State of the Turfs

Jake Sicinski, left, sophomore LAS, and Josh Beckman, freshman in LAS, play soccer on the artificial turf by First Street and Stadium Drive.

The Daily Illini

Jake Sicinski, left, sophomore LAS, and Josh Beckman, freshman in LAS, play soccer on the artificial turf by First Street and Stadium Drive.

By Grace Rebekah Kenney

It looks real. It almost feels real. And it may even be better than the real thing.

The new artificial turf fields on First Street and Stadium Drive have been open and in use for a little over a month. The switch from natural to artificial was made over the past summer and more students are making the transition to playing on the artificial turf fields.

“We wanted to have the ability to extend our playing season further into the semester and earlier into the semester,” said Doug Boyer, assistant director for Campus Recreation. “In previous years with our sand-based fields on the Champaign side of campus we were really forced to close those fields down the entire spring semester, but the new synthetic fields allow us to at least open some fields in the spring.”

The project of transitioning to artificial cost $1.6 million. However, Tom Singer, playfield maintenance supervisor, said the costs of maintaining a natural field should eventually even out with that of the artificial.

“There are a lot of things we don’t have to do with the artificial fields,” Singer said. “We won’t be aerating two or three times per year. We won’t be fertilizing, putting weed control down. We won’t be mowing three times a week, like we do when things are growing real aggressively.”

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Artificial turf still does require some maintenance, such as disinfecting the turf occasionally, but not to the same extent as natural.

In the spring, schools and universities all along the East Coast went through a lead-poisoning scare. Many schools discovered dangerous levels of lead in their synthetic turf. However, Boyer said those fields were from several generations ago, and the newer turf fields that experienced this scare did not contain high enough levels of lead to be hazardous.

“The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission actually looked into the concern, so it was an independent research and study done by someone other than the companies themselves and the research to this date has shown that the negative effects are negligible,” Boyer said. “If anything would be recognized as environmentally unsafe, we would certainly keep an eye on that.”

Students also seem to approve of the fields. Senior soccer player Jamal Gorham, senior in Business and member of the men’s soccer team, said he enjoys playing on the field. It is harder to get injured while playing on artificial turf and also easier to control the ball during rainy weather, he added.

“Personally, we love it because it’s a lot better quality, and it’s flatter and the fields we play on over at PAR/FAR are bumpy and really dry,” Gorham said. “So, this is the best place to play around.”