Vail’s draft budget for 2022 has a number of big-ticket items, many of which won’t be obvious to residents or visitors. But one of those items will see a lot of use.

The town’s draft budget for next year includes a $1 million project for a new building for restrooms and equipment storage. The draft budget also holds a line item of $1.5 million to install artificial turf to replace the natural grass at the town’s soccer fields. Those fields are owned by the town and operated by the Vail Recreation District.

Vail Financial Services Manager Carlie Smith explained the plan to the Vail Town Council at that board’s Sept. 21 meeting.

Smith said artificial turf could be a benefit for event production, especially at the beginning and end of the winter season.

The Town Council is expected to cast its first vote on the budget ordinance at its Oct. 5 meeting. If the project is funded, Vail Town Council member Kim Langmaid said the move could be part of a “climate adaptation” strategy. “It will save a lot of water,” Langmaid said.

Vail may replace grass with turf at soccer field

Council member Brian Stockmar added that the town would also avoid pollution that can come from fertilizers and other treatments.

Mountain Recreation, a district that serves residents from Edwards to Dotsero, already has a number of turf fields, including the multipurpose fields at the Eagle Sports Complex.

Mountain Recreation Executive Director Janet Bartnik said that district has seen water savings on those fields.

“It’s much easier to maintain turf in an arid climate,” Bartnik said.

Given the difference in climate even between Edwards and Eagle, Bartnik said turf fields allow a longer playing season, with earlier starts in the spring and later shutdowns in the fall.

Bartnik said turf allows crews to remove snow without damaging the fields. One multi-purpose field in Edwards is open for play quite a bit sooner than grass fields, Bartnik said.

Those fields also don’t see the kind of damage grass fields do. Grass soccer fields often have little more than worn dirt in front of the goal nets.

In addition, turf fields these days are far different than the carpet-covered, injury-inducing concrete pads that passed for artificial turf a number of years ago.

Bartnik added that the service life of a turf field depends on sun exposure, snow, level of use and other factors. On average, though, it’s not unusual to see turf fields used for 15 years or so before being replaced.

And, while maintenance costs depend on where a field is located, Bartnik said many recreation districts and municipalities are replacing their grass fields.

“Even in the Midwest, we’re seeing more turf for baseball and multipurpose fields,” she said.