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Irrigating Sports Turf and Athletic Fields, No Easy Task

Sprinkler systems run from the very simple to complex. Watering athletic fields (as simple as it may sound to irrigate an open field) tends toward the complex side of things. Like most golf courses and even residential homes, most athletic fields use popup sprinklers to do the job. Yet compared to most lawns, there is a much larger surface area as well, among other considerations.


Often schools and organizations try to use residential or commercial sprinkler systems to water athletic fields—usually both inefficiently and ineffectively. This is often due to cost. Sports sprinklers can cost three times that of commercial models, for several reasons.


Sports sprinklers must have a strong retraction spring to ensure that they’ll be down and out of the way when not in use. They also are more durable and have a heavy case, thick rubber cover (injury prevention), larger capacity, and higher water pressure.


While the sprinklers themselves rarely change from one field to another, a baseball field cannot be zoned the same way a soccer or football field is. Wear and tear is a big issue when designing a sprinkler system for athletic fields. It sounds like it should be easy—a simple rectangle with grass of the same type and cut to the same height—but field use has a profound effect on field irrigation.

The center of a field, say, may see a lot more foot traffic, be torn up much more frequently, be seeded more often, and need more water than the sides. This requires a well-designed sprinkler system, with separate zones, to ensure efficient watering. This grows ever more important as many areas of the country struggle with drought regulations. In other words, when it comes to athletic fields, every drop of water counts.

Of course soil type, quality, root depth, and local environment are all important factors as well. Athletic sprinkler systems usually have a controller, away from the field, where a field manager can easily control the entire system to suit the field’s needs.

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