Editorial Feature

Materials Used in Artificial Sports Pitches

Image Credits: Arek_Malang/shutterstock.com

A sports pitch is a designated area that establishes the perimeters of a sports game. They are constructed from specific types of artificial turf depending on the requirements and are used for various sports including tennis, football, rugby, and hockey.

History of Sports Pitches

For decades it was believed that maintaining an artificial turf of any kind would be time consuming and expensive. In the mid 1900s various sports industries seeked to produce an artificial pitch that could be used in all weathers, without a reduction in performance or safety.

Artificial sports turf continues to be perfected and several benefits over natural turf are now presentable to consumers: less abrasion, greater cushioning, and increased impact absorbing capabilities. This industrial development in turn led to a variety of player benefits, including lower fatigue and injury susceptibility.

These pitches bring greater durability, efficient space use, and allow consumers to obtain good value for their money.

Where are Sports Pitches Used?

Sports pitches can be built in a wide range of outdoor locations, including schools, parks, or large regeneration projects. Some pitches are built with a single sport in mind; however, the majority have to cater to many activities performed on the same surface.

Therefore, most sports pitches are installed within multi-use game areas, with the artificial spaces being constructed from various combinations of materials.

Synthetic Turf Management Artificial Grass Sports Pitch Installation. Video sourced from: YouTube - Turf King

Types of Sports Pitch

When choosing a type of sports pitch, several factors should be taken into consideration, including the amount of impact expected to be performed on the field, the desired surface resilience, and the required thickness levels.

Tennis Courts/Pitches

It is important to choose a pitch material that gives slip resistance, enhanced safety and increasing durability. The majority of tennis courts are constructed with sand-filled pitch (a durable, all-round budget surface) or open textured porous macadam, a material that is particular popular in the UK (used on over 75% of tennis courts).

Image Credits: Felix Rohan/shutterstock.com

Porous macadam is ideal for tennis for a variety of reasons. Its sturdy design makes it resistance to the elements, enabling it to be played on all year round. It can also be coated with paint which allows the court to be easily marked as well as aesthetically pleasing. Being porous, the surface allows water to drain through it and can therefore be used in adverse weather conditions.

Football and Rugby Pitches

Football and rugby require pitches that have high levels of shock absorption and lower surface friction. Hence sports pitches for these games are often made using polymeric surfaces over a macadam base, a material known for its absorption abilities.

Although there are many types of polymer, each surface uses rubber laid upon a stone sub-base and macadam base. This stone sub-base consists of fine stones that bind together and allows the surface to become smooth and even. The permeable stone sub-base (along with the polymeric surface the macadam base) is also useful in preventing flood damage.

Depending on the type of sports surface required, many characteristics can then be added to these basic specifications, including fencing types, floodlighting, paint coatings and line markings.

Two of the most common types of polymeric surfaces are MUGA type 3 and type 4, which are specifically designed to conform to the characteristics of tennis, basketball, netball, and football. Type 3 minimalizes deformity of the chosen surface using an SBR base, shockpad, and a 3mm spray. It is rougher underfoot than type 4, which is gentler underfoot and does not require high levels of slip resistance.

Hockey Pitches

There are a variety of sports pitches used for hockey. One consists of sand-dressed pitch, which contains a denser pile height with a reduced sand fill. Another option is unfilled pitch, designed to be watered before play and considered by many to be the ideal surface for hockey pitches.

However, it is important to remember that the most essential component in pitches designed to withstand intensely physical impact is shockpads. Shockpads are resilient layers between the base and playing surface. They are composed of sand or rubber crumb shred that is then mixed with a resin binder. This is either mixed and laid in-situ or manufactured as prefabricated rolls.

Shockpads made in-situ will vary in thickness; the thicker pads contain pea gravel or additional small aggregates and are called “E-layers,” which can be installed directly onto a chosen stone base.

Natural Is Not Necessarily Better

The quality of sports pitches has improved to such an extent over the years that professional teams and prestigious sport arenas have begun to utilize them with increasing enthusiasm.

Artificial pitches allow teams to do what they love in a secure and productive way, improving performance and injury prevention.

Sources and Further Reading

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