I found it an interesting coincidence the sporting communities of both Airdrie and Chestermere are fundraising to build artificial turf football fields in their respective cities. Hopefully, Airdrie residents and businesses will rally behind the initiative.
The benefits of playing football on turf instead of grass are plentiful; an all-weather turf field would get hundreds – perhaps thousands – of hours of extra usage each year compared to the grass fields currently available in Airdrie. Field turf is less impacted by snow and, according to Chris Glass, who is co-spearheading the initiative in Airdrie, would allow teams to play outside for more than 30 weeks each year. There would also be less maintenance involved, once the turf has been laid down.
Most importantly, however, research suggests playing football on turf is safer for athletes. Dr. Michael Meyers, a researcher at Idaho State University, has studied the injury-related impacts of playing sports on turf vs. grass for decades. His research indicates serious injuries such as ACL and MCL tears, as well as ankle injuries and concussions, are less common when football is played on artificial grass instead of natural-grass surfaces.
Other than safety and usage benefits, bringing a turf field to Airdrie would allow the city to host provincial or even national sporting events. For example, the Alberta Bowl – the annual provincial high school football championships – cannot currently be held in Airdrie because Football Alberta requires the games to be played on turf.
Hosting the Alberta Bowl would provide some economic stimulus to Airdrie, as the event features five distinct championship games. With roughly 50 players on a team – not to mention the coaches, staff and family members that would be present – it would result in a lot of visiting tourists who would undoubtedly spend money at local hotels, restaurants and shops.
While the initiatives in both Airdrie and Chestermere appear to be football-centric, the turf fields would also benefit athletes of other sports. A turf field could easily host soccer, field lacrosse, rugby and Ultimate Frisbee games, and groups like high-school marching bands or cheer teams could use the space, as well.
While Cochrane built its first all-weather turf football field in 2016, there is nothing similar for athletes in Airdrie. Considering the rapid growth of the city's population, it’s important to ensure Airdrie has appropriate athletics facilities for the burgeoning sports community. Bringing the first all-weather turf field to the area would be a great place to start.