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BY Todd Britton


CALHOUN, Georgia - Shaw Sports Turf is predicting robust growth for the synthetic turf market based on participation trends in youth sports.

In a recently released report by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), participation in high school sports has grown for the 27th consecutive year.

Last year, 7,868,900 student-athletes participated in high school sports, an increase of 61,853 over the previous year.

Football players represented 1,083,617 of the total participants.  In the previous report, football had declined by 10,000 participants.  This year’s decline was only 309.  However, 24 states reported growth in football numbers in the past year.  That growth trend is expected to continue in light of the steps being taken to minimize the risks associated with playing football.

With the growth in numbers of participants, there is also growth in the number of synthetic turf fields in the marketplace.  More than 12,000 synthetic turf fields are in use across the United States and about 1,500 more are installed each year.  Many of those installations are now for fields which are replacing an older synthetic turf surface.

Football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball, and rugby are the sports which typically participate on synthetic turf fields.  The top 10 states with respect to participation are Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, and Minnesota.  Last year 33 of the NFHS member state associations saw increases in participation.

“High schools installing synthetic turf fields represent over 70% of our market,” according to Chuck McClurg, Vice President of Shaw Sports Turf.  “More and more programs are faced with weather and maintenance issues on natural grass fields.  In addition, programs are looking to improve performance and synthetic turf is an avenue to achieve all of those goals.”

McClurg also says that schools are more savvy about synthetic turf now and realize that turf is not always just turf.  Programs are looking for innovation when making their decisions.

“As more and more fields are installed it reinforces the number one issue which surrounded synthetic turf fields,” said McClurg.  “That issue is heat.  Synthetic turf fields are just hotter than a natural grass surface.  Through our dedication to research and development, we have brought not one, but two solutions to the marketplace.”

Shaw Sports Turf offers HydroChill as the only synthetic turf cooling system in the market which has been shown to cool as much as 50 degrees and is warranted.

When athletes sweat, evaporative cooling takes place when evaporation of moisture from the skin’s surface has a cooling effect.  HydroChill works on the same principle.  As the turf surface is heated by solar radiation, moisture stored in the turf is released, leaving a cooler, more comfortable surface for athletes.

The technology is applied to a field where components react and form a coating on the infill.  The field is watered to activate HydroChill and then energy from sunlight drives out water, removing heat from the surface.  The cooling effect of HydroChill after watering can last two to three days.  Watering alone can result in some short-term cooling, but a flash-effect means temperatures can rise and quickly exceed uncomfortable levels of heat. 

HydroChill creates a substantial and sustained temperature difference. HydroChill provides maximum benefit when the sun is directly overhead.  During the summer months the sun is positioned overhead, causing surfaces to absorb more energy, resulting in hotter temperatures.  Temperature differences of 50 degrees have been seen on an outdoor field.  Studies have shown that temperature differences of over 30 degrees provide a noticeable increase in the comfort level of athletes.

The research behind HydroChill was extensive and was conducted for three years, both in laboratory tests and in real-world field applications currently in use by athletes.  Shaw Sports Turf’s testing facilities include an entire lab dedicated to the study of heat on turf.  It houses a custom-built solar simulator with a watering mechanism that simulates rainfall so testing can be conducted on a year-round basis.  Tests on a variety of outdoor surfaces were conducted with thermocouples, an Infrared thermometer and by a certified thermographer with a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera.

HydroChill has been selected by athletic programs throughout the country to help keep athletes comfortable.  Most recently, HydroChill was installed on the game field at Paulson Stadium, home of the Georgia Southern Eagles.

A second option for the reduction of surface temperatures on fields comes with Shaw Sports Turf’s GeoFill organic infill system.  GeoFill is the leading alternative infill system in the market, using mainly coconut fibers, which are 100% organic and a rapidly renewable resource.

Geofill provides the natural footing and support of a natural playing field without the mess of dirt and instability of other infill systems. Geofill demonstrates great infill stability and excels in critical ball-to-surface interactions such as ball roll and ball bounce. The use of a shock pad with a Geofill system keeps the field safe, while providing the best in performance characteristics. GeoFill looks and performs like natural soil with the added benefit of continuous hours of play expected from high performance synthetic turf systems.

As an absorptive organic material, Geofill is inherently cooler than other synthetic turf playing surfaces. The coconut fibers in Geofill have excellent moisture retention qualities which allows the system to absorb water; which is released when sunlight warms the field. The release of water removes the heat through evaporative cooling. The surface will remain cooler as long as there is water present. Geofill fields have been seen to be as much as 40 degrees cooler than traditional synthetic turf fields. Other alternative infills claim to be cooler, but most are hydrophobic and cannot provide the cooling effect that Geofill can.

There are currently over 500 GeoFill installations throughout the world and dozens of programs in the United States have selected GeoFill in 2016 alone.

“Player comfort and safety are more important today than ever before,” said McClurg.  “We are proud to offer two game-changing innovations which help to address those concerns in a way that only Shaw Sports Turf can.  With the growth in high school sports, these are factors which must be carefully considered when choosing a playing surface."

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