Estimating synthetic turf athletic field costs
So you’re planning for your new field. You’ve established a committee, surveyed the stakeholders, and started raising money for it. How much should you raise? How much should you budget? That depends on how far ahead you’re willing to look because lifecycle costs can be very different from the initial cost.
You’re making a long-term commitment that your site will be an artificial turf field for a long time as it's very rare that any synthetic turf field is converted back to natural. How you approach this project will establish the amount of money future generations (or you if you’re in your role long enough) will need to raise each time the turf needs replacing.
Understanding artificial turf sports field warranties
Ensure you know exactly what is covered in each product warranty, as all contracts are not created equal. Each system component has a different warranty and life expectancy, which may be confusing. While most turf warranties last eight years, the turf on your field usually lasts ten years if well maintained. Other components may last much longer if selected and installed correctly.
Gravel base and drainage network warranties for turf fields
The gravel base and drainage network should last upwards of 50 years and usually only require minimal work when the field is replaced. Don’t skimp here! The contractor's warranty covers the base and drainage, which usually covers 1 to 10 years.
Shock pad warranties for turf fields
USGreentech believes that shock pads provide the safest, highest-performing fields, and the leading products on the market have warranties upwards of 25 years and could last well beyond that because it is protected from the UV sunlight. So that leaves one more product in your system: infill. The most common infill on the market, crumb rubber made from discarded car tires, has no warranty. Infills made specifically for turf like TPE’s have warranties around eight years to match the turf warranty. USGreentech’s Envirofill has the longest warranty of any infill on the market at 16 years and has been extensively tested. Read on to learn how this can benefit years from now.
Find trusted Synthetic turf sports field builders
We highly recommend using a well-qualified sports field builder from the American Sports Builders Association’s Certified Field Builder list. These builders must meet standards set forth by ASBA and pass a comprehensive examination. Search for a Certified Field Builder here.
What happens when an artificial turf sports field wears out?
Let’s fast forward ten years to a point where the turf on your field has worn out, and it’s time for a replacement. Now what? We would highly recommend you select a field designer to help assess your existing field and plan for the replacement. Their expertise can help you avoid pitfalls during the planning, bidding, and building phases. Technologies may have changed since you last installed a field, and a designer can provide an unbiased overview of these new products and which one is best for your situation.
Assuming your base and drainage system were built correctly and had no drainage issues, you can plan for it to remain in place. If there are any drainage issues, now is the time to address them.
The shock pad should also remain in place. To do so, your contractor needs to take special care when removing the turf and infill not to damage the pad beneath. Hire companies like Turf Reclamation Solutions that use specific equipment designed to remove the turf without damaging the pad below. Supervision during this phase of the project is recommended to ensure the contractor is approaching the demolition phase methodically and with care. Otherwise, this could end up costing you!
What happens when your artificial sports turf field needs replacement?
Assuming the base and pad are in good shape and will remain, the focus of your replacement project should be on the turf and infill portion of the synthetic turf sports field system. By weight, the infill represents about 90% of the surface and will significantly impact the disposal fees unless you have an infill that can be reclaimed and reused in the new turf or one that can be composted.
Reducing costs and waste with reusable turf infill
Selecting the right infill upfront can reduce your disposal costs by 90%! In some parts of the country, disposal costs can run as high as $50,000 – $75,000, which could be 15%-20% of your replacement project! No donor wants to contribute money toward this portion of your replacement project. Because the infill is such a significant portion of the project, the goal should be to select an infill that avoids the landfill when the field is replaced.
Now envision a scenario where the infill can be reclaimed entirely, set aside, and installed into the new turf saving significant dollars AND avoiding 500,000 pounds of material going into the landfill. Doesn’t that sound like an ideal scenario? That option exists when you select Envirofill as your infill of choice.
Envirofill is unique in that it is installed 100%. All other infills combine a mixture of raw sand and the performance infill. In those cases, if the product could last two lifecycles, the mix would not allow for reclaim, reuse, and predictable performance of the system.
Lifecycle costs for artificial turf sports field in numbers
Below is a chart that can help you understand the lifecycle costs between selecting a system with Envirofill versus a system with SBR. Yes, there is an upfront premium to choose Envirofill, but the costs are not that different over time. Costs are not adjusted for inflation, making an even stronger case for choosing Envirofill. We also assumed that both systems would install a pad and that the labor costs for installing either system were identical.
Notes about the lifecycle cost comparison chart:
- This comparison is for a project in Los Angeles, CA
- Many items can affect cost estimates, such as base work, gravel costs, labor, prevailing wage, taxes, contractor markup, site constraints, union, turf quality, freight of materials, etc.
- Don’t use this chart for budgeting purposes. It intends to illustrate that the costs over two fields are less if you reuse Envirofill for two lifecycles.
- In our comparison, the systems include shock pads. It’s best practice to have one.
- In today’s dollars, not accounting for inflation.