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Case Studies: Landscape & Recreation

City of Refuge

Atlanta, Georgia

The City of Refuge is an extremely unique organization that has managed to make a difference in so many lives. In 1970, a group calling themselves Mission Possible initiated a street feeding program in downtown Atlanta. After many years of working with the city’s neediest individuals and families, the Mission incorporated its outreach programs in 1997 as a non-profit called "City of Refuge.” In 2003 the organization received by donation its present facility, an eight acre tract in the heart of Atlanta’s most challenging neighborhood. Included were two warehouse buildings with a total of 210,000 square feet of space.

A leading industry provider was fortunate enough to be able to provide synthetic turf to create two amazing indoor play areas that span all ages of youth. In an area where it is virtually impossible to play outside, these groups joined together to overcome challenges and they brought the outside in for the families of City of Refuge. Inside of a huge warehouse in the middle of the drab rock-hard landscape of the city, there is beautiful lush green grass. Thanks to donors and sponsors, the families and children of the City of Refuge are able to enjoy green grass every day. These areas have been installed since April of 2012, allowing these children to stay active and experience something that has been very rare in their lives up to this point. Overall, this has been a great experience for all parties involved, and the main part is that the lives of these families and children will be changed for the better. The City of Refuge was the 2012 Grand Prize Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Community Parks category.

Hattie Larlham Doggie Day Care & Boarding

North Canton, Ohio

Hattie Larlham Doggie Day Care & Boarding is not your average kennel. It is a place where adults with developmental disabilities can pursue a career in animal care and share their love for animals in a safe, nurturing environment. Job coaches work with the employees with developmental disabilities to teach them to care for the dogs. The facility has 22 rooms for the dogs to stay in, three air-conditioned play areas inside and two outdoor play areas featuring synthetic grass. In the past, the facility utilized a variety of surfaces such as black top, natural grass, and pea gravel in the outdoor pet areas, but these all had drawbacks due to the particular challenges of high-traffic dog areas.

"We now have 40 individuals with disabilities employed at the facility, and have been able to provide 40,000 hours of fair wages for these great people," said Rick Parson, Regional Director. "The only way we can continue to provide these services is by increasing our revenue, and it's a struggle just to break even. Thanks to this donation, our facility is better, cleaner, neater, and our customers love it. Today we have 30 dogs in the facility living in harmony and hanging out with the individuals." The soft surface is more comfortable for the dogs and the caregivers to sit, roll, and play on than any of the hard surfaces they had used in the past. In a facility like this where pets and people have such close contact, this was an important consideration. Hattie Larlham Doggie Day Care & Boarding was the 2012 National Finalist of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Community Parks category.

Taylor's Dream Boundless Payground

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Just a few years ago, an 11-year-old girl named Taylor Reuille realized that many kids with disabilities couldn’t enjoy nearby playgrounds. She was determined to bring a "boundless playground” to the community, a truly inclusive space where children of all abilities gain the important developmental and physical benefits of unstructured play. After working tirelessly to raise funds and awareness, her dream became a reality when the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department opened Taylor's Dream Boundless Playground in June 2011. The stable synthetic grass surface is ADA accessible, allowing wheelchairs, braces, and other assistive equipment to access the facility easily and safely. When used to connect barrier-free play elements like those found at Taylor's Dream Boundless Playground, the synthetic grass contributes to a truly boundless play experience. Now thousands of children and adults with and without disabilities have the chance to play with their peers.

50-year-old Sherry Woodman had the opportunity to play on a playground for the first time in her life at the grand opening of Taylor's Dream. "I’m a disabled parent and I couldn’t come when they were little and play with them anywhere on a playground because I couldn’t get through with the mulch; you know mulch is really hard for wheelchair tires and stuff," said Woodman. "And so not only are kids going to be able to come here and play that have disabilities, but parents with disabilities are going to be able to come here and feel like normal parents and be able to just enjoy their kids. I didn’t leave here till I’d been on every part of the playground. I wanted to do it all.” Taylor’s Dream Boundless Playground was the 2011 Grand Prize Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Community Parks category.

Canyon De Chelly Elementary School

Chinle, Arizona

A playground at Canyon De Chelly Elementary School in Chinle, Arizona is the latest in a series of facility improvements being made at Navajo Nation schools. The playground features a unique synthetic grass system that gives Navajo children the opportunity to play on a soft, grass-like surface in an area where natural grass is difficult to grow. Since more than 30% of the Navajo population is diabetic, the new playground comes at a time when many are stressing the importance of exercise on the reservation. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, "keeping weight in check and being physically active can help prevent most cases of the disease. Regular exercise by itself can cut diabetes risk.” Embraced by students and teachers, the new playground offers children a fun place to run and play, which can help decrease their risk of developing the diabetes that affects so many of their family and friends.

Chinle is located in a desert climate, and the hot, dry weather is not conducive to growing grass. Synthetic grass for recreation overcomes this challenge by providing a natural grass appearance and texture without the need for water or fertilizer. The heavy traffic of an elementary school requires a surface that will allow the children to play continuously five days out of the week, and the turf offers durability that will withstand the rigorous play conditions for years to come. "When we finished our installation at Chinle Elementary, the kids loved it. They ran straight out to the playground and starting running and playing,” said Mike Alexander, from the company that installed it. "It’s great to see how nice the green grass looks at the school, and even better to know that the playground can help make these kids healthier.” Canyon De Chelly Elementary School was the 2011 Top Winner in the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Community Parks and Fields category.

Barnett Family Park

Lakeland, Florida

Sunflower Preschool Playground at Barnett Family Park is a community-led playground development in Lakeland, Florida that uses artificial turf to cover over 10,600 square feet of play zones to connect barrier-free play elements. It was envisioned by the community of Lakeland, in memory of a little boy who loved sunflowers. His community came together to finance and build a unique playground to give toddlers and their families a place to play that was built with their needs in mind: age-appropriate developmental play experiences, accessibility for strollers and wheelchairs, and a creative play space to spark the imagination as the first multicolored grass playground nationwide.

Today it helps create an innovative play experience for thousands of children in Lakeland, Florida. But no matter how beautiful, a playground is not complete without safety. It provides a surface that is ASTM safety rated and ADA accessible. The grass is safety-rated to fall heights of 12 feet, which exceeds the height of the play structures utilized throughout the park. ADA accessibility allows for wheelchairs to glide easily on the grass, and enables braces and other accessible equipment to be used, allowing children of all abilities the chance to play. The park opened in December of 2010, and it has received continuous use since then. Not only do local neighborhood children enjoy the new facility, but surrounding communities are transporting children to Lakeland to play on this unique playground, which was designed to provide maximum early childhood developmental play opportunities for 3-5 year olds. Sunflower Preschool Playground was the 2011 National Finalist in the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Community Parks and Fields Category.

Hawaii Canines for Independence

Makawao, Hawaii

Hawaii Canines for Independence (HCI) is a charitable organization that provides disabled residents with specially trained dogs that give them the freedom and confidence to live more independent lives. When they needed more green space to train their assistance dogs, a leading industry provider donated a 3,000 square foot artificial grass system. Now HCI volunteers spend less time cleaning and maintaining the grounds and more time training dogs. "Our new artificial lawn helps keep the dogs and the facility clean and the yard will be better for people in wheelchairs to use when practicing with their dogs,” said Mo Maurer, founder and owner of HCI. "We are so thankful to have this big improvement.”

Located in beautiful, upcountry Maui, "Sadie’s Place” is a state of the art Service Dog Training Facility located on 3 acres of land surrounded by Haleakala Ranch. The facility includes indoor and outdoor training areas, offices, classrooms, kennels and housing for students and graduates. Assistance Dogs of Hawaii has graduated over 30 Service Dog teams that are making a daily difference in the lives of their partners. Assistance Dogs of Hawaii has also placed numerous Therapy Dog Teams around the state. Assistance Dogs of Hawaii has also assisted in the placement of many Guide and Hearing Dog Teams.

City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation

Lakeland, Florida

Experts have found that encouraging social interactive play builds physical, emotional, social and cognitive development for children. With this in mind, the City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation Department in Florida opened Common Ground in 2009, its first inclusive playground featuring unique play experiences for children of varying physical and cognitive abilities. The park features over 25,000 square feet of synthetic turf play zones to connect barrier-free play elements and edging to ensure kids remain as safe as possible. In the shape of a butterfly, Common Ground provides play opportunity for all kids including over 17,000 children with physical and cognitive challenges in the Lakeland community. Thousands of volunteers donated their time and fundraised for four years to make it a reality. Community partnerships and collaborations collected over $1.8 million dollars to fund Common Ground. All four Lakeland Rotary Clubs sponsored community runs. Butterflies in Flight, a public art project, raised awareness and dollars. State, county and municipal government matched funds with grants and in kind support.

Common Ground encourages social interactive play between children of varying abilities. It places children side by side and face to face in chairs, on sticks, on feet, with braces or with out. Play zones challenge physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development through meditative, interactive, exploratory, and imaginative play. Most importantly Common Ground brings children of varying abilities together and encourages acceptance and understanding of differences. Common Ground was the 2010 Top Winner of the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Community Parks and Fields category.

Hart Park

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Wauwatosa’s new athletic field is located in Hart Park, which is owned and maintained by the City. The previous football field was a clay-based natural turf field, which deteriorated from overuse by five high schools and one semi professional football team. Between the loss of major tenants and constant construction, the park was being used less and less by residents. Something had to be done to demonstrate the City’s commitment to the park as a destination and a positive contributor to the quality of life. The Hart Park field and athletic complex represented a true cooperative effort. From its inception in August of 2008 to completion in September of 2009, City staff, consultants, general contractors, sub contractors, tenants, and politicians collaborated closely to complete this project in less than 12 months without interrupting a football season. The results have been amazing. The synthetic field has generated interest in not only football but soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, and rugby as well. It provides new and expanded opportunities for a wider range of young athletes. Since 2009 the semi-pro league has contracted to return and one of its tenants, Marquette University High School, completed an undefeated football season culminating in the state Division I championship. It will now be the home field for a NCAA Division III college lacrosse team and serve as the local site for the Regional USA Field Hockey Futures Program, which is the primary feeder program for the Olympics. Field rental requests have increased exponentially because the surface can withstand much more frequent use than the old natural turf field. With all these changes, Hart Park is a testament to what can be accomplished when a community pulls together toward a common goal. The City of Wauwatosa was the 2010 National Finalist for the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Community Parks and Fields category.


Geneva, Ohio

Geneva Area Recreational, Educational, Athletic Trust (GaREAT) is a non-profit corporation created to focus both energy and funding towards creating a world-class multipurpose facility. The GaREAT Sports Complex, announced in May 2008, sits on a 175-acre campus in Geneva, Ohio about 50 miles east of Cleveland. Focused on serving members from all ages and a variety of athletic abilities, the complex has three turf fields that can be used for football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball. It’s impact has been tremendous in the Northeast Ohio region, giving athletes and locals a place to work-out, train and compete year-long. It promotes public wellness with senior walking routes to regional competitions. Nationally recognized teams now have the chance to practice full field to help their game while local teams can compete and train in an environment that was not available before. Geneva High School has used this facility numerous times since its opening. The 2009 Men’s Varsity Soccer team had one of their best years ever while training in the facility. The 2009 Varsity Football team also advanced into the playoffs for the first time in many years. The football team used the facility throughout the season to train and practice rather than on their home field that was in terrible condition. Throughout their first year of opening, the facility has helped many teams from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York train and compete. The GaREAT Sports Complex was the 2010 National Finalist for the STC's Search for the Real Field of Dreams Contest in the Community Parks and Fields category.

More Case Studies

Southern United States

The Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival (pictured, left) features a lush, realistic synthetic grass lawn, which is accessible for wheelchairs and walking braces, and easily withstands heavy foot traffic. Walt Disney World® and Disneyland® also feature synthetic turf in designated areas throughout their resorts.

One of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida faced restricting the use of outdoor grassy areas in light of capacity. "The inclusion of synthetic grass in our landscape has proven to be a smart choice for the resort and mother earth,” noted Rodrigo A. Carrillo, Project Manager of the Fontainebleau Hotel, who made the switch in 2010. "Since the conversion, we are able to accommodate increased capacity and utilize a greater percentage of grassy areas, while providing an enhanced event experience, without damaging the grass. This year, eight million gallons of water will be conserved and our new synthetic lawn allows us to eliminate the use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on ground in close proximity to the beach.”

Sometimes synthetic grass is being used inside the home for unique décor applications. The popular TV program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition needed synthetic grass for an episode in Beaufort, South Carolina. To brighten a child’s bedroom, the designers carpeted the area with synthetic grass as part of an overall street-themed, skateboarding design.

Short-game golf guru and coach Dave Pelz worked with a local installer to transform the rocky terrain around his new home in the foothills of Austin, Texas into scale replicas of famous golf greens like the 12th at Augusta National and the 14th at Pebble Beach. The state-of-the-art synthetic grass covering a 2.5 acre area has created an ideal environment for his students to practice pitching, chipping and putting.

Northeastern United States

A homeowner in Germantown, Maryland had grass that would not grow despite sodding the yard three times. As a result, the backyard turned to mud every time it rained. A leading turf provider stepped in and installed 2,500 square feet of synthetic grass over the steeply sloped and terraced surface that eliminated the mud problem and created for the first time a lush, green, grass-like yard.

In coastal New York, a homeowner with a water front property was experiencing numerous issues. Storms blew salt water onto the lawn killing the grass, geese fed on insects in the lawn creating unsanitary conditions, and thick clay soil caused drainage problems after heavy rains. As soon as the homeowner had over 17,000 square feet of synthetic grass installed, sizable maintenance costs were eliminated, drainage improved significantly and the geese droppings problem disappeared.

Hotels in urban locations are adding synthetic grass to maximize formerly unused areas. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York delights guests with a beautiful 38th floor terrace yoga deck using synthetic grass, which maximizes its outdoor space. Now hotel visitors have the opportunity to take pleasure in a lush green space overlooking the city. And they’re not the only ones. Other hotels, residential rooftops and parking decks in the bustling Big Apple are being covered in state-of-the-art synthetic grass products.

Southwestern United States

In Las Vegas, where water conservation is a critical need, premier locations such as the Wynn Hotel (pictured, left), the Bellagio, Venetian and Caesars Palace now feature synthetic grass. In 2010, the Wynn Hotel alone saved 143,748,000 gallons of water formerly used for landscaping.

Running, jumping and playing fetch by even one large dog can take its toll on grass. Just ask the Central Dog Park in Fremont, California, a 40,000 square foot dog park that is the largest of its kind in the country. When other parks are closing down during the winter months for maintenance, or sending dogs back to their cars covered in dirt and mud, the synthetic grass at Central Park Dog Park allows it to remain open and mud-free, regardless of the weather.

Pet facilities with synthetic turf surfaces are being recognized for their environmental stewardship, like the Animal Community Center in Silicon Valley in Silicon Valley. It recently became the first Humane Society facility in America to achieve Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project from the U.S. Green Building Council. The installation of 30,000 square feet of synthetic turf significantly contributed to the facility’s certification, as it eliminated the need for lawn fertilizers, reduced water consumption and enhanced sanitation.

Synthetic grass innovations are making golf accessible for more people. In 2010, the Golf Learning Center at Visitacion Valley Middle School opened a 12,000 square foot installation that was the first of its kind nationwide. The Learning Center was purposely built in one of San Francisco’s most under-served communities to help bring golf to the inner city youth as part of the First Tee Program of San Francisco.

Synthetic grass has also been used to improve the aesthetics of high-use areas. Pebble Beach Golf Links, host of five U.S. Open Championships, is considered to be one of the greatest public golf courses in America. When the worn cart path behind the 18th hole needed to be modified prior to the mid-August start of 2011 Classic Car Week, they matched ground colors and installed synthetic grass in the area, reducing maintenance needs in the process.

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