolls on the surface.
One of the great features of the Safeshell infill is it helps create a predictable ball roll that’s consistent across the surface. In fact, an artificial turf field with Safeshell infill provides a smoother surface than even natural grass, meaning there aren’t any unpredictable bounces of the ball during a game or practice.
So far, The Wheeler School has also been very pleased about the low maintenance aspect of the Safeshell product. Unlike other organic infills, Safeshell stays in place, doesn’t break down, doesn’t change in hot or wet climates and doesn’t float. This combination of features gives Safeshell all the wonderful benefits of organic infill without the normal added cost of maintenance.
The Wheeler School’s artificial turf field has required very little maintenance, and after six months of play on the field, no top off has been needed. The school has an extra pallet of Safeshell in case it’s needed, but they haven’t even had to touch it yet.
Six months after installation, it’s clear The Wheeler School made the right decision by choosing USGreentech’s organic Safeshell as the infill for their artificial turf field.