Editorial: Installation of fake grass on high school fields looks like a good idea

Jun. 26, 2013 @ 02:22 PM

It may seem like an extravagant expense for a school system struggling to meet expenses and open a new high school. The idea of adding artificial turf to the football fields at the five high schools appears, on the surface, to be a waste of money.

But school systems, like businesses, need to think long-term. There are times when a major outlay is done because it will pay off down the line. That appears to be the case with the installation of artificial turf at Sevier County public high schools.

This is not your father’s fake grass. The AstroTurf of the 1960s and 1970s has been improved. You’ll recall that original turf led to a number of knee and leg injuries attributed to the hardness of the surface and its lack of “give.” Most of that first incarnation of fake grass was replaced with real grass.

But the product has been made better. By most accounts the new artificial turf is better constructed, more like the real thing, cushioned, durable, and made to more closely resemble and feel like real grass. It doesn’t do much for the heat factor; the turf generates more heat than real grass, and that will mean some uncomfortable summer days for the coaches and players.

Still, there is reason to back the installation of the turf. Schools spend thousands each year in dollars and time maintaining the football fields.

And when it’s grass, the more teams that use the field, the more of a beating it takes over the course of a school term. Artificial turf will make the fields stand up to the forces of football, soccer, lacrosse and practice sessions. It may eliminate — pardon the pun — the turf wars that can exist among sports at a high school fighting for access to the same field.

It also helps that the cities of Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge stepped up to defray the cost of the artificial turf. The Seymour community is doing the same thing.

Yes, schools exist to educate in the classroom. The playing of games is not essential to the product. But it is important. Activities like band, art and athletics keep many kids in school who might otherwise drop out without something to hold their interest besides the three R’s.

The artificial turf looks like a good idea whose time has come.