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Study recommends max sports turf usage


May 19, 2021
By Turf and Rec Staff

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How many hours of play booked for sports fields is too much? The Ontario Turfgrass Research Foundation (OTRF) has announced recent studies have established more accurate recommendations for the maximum number of permitted hours feasible for sports fields before they reach unacceptable playing conditions.

In conjunction with DCS & Associates, the City of Toronto Parks Department and Sports Turf Canada, the OTRF has produced a whitepaper intended as a tool to provide aid to turf managers in explaining the impact of permitted field hours on sports field performance.

Entitled Usage Goals for Winning Sports Turf, the paper’s information helps sports turf managers justify permitted hours to decision makers and other stakeholders.

In order for sports fields to ensure player safety and enjoyment, they must perform at an acceptable level.

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One study looked at 24 different irrigated soccer fields in the City of Toronto, representing a variety of sports field classifications. Data was collected on four dates throughout the playing season, to obtain a snapshot of the various conditions throughout the season. Data was collected from different locations on the fields to establish how specific spots performed, based on permitted usage and seasonal weather. The goal was to develop a pass/fail rating system based on specific measurable quality metrics taken from industry standards. These included the percentage of turfgrass cover, the percentage of bare field, and compaction measurements.

Additionally, cultural management records of the studied fields were taken into consideration as they have a significant effect on the fields’ pass/fail rating.

The location of the studied fields in relation to their parking lots was also taken into consideration as the fields often undergo several hours of unpermitted play that is difficult to assess.

One fenced-in field had a final score that garnered a fail rating. It had been used for 978 hours, or more than double the recommended 450 hours. It more accurately reflects the amount of play compared to fields with no fencing, since fields that are not fenced in often have many hours of unpermitted play which affects field quality and performance. 

The whitepaper advises all stakeholders adhere to the permitted hours recommendations as listed in the accompanying table, and then consider their own unique situations to justify their needs.

The OTRF reached the following conclusions:

All permitted hours of fields should be reviewed with permitting offices as they significantly impact the pass/fail rating of sports fields. Continuing to utilize older recommendations could reduce the likelihood of a field being maintained to a level that is acceptable for its actual usage.

When considering permitted usage hours, review the location in relation to public accessibility (i.e. parking lots) and ability to reduce non-permitted play (i.e. fences) as this will often have a significant impact to field quality and increase the likelihood of premature fail ratings.

The cultural management practices of these fields should be an important consideration in determining the number of permitted hours that a specific category of field can withstand. These practices will also take time to complete and may impact the permitted hours of play.

For more information, contact the OTRF at info@otrf.ca.

The OTRF supports sports turf research to improve sustainable management of turfgrass in sports field applications through proceeds from fundraising initiatives, charitable donations and annual industry contributions.