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Irrigation options for sports fields: Making the right choice

August 5, 2019
Photo: The Toro Company

Photo: The Toro Company

No two sports fields are the same. With a growing number of choices in natural and synthetic turf, regional differences in weather conditions and varying levels of usage, there are few default answers when it comes to the best irrigation products and practices. On top of all of that, it can be difficult to implement every process and piece of equipment originally foreseen for your field. There are a number of irrigation options suited for sports fields that provide a level of flexibility and utility to meet the needs of any field — and most any budget. Here are a few of those options and their key advantages.

Long Radius Sprinklers

Photo: The Toro Company

Photo: The Toro Company

Given the lengths and widths that most sport fields span — think American football, soccer, rugby and polo — long radius sprinklers can help get more water to the turf in shorter amounts of time. For example, at their peak, sprinklers like Toro’s TS170 Series Sprinkler are capable of reaching a throw distance of 177 feet and putting out upwards of 300 gallons per minute. With a radius capability of 177 feet, only one sprinkler head is required to stretch the entire width of a standard synthetic turf football field, making for a total of six heads to cover the entire field. Those six heads can be installed along the perimeter of the field, outside of the turf area. Time required for maintenance is reduced with the elimination of having to dig around the head for servicing; installation costs are lessened given available Valve-In-Head configurations; and there are fewer points of potential failure given the smaller number of sprinklers installed compared to a more traditional sprinkler layout.

Smaller Area Irrigation

Photo: The Toro Company

Photo: The Toro Company

Smaller areas, such as baseball infields or grass tennis courts, are best serviced by mid-range rotors that throw between 30-65 feet. Rotors are well-established products that are fairly straightforward to install and service, yet as a product category provide a wide range of flexibility in design given their nozzle options, their range of capabilities, and lots of choice in models and manufacturers. The ideal choice for your field comes down to water supply, head spacing and water windows. The typical rotor installation may cost a little more up front than other irrigation choices but day-to-day operations are quite cost-effective, as most systems are automated and controlled through advanced control systems. From a systems perspective, there are minimal labor requirements and water usage is optimized.

Traveling Sprinklers

Photo: The Toro Company

Photo: The Toro Company

An underground irrigation setup is not ideal, or even possible, for all sports fields. Traveling sprinkler systems are semi-autonomous, hydraulically powered units that have seen a growing level of popularity in the last few years. An example of one of these systems is the Toro RollcarT. It is plumbed to a 1 inch diameter hose and can run with an inlet pressure of 65-75 psi. One end of the RollcarT’s tow wire is fixed to one end of the field, and the water-powered winch pulls the cart forward along the wire while simultaneously feeding the impact sprinkler fixed to the top of the cart. Once the cart has reached the end of the wire, it will automatically stop and shut off the flow of water to the sprinkler. A typical football field can be covered in an average of three runs, with each run taking an average of 3-4 hours.

There are a number of irrigation choices where sports fields are concerned, and the above examples are mere glimpses into what is possible. The best choice comes down to the needs of your field, your experience and your personal preferences. In all cases, maintaining healthy turf conditioned to meet the demands of your athletes, visitors and guests is the priority.


Authored by Orion Goe. Goe is the marketing manager at The Toro Company.

This article is tagged with and posted in Industry, Turf Use

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