Artificial Turf Vs. Natural Grass: Lorain County School Districts Weigh In

- Jun 20, 2018-

Two of Lorain County’s larger school districts, Lorain City Schools and Elyria City Schools, are switching to artificial turf from natural grass, just in time for the 2018 football season.

Both districts have weighed the pros and cons and felt it was time to make the switch that many Ohio schools already have made.

For Elyria Schools, the new Ely Stadium is under construction.

“It was something the district and community really got behind, and we felt like it was the best thing for our situation,” said Heather Beck, athletic director for Elyria Schools. “There was a discussion amongst maintenance workers, administrators, coaches and community members about which option is better. And the turf field has the flexibility we would like to have in Elyria.”

Beck said flexibility is represented by the number of teams that can utilize the field.

“We always wanted to get some soccer games on the field in the same week as a home football game, but that was a problem in years past with the grass field,” she said. “The field would get too torn up by the soccer games and it wouldn’t be in great shape for football on Fridays.

“We had to play soccer in a separate area to ensure a good surface for football.”

Beck said the turf field solves a problem for fall sports.

“The turf field can be used multiple times throughout the week and will still be ready to go for each event,” she said. “This will allow the soccer games, both girls and boys, and freshman, junior varsity and varsity football, all to be on the same field.

“We wanted to have all of these things in one place and in the same week. We knew turf was the way to go to make this happen.”

A downside to turf is, eventually, crews will have to replace it, but Beck said the district has done its research on that.

“Schools, typically, get eight to nine years out of the fields,” she said. “Getting that amount of time out of the field makes it definitely worth it for us.

“It will be really exciting to have all the games in one place, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Beck said another plus is the amount of maintenance required for an artificial turf field compared to a grass field.

“We will have maintenance crews that clean the turf prior to activities,” she said. “It is important to clean the field because it will be used multiple times.

“This prevents different skin diseases that could arise due to many different athletes playing on the field. We will also have a crew checking the field for potential rips or tears in the field and make sure they get those patched up prior to play.”


Lorain Schools also is converting George Daniel Field to artificial turf, thanks to a donation from the Cleveland Browns.

In 2016, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam along with wife, Dee, announced a commitment to provide five metropolitan Cleveland school district fields with high-quality synthetic turf in a two-year project, courtesy of Browns Give Back, a commitment to youth football by both owners.

The Lorain project is the sixth field covered since summer 2016 and the first outside of the Cleveland school district.

On April 17, Haslam and newly signed wide receiver Jarvis Landry were among a group of supporters at George Daniel Field for a groundbreaking of the new synthetic turf.

“It is almost fully installed and will be ready for play in less than two weeks,” said Bryan Koury, athletic director of Lorain Schools. “It was a fairly easy decision to make the switch because it simplifies the sports landscape for us.”

Koury said the artificial turf puts everything in one spot.

“The turf allows multiple uses for throughout the week, and it is something we are looking forward to,” he said. “We can have the varsity practicing on the field while the other two levels of football are, either on the field, or in the area behind.

“It makes things super convenient for everyone. All the athletes are in one spot and parents no longer have to drive cross town to go from one event to the next.”

Koury said the switch is cost preventive as well.

“It allows us to cut back on maintenance cost,” he said. “Not only is the field going to require less maintenance, but you also can practice on it.

“This allows us to remove a practice field from the equation. It also gives us a field baseball and softball (teams) can practice on if their fields are still not usable at the moment due to rain.”

Koury said the change also makes the field safer for athletes.

“A combination of rain and natural grass creates a very muddy surface,” he said. “Athletes cannot get the desired traction they require to play their games safely and at a high level on that surface.

“This can lead to many slips and potential injuries that we would like to prevent.”

Koury said the validation of artificial turf is proven in the playoffs.

“Starting the second round, and beyond, the games are on artificial turf,” he said. “The Ohio High School Athletic Association will not even consider your facility for a second round, or beyond, game without artificial turf.

“There are less question marks and the OHSAA knows what the surface will be like for play. That’s what made it attractive for us as well.”


Casey Wolf, athletic director for Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst, said the district is keeping its grass surface at Memorial Field and has no desire to change to artificial turf.

“As anyone who has been around the game long enough will tell you, the game of football is meant to be played on grass,” Wolf said. “You see most professional teams prefer the grass field to artificial. You even had the Baltimore Ravens switching back from artificial to grass recently.

“It is the best way to play the sport, and we’re proud of our grass field.”

Wolf said the field is in good shape thanks to a decision made a few years ago.

“About five years ago, the school decided to move its soccer games over to the Amherst Junior High, as opposed to the football field behind Steele. This prevents the field from being torn up during the week.

“We solely use the field for football and make sure it is the optimal place to play on Fridays.”

Wolf said a good maintenance crew is key to having a quality grass field.

“We consult with a member of our community, Gary D’Andrea, who works for Turfgrass Management,” Wolf said. “He is a great resource to have and a huge help for us.

“There are different treatments we give the field depending on the weather. The field requires different preparation if it rains during the week as opposed to a sunny week of good weather. There is no set prescription, and the grounds crew needs to be on top of it, but it makes it worth it for us in the end.”

Wolf said the end result of a week of maintenance is a field that is ready rain or shine.

“The field is going to play the same regardless,” he said. “Officials who are getting ready to officiate the game, bring a pair of mud shoes in preparation for a muddy field.

“But I always tell them they aren’t necessary. They are usually surprised at how good the field is.”

The opposing players also are shocked, Wolf said.

“They initially think the field is artificial when looking at it, but are astonished when they learn it’s grass,” he said. “The opposing players love the field and I get compliments from the opposing coaches as well.”

Wolf also said the district avoids the replacement costs of switching fields.

“Those turf fields don’t last forever,” he said. “There is a convenience and comfort to knowing you will be on the same field for years to come.”