As turf managers prepare for the upcoming season, many recommend topdressing their fields with crumb rubber to stand up to aggressive wear. Maintaining quality turf stands that withstand rigorous athletic field conditions has always been a challenge. This is particularly evident when many athletic field events are scheduled to be played when growing conditions are not favorable for turfgrass recovery from wear. Adding crumb rubber as a topdressing is a proven solution, as this blanket of rubber or “rubber thatch” reduces soil compaction and improves wear tolerance of the turfgrass stand. Similar to the “padding” used to protect an athlete, crumb rubber acts as a padding to protecting the turfgrass. Rather than being torn up by an athlete’s cleats, if crumb rubber is used, the crown tissue of the turfgrass is protected and wear tolerance is extended. To provide the most consistent and stable cover, the recommended application is at least a 1⁄4 inch depth every time, repeated in two week intervals.  This is evident especially in high-traffic areas such as the goal boxes on soccer fields. Rebecca Auchter, Grounds Maintenance Manager in Cranberry Township Pennsylvania, notes that after crumb rubber was installed in goal boxes on one field mid-season last year, there were more than 70 events on the field. She said the fall season’s weather was about average, limited to a few wet playing days, and the goal boxes held up well.   “I think the true test will come next year after we get 160 events on the field,” Auchter said. “But so far so good!”

Justin Yerdon, superintendent of buildings and grounds at Ballston Spa CSD, in upstate New York, said he topdressed the football field with 5 tons of crumb rubber after aerification last year. “I can tell you that we did see a difference in the goal mouths that had the rubber versus the ones that did not,” he said. J. Tim Vanini, PhD, founder and president of New Dimensions Turfgrass, said that in partnership with Liberty Tire, several schools were given 1 ton of crumb rubber to work with. “We learned that, for cool-season turf at least, the crumb rubber depth had to be a minimum of 25% of the mowing height to protect the crown tissue of the plants. And it’s important you have 100% turf coverage on a field before using crumb rubber—it won’t resurrect your grass on a cool-season field,” he recently told SportsTurf. “When budgets are getting less, consider that crumb rubber use can stabilize your field’s surface and make it not too hard or too soft, i.e., a more consistent playing surface, improved traction, etc.”

SportsField Management