Grass vs Turf, (Should it Even Be a Question)

Sean Boyd, P.E. ‐ Gale Associates Inc.
Tack and Field Turf Proposal

Several times throughout the season, the football team has found itself practicing inside because the fields can’t handle the weather. Turf fields have been discussed repeatedly for Hamilton-Wenham, but one thing is standing in the way, the price.

The grass versus turf war is not new, however, in the past couple of years, it is less about debate and more about a waiting game: numerous towns waiting for their chance to switch to turf. Now from the outside, many towns would assume that Hamilton-Wenham would have a turf field. The town checks all the boxes, relatively wealthy town that is invested in what’s happening with the school, particularly its athletic program. Yet many hopeful students are still waiting for that elusive turf field. In fact, these same students are even more disappointed that most of the towns in Massachusetts have not just one turf field, but multiple fields with nice stands for the crowd to watch from. In fact, as someone on the football team who has traveled as far as Ashland this season, I have been blown away by how impressive some of the fields have been. However, there are many “counterexamples” in why turf fields aren’t necessary.

The biggest obstacle is the price. Turf fields are expensive and cost on average 403,750, much more than any grass field. The AD is hopeful to get a turf field at Hamilton-Wenham High School, saying “Our goal is to have an entire redo of our athletic complex. We’re in desperate need of that.” However, he admits the process is slow going, but still going, “Over the summer I would say that the project had been in hibernation, but in the last two months of school I have had more meetings about the turf field then I have had in the previous 2 years combined. I would say the project has been re-ignited.” 

Again, it comes down to cost. Currently, the school has permits to update the entire complex, which includes a stadium, the backfield, and the lights. According to AD Craig Genualdo, this would cost about “ 8 and ½ million.” However, the prices do fluctuate.

As the interview went on more individual questions started to come up: “Do you think it would be helpful for athletes and how the athletes perform to have a turf field.” The response was “Of course, the thing that gets lost is its not just night games that we lose, its the number of practices we lose because we’re either stuck in the gym or were practicing on a wet field.” Overall The General Consensus was very grateful Mr. Genualdo gave the paper the time to interview him on this subject, everyone found the information very interesting and helped the paper come to a couple of conclusions. 

Although the need for a turf field has always been apparent it was interesting to see that that Athletic Director was so intent on acquiring one. Although there might be some bias since this interview came from the AD. There were some things that were impossible to discredit whether you have a foot in the race or not. For example, how the sports teams lose hours of valuable time either not practicing or playing in the mud. As anyone who lives in New England knows, you can’t count on the harsh winters to stop being so long and unpredictable. People might be thinking every other town has to deal with the same winters as us, but this isn’t true. In the past, towns have suffered just as much as Hamilton Wenham, but now that these other towns have turf, the harsh winters don’t affect the amount of practice that is available. This means Hamilton Wenham Athletes will be going into most games with the opposing team having much more time to practice. This gives the other schools a distinct advantage over Hamilton Wenham.

Another thing Mr. Genualdo brought up that can’t be ignored is how many Friday night games the school loses. This causes Hamilton Wenham’s sports teams to have to constantly travel to the other town’s stadium and feel the wrath of the other town’s fans. This puts the town’s players at a disadvantage if the teams are always going into enemy territory. The fact that we don’t have lights doesn’t just affect the athletes, it also affects the community. Many towns come together when there is something that the town can support. For most towns its to go to the sports games but since many of Hamilton Wenham’s games are away it makes it harder for the town to come together. However, this lack of home games affects one group of people specifically. 

Everyone knows that the Juniors of Hamilton Wenham get to use the money gained from the home games for the class account. This is important because many feel that Junior year is the most important year for fundraising. This is true because the juniors have to raise thousands of dollars if the class wants to have a nice prom. In past years Juniors have always been excited because the class knew it would be easy to raise lots of money because of the football games. However, with the lack of home football games, this puts the Junior class at a disadvantage.

Sean Boyd, P.E. ‐ Gale Associates Inc.
Proposed Turf Baseball Field

5 sports captains were asked about their views on obtaining a turf field.  100% felt that investing in a turf field was not a waste of money. 80% of the captains believed that having a turf field gives other towns advantages over non-turf field towns, like Hamilton-Wenham. Whether Soccer, Cross Country, Softball, Field Hockey, or Basketball, the captains all agreed that turf would be very helpful. 

In order for this much-needed turf field to be acquired a couple of things will have to happen. The most important thing people can do is spread awareness not only of the cost but of how turf fields can influence the success of games. Until then, Hamilton Wenham athletes will continue to play on their grass fields hoping the weather won’t lead to a canceled practice.