Artificial sports surfaces have never been more popular. They typically offer year-round availability and simpler, cheaper maintenance than an equivalent natural grass surface. What’s more, in recent years a big factor in the growth of artificial pitch installations has been the great advances in the realistic feel and playing characteristics of such surfaces.
So, with more and more clubs, schools and other organisations choosing to install artificial sports surfaces, what do you need to consider before getting quotes for the project?
What surface is currently in place?
Before your new surface can be laid, you need to consider what is already there and how you will get the area ready for your new surface. Many installations involve replacing a natural grass or concrete surface, but because artificial pitches have been around for some years now, some involve replacing a previous artificial surface.
In some instances, it can be realistic to overlay a surface straight over an existing one. However, although this can help keep costs down, it is not always practical or suitable. Newer sports surfaces are also designed to higher standards of specification, so for example the existing pitch may not have the right standard of drainage that the new surface will require. An installer will be able to assess your current surface and advise on the best way to install a new one.
What sports will be played on it?
The list of sports that can realistically be played on an artificial surface has grown significantly in recent years. For tennis - which is played on several different natural surfaces - there are now artificial equivalents for grass, clay and cement as well as indoor.
The technological advancements combined with cost pressures on sporting organisations have fueled the growth of MUGAs (Multi Use Games Areas) which allow for several sports to be played on one surface.
You should consider:
- Which is the most popular sport to be played on it? - Making a MUGA surface usable for a wide range of sports may mean compromising on the realism of the pitch for certain sports. For example, a pitch might be heavily-used for football and occasionally for hockey. By using a shorter ‘pile height’ to enable hockey to be played, the pitch will probably be too fast to replicate the feel of a real football pitch.
- What are the characteristics of each sport? - Sports vary in terms of ball speed, footwear and the level of wear and tear on pitches. Football, rugby and hockey players might also need a shockpad below the surface to minimise the risk of impact injuries. You must be realistic about the mix of sports that can be played on it and study the different surfaces closely with the help of the manufacturer or installer.
- Line markings - Each different sport will require different line markings. Whilst this can easily be incorporated in to a project - including bespoke CAD drawings - too many line markings will make it all the more difficult to play different sports.
There simply is no surface that will be suitable for all sports. For example, tennis cricket and hockey all require a short ‘pile height’ to allow for fast movement of the ball, whereas football and rugby need to allow for collision and impact and help minimise injuries.
What resources do you have to maintain the surface?
Although maintenance of an artificial sports pitch can be cheaper and easier than that of a natural one, some work is still required to keep the surface performing at its best. You should consider who is available to maintain the pitch over its lifespan.
The manufacturer or installer will be able to advise on the equipment, materials and frequency required to maintain your artificial pitch and maximise its longevity. From there you need to either devise a maintenance plan that your organisation can keep to or consider external resources to maintain your pitch or surface.
How long do you need the surface to last?
Finally, you should consider how long you realistically want and expect the surface to last. This will depend to a great extent on the budget and how the project is being financed. If for example a surface needs to be financed over 10 years, the organisation will need it to last for at least that long to ensure that they can afford to pay for a replacement after that period.
Once you know this, you will have all of the key information you need. The final decision is simply a matter of balancing the different needs the organisation has for the surface with the budget and resources available. If this is done right, there is no reason that the users of your surface shouldn’t enjoy many years of realistic play from your surface.
Contact us if you are looking to install an artificial sports surface and need help with any of these aspects of your project. We’ve been creating high-quality sports surfaces for many years and are well-placed to help you find the right one for your needs.