Turf Enhancement Project at GFA
GFA's new turf fields have already dramatically impacted our athletic program as they were put to great use during the Fall pre-season's crucial two weeks.
Construction is underway on the state-of-the-art practice field and half-track and is projected to be completed by the end of September.
Dear GFA Community,
In 2011, GFA became the first school in Connecticut to install an environmentally responsible synthetic turf field. More than eight years later, GFA has expanded to serve 715 students. Our athletic program has grown and is flourishing, and a single artificial turf field no longer accommodates the needs of our student-athletes. The interscholastic athletic landscape has also changed; field hockey is expected to be played on artificial turf, lacrosse has trended in the same direction, and our soccer teams prefer the consistency of the surface.
On May 18th, we will begin the process of renovating the existing turf field and begin construction of a second artificial turf field. We will also add an adjacent warm-up field and a partial track. This improvement and expansion will allow more practice and gameplay for those sports best played on turf, provide optionality for baseball and softball training during inclement weather, and offer an on-campus home for our growing track and field program. We expect the renovation process on the existing turf field to be completed this summer and the completion of construction of the new turf field by fall 2019.
GFA’s commitment to the whole child begins with the partnership between students, teachers, and coaches, and is enhanced by high-performing spaces that support teaching and learning: the Janet Hartwell Performing Arts Center, Harkness tables, STEAM workspaces, fine art and performance studios, and contemporary science labs, serve as a few examples. This investment complements our recently completed squash facility, wrestling gym, and fitness center. The addition of an expanded turf complex will have a positive impact on the entire school community and facilitate additional athletic and recreational activities for all our learners from PreK - 12.
- Two full playing fields will allow our field hockey, soccer (boys and girls), and lacrosse (boys and girls) teams from both our Middle and Upper School divisions to have significantly more access to top quality, all-weather playing surfaces.
- The partial track and turf fields will be integrated into our PE programming for PreK-12.
- The additional turf field will serve as an all-weather recess field for Lower School.
- The additional field allows Middle and Upper School sports teams to begin practice outdoors weeks earlier in the spring.
- The warm-up field will allow softball and baseball players to practice during the spring when the natural playing surfaces are often unplayable due to wet weather conditions.
- The partial track will allow track and field athletes to practice hurdles, relay baton hand-offs, and interval training on a surface that replicates track competition. Currently, our track team runs in the parking lot or travels to Saugatuck Elementary School and runs on an asphalt track.
- The additional turf field reduces the wear on existing natural grass fields by allowing us to put more heavy usage on the artificial playing surfaces, particularly during and after rain events.
GFA’s new and renovated artificial fields will adhere to the most rigorous safety and sustainability requirements, continuing our commitment to the standards of excellence we hold our school to in any renovation, or improvement. We invite you to learn more about the project’s safety and sustainability measures, take a sneak peek at the layout, and explore some FAQs below.
We are grateful for the generosity of a small group of parents who wanted to ensure we had this facility for the 2019-20 season, rather than waiting for the next capital fundraising effort. We’re excited about this investment in support of programmatic excellence at GFA. Two turf playing fields have been the standard for several years within our independent school peer group, and our community’s investment in this area helps us better position our student-athletes to reach their full potential and provides programmatic benefits across all divisions.
GFA’s new and renovated artificial turf fields will feature a high quality thermoplastic elastomer infill (or TPE) that helps reduces surface heat all while delivering the same behavior and overall stability as traditional infill material. Under the surface, the fields will be equipped with an underlayment or “shock pad” to provide the necessary shock absorption. This system design will allow the field to meet the needed industry safety requirements and provide a safe and performing venue for athletes.
Our vendor, FieldTurf, a world leader in artificial turf, reports the following on their website, "every day, we push the boundaries of research and innovation to engineer the most advanced artificial turf systems in the industry. While no sport can ever be completely injury-free, we continue to find new ways to reduce the risk and severity of injuries. Our focus on safety has led to numerous injury-reducing innovations and improvements."
In a six-year study conducted on collegiate men's soccer players, when compared to natural grass, FieldTurf systems led to:
- 25% fewer total injuries
- 20% fewer severe injuries
- 33% fewer concussions
- 15% fewer injuries due to player-to-surface collisions
In a five year study conducted on collegiate women's soccer players, when compared to natural grass, FieldTurf systems led to:
- 11% fewer total injuries
- 33% fewer Severe injuries
- 57% fewer Injuries on surfaces 8+ years old
- 17% fewer Injuries in rain-field conditions
Consistent with our commitment to environmental sustainability, both new fields will feature FieldTurf’s EcoGreen product, a sustainably made crumb rubber alternative that offers significant heat reduction when compared to crumb rubber fields due to its reduced heat absorption. EcoGreen systems provide excellent shock absorptions properties, having met or exceeded industry standards for immediate and long-term player safety.
The FieldTurf system dramatically outperforms natural grass fields in terms of reducing GFA’s carbon footprint. In addition to conserving clean drinking water, FieldTurf:
- eliminates the use of lawn care chemicals and pesticides;
- eliminates fuel-powered mowing, aerating, and re-seeding and lowers the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels;
- eliminates grass clippings;
- eliminates impact on water resources.
From FieldTurf.com: "When it comes to artificial turf sports fields, FieldTurf is the most trusted brand in the industry. Whether its football, soccer, baseball or any other sport, FieldTurf fields provide athletes with the safety and performance they need to perform at their best, while giving field owners the durability they want to maximize the value of their investment. FieldTurf is a world leader in artificial turf with over 20,000 installations worldwide.
In the NFL, FieldTurf is the trusted choice of 10 teams. The Lions, Falcons, Patriots and Seahawks both play and practice on FieldTurf while the Packers, Giants, Raiders, Eagles, Buccaneers and Redskins practice on FieldTurf.
In the NCAA, over 1500 programs trust FieldTurf of which includes powerhouse football programs Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oregon to name a few.
FieldTurf is a part of Tarkett Sports, a world leader in athletic surfacing, offering a comprehensive portfolio of sports flooring solutions through its brands: FieldTurf, Beynon Sports, Renner Sports, EasyTurf, Desso, GrassMaster and Tarkett Sports Indoor. With a wide range of products including artificial, hybrid and residential turf, running tracks, tennis courts and indoor athletic surfaces, the Tarkett Sports family offers the ultimate surface experience."
- Why does GFA need to renovate its existing artificial turf field?
- Why does GFA need to increase its artificial turf footprint?
- Will the new surfaces be safe, both for student-athletes and the environment?
- What is the impact on the environment?
- What does adding artificial playing surfaces make possible at GFA?
- How would the addition of the half-track enhance GFA’s athletic offerings?
- What impact will this have on GFA’s athletic program?
- What is the life expectancy of a newly installed FieldTurf field now?
When the existing turf field was installed in 2011, GFA was the first school in Connecticut to install an environmentally responsible synthetic field. Over the course of the last two seasons, significant drainage and performance issues have surfaced. FieldTurf, the manufacturer/installer, acknowledge that the once cutting-edge infill that was used in 2011 is indeed problematic. A remedy under the warranty, which would use a comparable infill, would likely afford another two years of acceptable field performance.
It is an expectation that Upper School field hockey is played on artificial turf. Boys and girls lacrosse has also trended toward artificial turf and, when given the choice, boys and girls soccer teams prefer it as well. Two turf fields have been the standard for several years with GFA’s independent school peer group.
The ability to “control the environment” so that student-athletes can practice and play even in inclement weather has become increasingly critical.
Yes. GFA has been a leader in this area. The current turf field was a cutting-edge, environmentally safe product that served as the standard for health and safety. For its new fields, GFA would use a crumb rubber alternative known as Eco-Max, which:
- is a sustainably made material.
- is made from the same material as the artificial grass-carpet fibers. Eco-max granules are extruded from excess material in the cutting process of the carpet.
- offers significant heat reduction when compared to crumb rubber fields, due to its reduced heat absorption.
- features a resilient infill with excellent shock-absorption capacity; its systems provide excellent shock-absorption properties, having met or exceeded industry standards for immediate and long-term player safety.
In addition to using a safer infill material, GFA’s new artificial turf fields would both have underlying shock pads to ensure the safety of our student-athletes. Shock pads are meant to absorb the impact of athletes landing on the surface, significantly reducing the potential for injury. Traditional artificial turf fields lose shock absorption capabilities as the field ages and infill material compacts. A playing field with a shock pad maintains shock absorption for the life of the field regardless of the wear and/or compaction of the infill material.
When it comes to carbon footprints, FieldTurf fields dramatically outperform natural grass fields. In addition to conserving clean drinking water, FieldTurf:
- eliminates the use of chemicals
- eliminates fuel-powered mowing, aerating, and re-seeding and lowers the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels
- eliminates grass clippings
- eliminates impact on water resources
This potential improvement would be an area that would impact the entire school.
- Two full playing fields will allow field hockey, soccer (boys and girls), and lacrosse (boys and girls) teams from both our MIddle and Upper School divisions to have significantly more access to top-quality, all-weather playing surfaces.
- The warm-up field will allow softball and baseball players to practice during the spring when the natural playing surfaces are often unplayable due to the weather conditions.
- A partial track will allow track and field athletes to practice hurdles, relay baton hand-offs, and interval training on a surface that replicates track competition. Currently, our track team runs in the parking lot or travels to Saugatuck Elementary School and runs on an asphalt track.
- The additional turf field reduces the wear on existing natural grass fields by being able to put more heavy usage on the artificial playing surfaces, particularly during and after rain events.
- It would serve as an all-weather recess field for Lower School.
The addition of a half-track will allow MS and US student-athletes to practice hurdles, relay baton hand-offs, and sprints. This will be a welcome, mission-aligned addition both for those students who have a strong interest in track (an athletic offering that has enjoyed a great deal of momentum as of late), as well as those for whom certain team sports do not feel like a viable option.
The renovation of the current turf field along with the addition of an incremental playing field and an adjacent warm-up field would position GFA among the best-in-class for athletic facilities. It would enable GFA to host tournaments (which increases exposure to GFA for prospective families) and serve as a viable playoff host on dates when GFA teams have earned the right to host multiple games on the same day (in the fall of 2018, GFA hosted multiple FAA tournament games on one day).
The life expectancy of a new turf field typically ranges from 8–12 years. Based on GFA’s current hours of usage and the latest technology of turf fibers from FieldTurf, we should be closer to the 11-14 year range. Unlike municipalities that would continue heavy usage year round, GFA tends to reduce hours of usage during the summer months. This would adjust accordingly if summer usage increases. Also, proper maintenance can help ensure longer life expectancy of the field. This includes regular brushing of the infill, fixing loose seams, etc.