How much does it cost to turf a softball field?
Softball is one of the most popular women’s sports in the US, with over 350,000 high schoolers and 20,000 NCAA athletes playing each year. At the international level, the US has three gold medals and two silvers from the five Olympics Games that included fast-pitch.
Building new softball diamonds and maintaining existing ones in top condition is crucial to the future of the sport. In this article, we’ll take a look at what influences the installation cost and go through important considerations involved in softball field construction and upkeep.
Size of the softball diamond
As in most sports, the competitive level affects the size of a softball diamond. For the most part, softball field dimensions mirror those of a Little League baseball diamond. In a pinch, the two sports can share a facility. But as the athletes’ competitive and technical levels go up, the details become more important and each sport needs a proper home.
Three feet may not seem like a lot to most people. But for a baseball or softball pitcher, who rise and fall by fractions of an inch – not to mention the speed of the ball and the type of pitch – three feet may as well be a mile. The distance between the pitcher’s rubber and home plate is 43′ on a softball diamond, and 46′ for Little League. And that’s not the only important difference: softball doesn’t have a pitcher’s mound. The rubber is flat on the infield.
Both softball and Little League have 60-foot base paths, which means the overall dimensions of the infield are the same. Outfields in both sports always have some variability (although less in newer stadiums at all levels), but for the most part the foul poles and outfield fences are within 10-20 feet of each other between the two sports.
These factors add up to difference of about 8,000 square feet between a softball field and a Little League baseball diamond. Since artificial turf is priced by area, and things like lighting design are influenced by the area to be illuminated, 8,000 square feet can be a pretty significant difference when you hit “calculate” to get a cost estimate.
Artificial turf for the infield, natural grass for the outfield?
Artificial turf is more expensive than natural grass, which makes sense given how many advantages turf has. If your organization doesn’t have the budget or the desire to pay for a 100% turf softball field, you have the option of laying down grass in the outfield and only using turf on the infield.
This way, you have the most consistent playing surface and low-maintenance infrastructure on the part of the field that sees the most action and the quickest action. A funny bounce on a grounder can have much more impact on an infielder than an outfielder. And the amount of wear-and-tear on the infield compared to the outfield will directly affect your maintenance costs and the operational availability of the field from week to week.
Considering the infield is only about 10-20% of the entire diamond (remember – the basepaths are still dirt), opting for a natural grass outfield could be a major cost saver. But also remember: trade-offs.
New turf installation or replacement?
The turf is literally just the surface of a softball field. Before you can lay down the turf on a new or existing field, you have to prepare the ground beneath it.
If you are upgrading a field, your costs will likely be a lot less than if you were building from scratch. The earth will already be level and have at least some infrastructure for drainage. You may need to upgrade a few things, but unless it’s a complete overhaul, you’ll be able to use some of what was already there, which means fewer things you need to pay for. And if this is your second turf field and you are only replacing the surface, you’ll quickly see the long-term value in choosing turf given how little needs to be done below the top few layers.
Quality of the synthetic turf material
We talk about turf and grass as though they are your only two options. But they are actually categories, not products. Just as you can walk down the street and see different kinds of grass from one lawn to the next, as you go from one softball diamond to the next throughout your season you’ll see different kinds of turf.
The differences in turf will affect how the ball rolls or bounces across it, how it feels as the players run and occasionally dive on it, and how well it withstands the weather conditions in your area. From a playing perspective, the most important considerations are the speed and consistency of a ball on the surface. Both batters and fielders want the ball to travel quickly across the turf. The ball should also roll and bounce predictably. If a grounder zigs and zags as it rolls through the outfield, or if a flyball lands and then bounces out to the side as the fielder is ready to catch it on a one-hop, no one’s going to be happy with that diamond.
Higher quality turf matched with the proper infill material will ensure these characteristics, but they will raise the cost of the project. However, a weather-proof, competition-grade field will attract more teams and events, and will have more up-time. That means the revenue opportunities will offset the higher installation costs.
Choice of the turf infill material
Artificial turf, like grass, is more than just green blades: there’s also the substance that binds it all together. For turf, that substance is the infill.
Even though infill may just feel like little flecks of rubber, it’s as varied and purpose-specific as anything else in a sports venue. There are different natural and artificial materials, different ways of cutting it, and appropriate amounts per square foot depending on the sports that will take place on the field. We could write a whole article just on turf infill options for sports fields, and still barely scratch the surface. In fact, we did just that!
Customization and design of the softball turf
You want people to remember your field, and to remember it for the right reasons. Customizing the field will help you leave an impression on your visiting players and fans, and make it feel more like a true home field for your players.
Some popular customization options are the turf’s colors and logos. We’ve yet to see any softball diamonds that use something other than green turf. Not even Boise State! But there’s not just one “softball green.” Another visual option is alternating panels of different hues of turf, creating a striped or cross-hatched look similar to what you’d find at an artistically maintained professional baseball diamond.
Artificial turf is also easily and durably dyed, so you can add the name or logo of your team, school, conference or major sponsor in the outfield.
Finally, at the intersection of design and function are things like the on-deck circles, the dugout areas and the fencing. These can all be standard and purely functional, or customized for your project while still getting the job done.
Lighting up the ballpark
There are few things better in sports than a night game under the lights. And there are few things better in sports facility management than being able to keep the field open for billable hours well into the night.
LED lights are the go-to option for sports fields at all levels, from youth to pro. They offer significant advantages in light quality, versatility, fan experience, player performance and safety and video quality. They have a higher upfront cost than conventional lamps, but more than pay for themselves financially as well as experientially.
Like with the infill material, we could write and, therefore, have written articles that go in depth on LED lights for sports fields and softball diamonds in particular.
Most sports field vendors and construction companies are regional. On the plus side, this means they will be very familiar with the environmental conditions that the field must be built to withstand and the expectations among coaches, players and other stakeholders in the area. However, it may mean that you will pay more for a very similar project than a friend of yours on the other side of the country.
Logistics, manufacturing and climate conditions all go into the price of materials and labor. Across the US, we see a range of $4-$7 per square foot for a turf softball field. That’s a useful starting point as you gather your thoughts on this project, but more accurate numbers will take shape quickly as you run through our cost calculators and start talking with potential vendors and contractors.
The overall cost to build a turf softball field
Overall, softball turf field construction projects range from $420,000 – $650,000. All the things we talked about above – the quality of the turf and infill, grass outfield vs. turf outfield, extent of prep work, all things lighting – account for the variation in that range.
Turf fields are more rugged and resilient than grass fields, but they still need basic cleaning and upkeep throughout the week, plus more intensive periodic maintenance to ensure you get the full value and lifespan of the field. Common tasks involve cleaning and brushing the fibers, while some of the specialized items involve patching up tears or divots in the turf and spreading more infill. You’ll want to talk over your options for buying some of this equipment or leasing it as necessary. Artificial turf maintenance costs run from $8,000 – $23,000 per year, and your specs will determine how you want to tackle it.
Read more about what goes into the price of artificial turf fields in our complete guide.
Get a price estimate at an early stage of the planning process
Narrow down the price range and start building a budget with our softball field cost calculator. For every aspect of the field, you’ll enter in whatever information or specs you have. We’ll send you a cost estimate based on actual projects in your area and, if you wish, put you in touch with companies that specialize in this kind of work.
They’ll be able to go into detail on all of the topics we introduced here and elsewhere on the site, and work with you to polish your diamond to perfection.