Synthetic Turf Fields: Dismantling the track and field venues
Updated: Oct 5, 2017
Synthetic Turf is replacing natural turf fields all over the country at a fast rate. When looking at a high school football or soccer field, they consume the entire infield of the track oval today.
The introduction of synthetic turf fields is slowly dismantling the sport of track and field. The field events are being pushed outside the track oval and many facilities they are relocated outside the stadium seating. The throwing events are being removed because the carpet under the turf cannot handle the repetitive collisions from the throwing implements.
If the field events need to be moved, then the design plans need to be better implemented to keep the sport of track and field a whole. I have seen so many athletic facilities that place the field events on an open piece of ground with no thought to access for athletes and spectators. If you have ever watched the NCAA Track and Field Championships or US Olympic Track and Field Trials at University of Oregon in Eugene, you can sit in the seat you purchased and watch every running and field event. The facility is for track and field only and has a natural turf infield.
Attending a high school track meet at some facilities is similar to visiting a living farm. You must walk through fields and rough or wet terrain to see the different events taking place. Most times you are standing along or outside a fence to watch the event. Track and field has always been described as a five-ring circus, but these days you must get up out of your seat and take a short hike to watch the other performances. How well would football survive if you had to get up and walk to the practice field and stand to watch a punt, then walk to another field to watch the kick-off? What if basketball spectators had to get up and walk to a different gymnasium to watch free-throw shots. Not to mention, staffing requirements for the event if gate fees were charged and entrances and exits had to be managed.
Adaptations need to be made due to the installation of synthetic fields but in many cases, there is little thought into how this impacts the sport of track and field. When it is inconvenient and difficult for spectators to get to the competition arena, these athletes compete with no fan base. Field events have no set time schedule for each competitor so it is difficult for coaches, parents or relatives to move back and forth between the track events and the field events and support their athlete(s). When field events are removed from the stadium the consideration of power and data are not in the plan and they are unable to utilize the current technology for track and field.
What can you do to better implement these changes to track and field brought about by the installation of synthetic turf fields?