Artificial turf ensures grass is always greener at Scottsdale schools

The Coronado High School Football Field. On the left is how the field looked on May 21 and on the right is how it looked on May 22 after work began to replace the natural grass with artificial turf. (Submitted Photo)

One might think the only things growing in Arizona are the temperatures and cacti.

Within the Scottsdale Unified School District, however, another type of vegetation — albeit it fake — is on the rise. It’s artificial turf.

Until recently, only one of the five high schools schools within the SUSD had artificial turf, and that one was installed 10 years ago. The rest had grass fields, which were in bad shape to say the least.

“Some of our fields to be quite honest, were beat up and needed to be replaced,” said SUSD Athletic Director Nathan Slater. “It was hard to grow grass on some of the fields that were beat up and used a lot over time.”

Scottsdale voters in 2016 approved a $229 million bond package in order to renovate the schools within the district. District officials decided it was time that all five high school received artificial turf fields.

“Last year Saguaro, Chaparral, and Coronado all got their fields, since out of the five high schools they needed the most attention,” Athletic Director and Assistant Principal for Arcadia High School Cher Fesenmaier stated.

The total of all five artificial turf fields cost around $9 million, whereas each individual field was around $2.5 – $2 million, according to Mr. Slater.

Instead of trying to grow and maintain grass in the Arizona heat, artificial turf is the preferred alternative.

“It’s a lot easier than mowing it twice a week and painting it three times every two weeks. It’s also a manpower savings too,” Mr. Slater said.

While football might get all the attention when it comes to the new fields, the practicality extends to other sports. Soccer teams, which usually plays on dormant Bermuda, will now play on a much better pitch since artificial turf never changes throughout the year, according to Mr. Slater.

There are environmental advantages as well. According to Iannick DeSanza, marketing coordinator for FieldTurf, artificial turf has no need for pesticides or fertilizers. It eliminates carbon emissions from lawn mowers and it saves water since there is no irrigation.

For the school district, safety was the defining reason for switching from grass fields to artificial turf.

Arcadia High School, which had a turf field previously, just replaced its football field over the 2018 summer. They knew the field’s safety needed to be increased.

“We have an E-layer, which is an additional protection layer underneath the turf, that helps decrease the rate of injuries,” Ms. Fesenmaier stated. “What’s interesting is that before the fill came into the field itself, the E-layer actually felt better than what the old turf felt like, just in general. That’s how significant it was.”

The padding isn’t the only new technology. The fill of the turf has a state-of-the-art cooling property.

Ms. Fesenmaier discussed how there are Coolplay beads that when hit with water will instantly cool down 32 degrees, which helps adjust the hot temperature of the field. In order to activate the beads, the schools have or will install water cannons to shoot streams of water over the field.

Now that every high school school in the district has an artificial turf field, the playing field has never been more level.

“We are all playing on basically the same field with different colors,” remarked Mr. Slater.

Editor’s note: Sarandon Raboin is a student at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

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