For team sports players in Los Angeles, now is the summer of our discontent. They have seen the grass turn from green to brown to dirt to sand. But L.A. is in the midst of a dramatic move that would save a ton of water and improve the quality of soccer games for generations: replacing its 100-odd grass fields with synthetic grass, or artificial turf. This is a major undertaking and a very progressive step forward for the city of LA. There were a host of reasons as to why the city decided to make the switch but the current state of the drought and the incredible ROI that these fields will have over time were the main factors.
“Our soccer fields are the most widely used sports fields in the country,” says, a planner in the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The fields are used on a daily basis and soccer is the fastest-growing sport in the last 20 years.
Of course, turf fields don’t come cheap. But in the long run, the city will save money on water and maintenance (artificial turf fields still need upkeep, but not as much). The parks department is replacing, on average, six or seven grass fields in L.A. per year.
Artificial turf is not without its detractors. Everyone’s favorite international sports bureaucracy, FIFA, angered fans by holding the Women’s World Cup on artificial turf fields. The surface is, after all, hotter and harder than grass fields and leads to many more player injuries.
But that’s only compared with expertly maintained, perfectly manicured grass fields — which L.A.’s fields ain’t. They’re scraggily messes, filled with dirt and clumps of grass and gopher holes. The new turf fields, while not perfect, would represent a huge step up.
Los Angeles is using the newest, state-of-the-art artificial turf fields. None of the replacement fields will contain the dreaded “crumb rubber,” those little bits of recycled tire rubber that manage to cling everywhere (and we mean everywhere).
The replaced fields also, according to Parks and Rec, will have drainage systems to collect rainwater and push it back into the water table instead of draining it wastefully into the streets and storm drains.