What to consider when choosing turf for community vs. high-performance sports fields?

May 07|Natural TurfBy Amy Dingle

Are you in charge of selecting the ideal playing surface for your sports facility? Whether you're developing a community sports field or a high-performance sports arena, the choice of turf is critical. At SPORTENG, we understand the nuanced needs of various sporting environments, and we're here to guide you through the decision-making process.

When it comes to natural turf surfaces, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. The requirements for a community sports field can vastly differ from those of a high-performance sports field. Let's delve into the key elements you need to consider for each:

1. Usage intensity

High-performance sports fields typically experience moderate to light usage, commonly hosting professional or competitive events. The usage of these fields is often closely monitored and limited so as to ensure the turf is in good condition for these events.  

In contrast, community sports fields often endure heavy usage, catering to various age groups and recreational activities. Often, these fields have higher utilisation due to their accessibility, the diverse range of activities, and the group sizes they host. The turf must be able to withstand frequent training sessions, high foot traffic and rigorous usage.

2. Playing surface quality & Sporting Requirements

While playability is important, community fields prioritise safety and versatility. The turf should provide a forgiving surface to minimise the risk of injuries. It should also accommodate players of all skill levels and ages, often across multiple sporting disciplines.

Precision and consistency are paramount for high-performance fields. Athletes require a surface that offers excellent traction, predictable ball response, and stability to enhance performance and reduce the risk of injuries during intense matches or training sessions. Often, at the elite level, there are preferred turf types based on the sport that will be played on the field; for example, ryegrass is a frequently preferred turf type for soccer pitches as it can create a more ‘slippery’ surface, which improves ball roll.

Another turf characteristic that is highly valued in certain elite-level sports is the mowing height of a turf species. In sports such as golf or lawn bowls, the turf's ability to survive while being mown at a lowered height (e.g., 2 -3 mm) is imperative to the surface's playability.


Natural turf installed at a lawn bowl facility, mown at a lowered height

3. Maintenance requirements

Community fields may have limited resources for ongoing maintenance, requiring turf solutions that are resilient and easy to manage. Low-maintenance grass varieties and efficient irrigation systems are essential for sustaining playability while minimising upkeep costs.

The maintenance provision is much greater for elite-level playing fields and, therefore, allows the ground to be maintained to a higher degree. Maintaining a high-performance field demands meticulous care and specialised equipment. Regular aeration, topdressing, and irrigation are essential to promote turf health and ensure consistent playing conditions that meet the stringent standards of professional sports. Often, at this level, surfaces will have to be compliant with the standards set out by the relevant sporting code; this may call for a specific traction, ball roll, or surface hardness to be achieved by the maintenance team.


Natural turf maintenance on a soccer natural turf Field of Play 

4. Budget

Budget constraints often dictate the choice of turf for community facilities. Opting for cost-effective grass varieties and minimalistic maintenance routines can help maximise the value of investments while delivering satisfactory playing experiences. Turf varieties that require low input, in particular, reduced irrigation water and fertiliser needs, will be preferred for a community-level field.

Investing in premium turf varieties and state-of-the-art maintenance equipment is a necessity for high-performance venues. While the initial costs may be higher, the long-term benefits, including superior playability and reduced injury risks, justify the expenditure for professional sports organisations. There may also be higher ongoing costs related to some high-performance turf species, such as increased irrigation demand.

5. Neighbouring Fields and Facilities

Often, it is important when choosing a turf species to consider the existing turf variety, which can be found in the immediate surroundings or in neighbouring fields. If there are a number of fields being maintained by the same maintenance equipment, there will always be a risk of cross-contamination occurring between fields. To reduce the risk of cross-contamination and multiple turf types on one surface, it is always best to keep turf species consistent across the surfaces in the facility. This is true for both community and elite level fields, surface playability is always improved when there is a consistent turf species across the surface.

Having a single turf species across fields in a large sports precinct can also allow for a streamlined maintenance program. A similar program can be implemented across multiple natural turf fields. This is hugely beneficial for community sports fields, where maintenance resources are often limited.


Two natural turf Fields of Play side by side, using the same turf profile

6. Sustainability and environmental impact

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a priority for community projects. Choosing eco-friendly turf varieties and implementing water-saving irrigation systems can minimise environmental impact while promoting healthy, lush playing surfaces.

These considerations are equally important for high-performance fields. Selecting turfgrass species that thrive in local climates and adopting eco-conscious maintenance practices contribute to sustainability efforts without compromising performance standards.


At SPORTENG, we specialise in planning and designing tailored solutions for sports facilities of all scales and purposes. Whether you're developing a community sports field or a high-performance sports arena, our team of experts is committed to delivering innovative turf solutions that exceed your expectations.

Make the right choice for your sports field today with SPORTENG. Contact us to discuss your project requirements and unlock the full potential of your sports Field of Play.

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