No. 123] PleasantValley (SpringfieldTownship), Pennsylvania – Shit happens, pipes get clogged; unexpected cost, anyway. August 2019.
No. 122] Forest Acres, South Carolina – Slipping and sliding away on the ‘all weather field’. May 2019
[No. 121] Guilford, Connecticut – Build it and then build it again! February 2019.
[No. 120] El Paso, Texas - Why does El PasoIndependentSchool District water artificial turf?December 2018.
[No. 119] A Love Affair with Natural Grass: Tales of Two Groundskeepers.November 2018.
[No. 118] Watering that artificial turf field! September 2018.
[No. 117] Southern California – premature aging and failing artificial turf fields are costing taxpayers millions in addition to the expensive upfront installation cost. July 2018.
[No. 116] Guilford, Connecticut – Had they gone with natural grass they would have saved the taxpayers a ton of green. April 2018.
[No. 115] The Big Rip! January 2018.
[No. 114] Ottawa, Canada – City will let unsafe artificial field go on for lack of money to replace it. September 2017.
[No. 113] Burnet, Texas –Defective artificial turf field needs replacing just two years after installation. June 2017.
[No. 112] Clifton, New Jersey – Another case of premature deterioration of artificial turf fields. May 2017.
[No. 111] Indianapolis, Indiana: WTHR 13 Investigates exposes the dangers of playing on ill-maintained artificial turf fields. March 2016.
[No. 110] San Mateo, California: Synthetic turf maintenance cost – new data. February 2016.
[No. 109] Tale of Two Sites: Poor Management in Las Vegas & Embarrassment of Riches in Portland. February 2016.
[No. 108] Mountain House, California: In drought-stricken regions artificial turf fields are between a rock and a dry place; drought limit watering, warranty and players’ health and safety require it . Septemebr 2015.
[No. 107] Redding, California: Premature aging of artificial turf is a nightmare for the “fields of dreams.” July 2015.
[No. 106] Saint Charles Parish, Louisiana: Premature aging of synthetic turf due to sunshine! May 2015.
[No. 105] Indianapolis, Indiana: Poor Gmax readings, lack of maintenance, and hidden objects found in artificial turf fields pose risk of injury to players. February 2015).
[No. 104] New York City, New York: Cautionary tale about what mismanagement and lack of maintenance can do to an artificial turf field. February 2015.
[No. 103] Greenbrier, Arkansas: Three artificial turf fields near-death before expiry of warranty.January 2015.
[No. 102] Mike Ozanian, “Failure Rate of Artificial Turf Fields Unknown by Public.” November 2014.
[No. 101] Mike Ozanian: Buyers Remorse Surfacing Over Artificial Turf Fields. November 2014.
[No. 100] Brad Fresenburg: On the cost of artificial turf fields, including maintenance. September 2014.
[No. 99] Winslow, Arizona:Another replacement of artificial turf due to premature aging. September 2014.
[No. 98]What is it with these short-lived professional artificial turf fields? March 2014.
[No. 97] Harare, Zimbabwe: Lessons on maintaining turf field in Africa. March 2014.
[No. 96] St. Charles, Louisiana: Premature artificial turf fields. February 2014.
[No. 95] Charlestown, West Virginia: Another case of premature aging. February2014.
[No. 94] Bentoville, Arizona: A field of problems due to be replaced. February 2014.
[No. 93] New Braunfels, Texas: School District concerned over premature aging of artificial turf. December 2013.
[No. 92] Des Moines, Iowa: Premature falling apart of high school artificial turf. November 2013.
[No. 91] St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: Widespread premature aging of artificial turf fields. September 2013.
[No. 90] FIFA to release in October reports on maintenance and heating up of artificial turf fields. September 2013.
[No. 89] Dinuba, California: Premature wearing of turf at the high school. July 2013.
[No. 88] Minneapolis, Minnesota: Concerns over cost of artificial turf. November 2012.
[No. 87] Reading, Pennsylvania: More schools report pre-aging artificial turf fields. November 2012.
[No. 86] Palisades, PA: Colored lines and logo fibers go brittle in 4th year. August 2012.
[No. 85] Beaverton, Oregon: Failing artificial turf fields; faulty record-keeping as to use and maintenance; useless warranty = taxpayers’ nightmare! April 2012.
[No. 84] Beaverton, Oregon: premature falling apart of artificial turf fields at two high schools. March 2012.
[No. 83] Artificial pitch maintenance - who, how, when and why? Macrh 2012.
[No. 82] More premature aging of artificial turf fields. February 2012.
[No. 81] Renton, Washington: CenturyLink Field’s artificial surface bites the dust just after 4 years. November 2011.
[No. 80] Fort Myers, Florida: Another artificial turf filed is done in prematurely. June 2011.
[No. 79] Dewitt, NY: Premature wearing of artificial turf fields due to lack of maintenance. June 2011.
[No. 78] More replacement woes about artificial turf fields. May 2011.
[No. 77] Ridgewood, New Jersey: Costly face job on artificial turf field. May 2011.
[No. 75] Fairfax, Virginia: Hosing the taxpayers for artificial turf field replacement! April 2011.
[No. 74] Seattle, Washington: Artificial turf field at Qwest not doing the job for soccer. April 2011.
[No. 73] Arlington, VA: Time to pay the piper as artificial turf field due for replacement. April 2011.
[No. 72] Clark County, Washington: School district’s artificial turf field flunks impact test, but still in use. March 2011.
[No. 71] Orlando, Florida: Citrus Bowl’s brand new artificial turf field needs a re-do. March 2011.
[No. 70] New Castle, Delaware: The flawed artificial turf field is being replaced. March 2011.
[No. 69] Port Neches, Texas: Another artificial turf field one bites the dust, only after two years. February 2011. [No. 68] Elizabethtown College: Artificial turf field is worn out for good. February 2011.
[No. 67] Muskogee, Okla.: What’s the feel of a 10-year old artificial turf surface? January 2011.
[No. 66] Navasota, Texas: Another premature aging of an artificial turf field. January 2011.
[No. 65] La Cañada, California: Premature aging of synthetic turf field catches authorities off-guard. January 2011.
[No. 64] Financial impact on sellers and insurers of premature deterioration of artificial turf fields under warranty. December 2011. [No. 63] Los Angeles, California: Time to face the music: The cost of replacing so many artificial turf fields at one time. December 2010.
[No. 62] Point Grey, Vancouver, Canada: Tips for maintaining artificial turf fields. December 2010.
[No. 61] Calcutta, India: Artificial turf field dying from thirst! October 2010.
[No. 60] New York City: Ah! Those ever so enduring, immortal, low-maintenance and indestructible plastic fields! July 2010.
[No. 59] MetroWest (Boston), Mass.: Complaints about trash pile ups at artificial turf facilities. May 2010.
[No. 58] Arlington County, Northern Virginia: $835,000 to replace a single artificial turf field. May 2010.
[No. 57] Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Sink hole in 1-year old artificial turf field deep-sixes soccer match. May 2010.
[No. 56] Winter damage to artificial turf fields. May 2010.
[No. 55] Park City Utah: Snow removal woes at artificial turf fields. April 2010.
No. 54] New York City, NY: Soccer referees boycott two turf fields due to dangerous conditions. March 2010.
No. 53] Honolulu, Hawaii: Aloha Stadium artificial turf filed is in a sorry shape after just six years. November 2009.
No. 52] Friendswood, Texas: Artificial turf field falling apart after just 3 years. September 2009.
No. 51] Mercer Island, Washington: The under-warranty Islander artificial turf field wears out before time, stop-gap measures fail; replacement will cost upward of $450,000. September 2009.
No. 50] Whittier, California: Irrigation of Artificial Turf: An Oxymoron? Hardly. August 2009.
No. 49] East Greenwich, Rhode Island: Sub-carpet work to fix flooding/drainage. August 2009.
No. 48] Belton, Texas: Artificial turf grows bald spots; buyer wants replacement. July 2009.
No. 47] Chicopee, Mass.: Field of repairs, costly fresh crumb delivery. June 2009.
No. 46] Potomac, Maryland: School turf field not draining properly. June 2009.
No. 45] Bryan County, Georgia: Gotta water that turf! June 2009.
No. 44] Swaziland: More hocus pocus on Somhlolo turf: natural grass to the rescue! June 2009.
No. 43] Dodge City, Kansas: Pamper that turf! May 2009.
No. 42] Swaziland: Ritual causes extensive damage to turf field. May 2009.
No. 41] Mahwah, NJ: Turf replacement just after 7 years. April 2009.
No. 40] Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU covers turf field with tarp to prevent storm damage. March 2009.
No. 39] San Diego, Calif: “You don’t say? Water the turf!” March 2009.
[No. 38] New Jersey: Notes on replacing the supposedly lead-free fields. February 2009.
[No. 37] Wellesley, Mass.: Plow, plow, plow, your turf gently into spring; merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, grass is but a dream!February 2009.
[No. 36] Pine-Richland, Penn.: When turf goes bad before it’s time! January 2009.
[No. 35] Liverpool, New York: The bubbling turf field is still closed! November 2008.
[No. 34] Redwood City, Calif.: Frayed carpet increases the rate of crumb migration from artificial turf field. Nov. 2008.
[No. 33] Duluth, Minn.: Halfway into its lifespan, artificial turf carpet needs major repair. November 2008.
[No. 32] Harrison City, Penn: 8-year old turf good for one more year. November 2008.
[No. 31] Midland, Texas: Turf busts at the seams, needs replacement after five years. October 2008.
[No. 30] Pelham Bay Park: Negligent management and lack of maintenance turn turf into a field of nightmares. October 2008.
[No. 29] Blantyre, Malawi: Surprise! Unscheduled practices taking toll on turf field. October 2008.
[No.28] Lawrence, Mass.: Splish, splash -- they were taking a bath! October 2008.
[No. 27] Stratford, Conn.: If you give a mouse a cookie ….: Oh, those pesky tie-ins that go with turf fields! September 2008.
[No. 26] Maysville, Ohio: Winds rip through turf field (September 2008). [No. 25] Brookfield, Conn.: HS turf in need of repair after 2 years (September 2008).
No. 24 St. Charles Parish, New Orleans: Plastic fields need watering, too! (ugust 2008).
No. 23 Brookfield, Conn.: Brookfield High's turf unplayable after a couple of years (August 2008).
No. 22 Liverpool, NY: Team has no home field, as 10-year old turf rots away (July 2008).
No. 21 Boston, Mass.: Saunders Stadium turf carpet dies after 5 years, $500G to replace it (June 2008).
No. 20 After 8 years, Wimberley (Texas) High's TurfField surface is worn out, fails safety requirement (June 2008).
No. 19 Drainage woes with turf field in Texas (May 2008).
No. 18 Boston University to replace turf field after 7 years (May 2008).
No. 17 Grass field cost less to maintain (new estimate) (April 2008).
No. 16 Liverpool (NY) field closed for drainage and infrastructure problems.
No. 13 Anti-staph treatment: What cost? January 2008.
No. 14 Cost of Turf Replacement Worries Board of Ed memebr (February 2008).
No. 15 Maintenance-free, eh? An expert's checklist. March 2008.
[No. 123] PleasantValley (SpringfieldTownship), Pennsylvania – Shit happens, pipes get clogged; unexpected cost, anyway. According to a news report in Pocono Record (25 July 2019), on 18 July the chairman of Pleasant Valley School Board’s property committee Kenneth Cocuzzo notified the board that “drainage pipes surrounding the stadium field had been found to be clogged, requiring immediate action in order to keep the field turf replacement project on track. The $860,551 project had already included plans to replace the field’s drainage system, which was wrought with problems stemming from cost-cutting measures orchestrated during the field’s installation in 2008, in addition to replacing the turf itself. ‘The drain pipes along the sides of the football field were completely blocked with infill and synthetic grass fibers,’ Cocuzzo said. ‘Now, the work cost $9,000 and could not wait for full board approval, so the committee endorsed the change order.’ … [T]the initial plan was to link the six inch pipe surrounding the field with the concession stand, a project that was conducted simultaneously with the field turf replacement. However, early on, it was discovered that infill and synthetic grass fibers had clogged the pipes. While most of the piping under the edge of the field was due to be replaced, a stretch near the concession stand was meant to be left as-is. But clearing out the remaining pipes could have produced another problem…. [T]he team opted to remove the six inch pipe and replace it with ten inch pipe, which was used for the rest of the project.”Source: Brian Myszkowski, “PV’s field turf project hampered by clogged pipes,” in Pocono Record, 25 July 2019, at https://www.poconorecord.com/news/20190725/pvs-field-turf-project-hampered-by-clogged-pipes
[No. 122] Forest Acres, South Carolina – Slipping and sliding away on the ‘all weather field.’ A. C. Flora High School is a public high school located in the City of Forest Acres, a suburb of Columbia, South Carolina. "OceansideCollegiateAcademy is a charter high school in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Now the story – According to an article in The State (3 April 2019), “[t]he way players slid around the field, it would be understandable to mistake the artificial turf field for an ice rink. During the March 23 lacrosse matchup between the A.C. Flora Falcons and Oceanside Collegiate Academy Landsharks, players from both teams slipped more than 30 times, despite having cleats designed to prevent exactly that, a video of the game shows [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQwYbnyv7l0 ]. The March 24 girls’ soccer game between the Falcons and the Blythewood Bengals wasn’t much better, and on both days the weather was sunny, according to video of the game. The school district closed the field out of concern for students’ safety, making it the second time this year AC Flora’s $728,000 field has been closed for safety concerns…. The field, which is a year old, was last closed in February because it did was not properly cushioned and did not drain correctly, according to a previous article from The State. It was later re-opened in March. …. The most recent issues are also because of the amount of ‘infill,’ which is the artificial dirt that anchors the turf and gives athletes traction…. The school does not have an estimate for how much repairs will cost.” Source: Lucas Daprile, “AC Flora again closes sports field because of unsafe conditions,” in The State, 3 April 2019, at https://www.thestate.com/sports/high-school/article228773609.html
In the Comments section for the online story, Will Owens said “[t]he simple fact of the matter is that the District has not done the necessary maintenance on the field….” Courtney Worsham chimed: “I don't know how Karen York can say that there have been no injuries. We have seen countless injuries, though none so serious that they have warranted surgery….”
The Guilford High School artificial turf field will have to be entirely rebuilt in the coming year. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier)
[No. 121] Guilford, Connecticut – Build it and then build it again! According to a news report in The Courier (31 December 2-018), “[a]fter nearly a year of investigations into the failure of the fairly new artificial turf field at Guilford High School (GHS), town officials recently announced an agreement has been reached among all involved parties and the entire field will have to be taken up and rebuilt. The $1.1 million artificial turf field opened for play more than a year ago, following an intense and protracted debate in town about health and safety issues associated with artificial turf. The field is composed of sections of artificial turf carpet, which comes in several pieces that are stitched together. That carpet sits on top of an impact-reducing shock pad, which sits on top of a soil drainage base. The weave of the carpet is filled with Enviro-fill, a coated sand infill material. In January 2018, Parks & Recreation Director Rick Maynard said some of his crew members noticed a problem: The synthetic turf carpet was coming apart at the seams and sections of padding had come apart. Maynard said his crew immediately notified him of the problem and he called the field installer and representatives from the shock pad and the carpet companies to come out, take a look at the problem, and come up with a solution…. In August, First Selectman Matt Hoey said investigations show that extreme temperatures and drainage issues caused the issue and that the failures were spread out across multiple components of the field…. Hoey said the entire field will have to be reconstructed—everything from the carpet down to the drainage below the field—but since the field is under warranty, the town will not have to pay. Source: Zoe Roos, “One Year old Guilford High School Synthetic Turf Field Has to be Replaced,” in The Courier, 31 December 2018, at https://www.zip06.com/news/20181231/entire-high-school-turf-field-to-be-replaced
[No. 120] El Paso, Texas - Why does El PasoIndependentSchool District water artificial turf? According to a news story on KFOX (Fox affiliate, El Paso) (15 November 2018), “[a] KFOX14 viewer named Richard sent … [this] question [to the station]: ‘Why is Andress high school watering artificial turf?’ Richard said he saw a large sprinkler watering the football field one recent morning and wondered why since the main reason the El Paso Independent School District said it wanted to install artificial turf on all of its athletic fields was to save money on watering and maintenance. It costs the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace the real grass on each field with artificial turf. I sent Richard's question to EPISD spokesman Gustavo Reveles. He said even fake grass needs occasional watering to clean it and remove debris from the field, which can include everything from dust and rocks to bird droppings. In addition, I learned that watering artificial turf can help remove pathogens that could build up on the field from players' sweat, spit and blood. Finally, watering artificial turf is sometimes needed in our hot weather to cool it off because the plastic that's used to make it absorbs heat. Reveles said EPISD grounds crews water artificial turf, on average, once a week during the summer and once every three weeks in the winter. That compares to having to water real grass fields up to three times a week. So it does appear artificial grass saves EPISD money on watering costs. All of the district's high school athletic fields now have artificial turf.” Source: John Purvis, “Why does EPISD water artificial turf?,” on KFOX (Fox affiliate, El Paso), 15 November 2018, at https://kfoxtv.com/community/just-ask-john/why-does-episd-water-artificial-turf
SynTurf.org Note: One of our readers sent this comment in reaction to the foregoing report on KFOX: “For the real story here read between the lines. Note the cover photo of worn out dumped synthetic turf carpeting with tire crumb spilling out. An interesting choice since not addressed in the report. Also the reasons for watering synturf once per week including spit, blood, bird droppings bacteria build up. And watering when in use to bring heat down. So an unsaid pictorial nod to the disposal costs and problems of synturf. And passing mentions of the heat and sanitation issues. Maybe saves a little on watering but not much and washes toxins into environment instead of grass and soil cleaning the water that falls on it. False economy. But on their reporting they don't even raise questions. [See] https://sportsturfonline.com/2018/11/13/investing-in-natural-grass/9884/ . “
[No. 119] A Love Affair with Natural Grass: Tales of Two Groundskeepers. Amy Fouty is the sports turf manager at the MichiganStateUniversity – seems like forever! This institution is a land grant unicersity and like most all of them has a superb agriculture program.
Fouty should not be stranger to our readers. Way in the early days of this site we posted an item in which Fouty broke down the cost of maintenance of an artificial turf filed, thus exposing the nonsensical numbers that the purveyors of artificial turf fields in those days and still claim as constituting the low-cost (a few thousand dollars annually) of maintaining their playing surface. Seehttp://www.synturf.org/maintenancereplacement.html (Item No. 5).
In this months mailbag we received another item about Fouty and this one highlights the labor of love that is grooming the natural grass filed of the Spartans’ home field. Written by Kyle Austin and published under the tile “Meet the woman behind MichiganState's famous turf,” on MLive.com (4 October 2018) at
EAST LANSING -- It's nearly midnight on the Friday night before Labor Day. The fans have all streamed out of Spartan Stadium following the Spartans' 38-31 season-opening win over UtahState. Players are visiting with their families. Coaches are heading back to their offices to look at the film.
And Amy Fouty is hopping onto a lawnmower.
MichiganState's sports turf manager spends the next several minutes mowing the length of one side of the field, going over it several times until she's satisfied.
Most of the world sees the Spartan Stadium turf for a few hours on fall Saturdays, and likely take little notice of it.
For Fouty, MichiganState's athletic turf manager, that grass is a year-round job.
"People don't have any idea the amount of time and detail that's put into it to have a national award-winning collegiate football field that our team and coaches absolutely love," Fouty said. "It's a lot more time than you would ever think about. A lot more thought, for sure."
Spartan Stadium features a 120 by 53-yard patch of Kentucky Bluegrass, mowed to 7/8th inch. Through rain, snow, ice, heat or cold, it's Fouty and her staff's job to keep grass in the best condition possible for the Spartans' seven home games per year, plus the occasional offseason scrimmages on the field.
In her 16-year tenure, MichiganState has won two national collegiate football field of the year awards. And while her job has had the same goal during that tenure -- keeping the Spartan Stadium turf pristine -- it's changed plenty with technological advancements and the always challenging elements.
"It's not just mowing grass anymore and chalking some lines down," Fouty said. "It's really a very unique type of job and opportunity. I like to tell people that it's as much an art as it is a science to be able to take care of athletic fields."
Maintaining that field is a year-round job, but Fouty and her staff consider the day after Michigan State's spring game their New Year's Day.
That's when the football team is done with the field for three months and the prime growing season in Michigan is getting underway. Fouty and her staff sow a carefully selected new seed, then spend the summer watering, aerating, topdressing, mowing, and doing everything else necessary to produce a pristine piece of turfgrass.
That grass makes its debut during the Spartans' preseason camp, then gets played on through home games as late as Thanksgiving weekend.
The schedule means Fouty and her staff may be keeping the grass soft through a hot August or scraping snow or ice off of it in late November, and everything in between.
"Weather preparation is probably our biggest challenge here in Michigan," Fouty said. "It could be 90 and sunny one day and we have thunderstorms and a week later it could be snowing and 30 degrees. It's really crazy."
While maintaining a field in Michigan has its difficulties, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio told ESPN in 2016 that he never has doubts about Fouty's ability to get the field in playable condition.
"I really think we have one of the greatest fields in the country," Dantonio said. "I really don't worry about it because she's a perfectionist and that gives me a great peace of mind. I've been that way since I've been here."
Like many in her industry, Fouty got her start on a golf course as a high schooler. That led her to MichiganState's turfgrass program and to a job at the University of Michigan as the school's sports turf manager.
There, she received a football education from former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr, who taught her the ins and outs of every position and what players look like when they're confident in the turf below them and what they look like when they're not.
Now, Fouty watches games, but usually not the ball. She's typically watching players from the waist down to see how the grass is holding up and if any adjustments need to be made.
"You can tell a lot of times how the player feels about the surface and their confidence level to execute by the way their feet are moving, if they're shuffling their feet and not taking stride and planting their foot to cut on the surface," Fouty said.
After five years at Michigan, Fouty returned to MichiganState to become its head turfgrass manager. Soon after she left, Michigan tore out its turfgrass
After five years at Michigan, Fouty returned to MichiganState to become its head turfgrass manager. Soon after she left, Michigan tore out its turfgrass in Michigan Stadium and replaced it with artificial turf, which has been there ever since. Eight of the other 13 Big Ten schools have done the same over the years.
MichiganState, meanwhile, went the opposite direction, converting to natural grass in 2002 after three decades playing on artificial turf. MichiganState is now one of just five schools in the conference that still plays on natural grass.
Spartans senior wide receiver Felton Davis said he doesn't have a strong preference between the two, but said weather can certainly have a much bigger affect on grass than on turf.
"With grass, you can slip way more, especially when it's muddy," Davis said.
The benefits of artificial turf are obvious. It makes for less maintenance, fewer weather-related variables and can allow a stadium to host more non-football events (Fouty says her most difficult task at MichiganState was dealing with a 2011 U2 concert at Spartan Stadium, which killed large swaths of grass in late June. The venue hasn't hosted a concert since, to her relief.)
But Fouty, a self-described football traditionalist, can still make a compelling case for sticking with natural grass. MichiganState, which is home to an award-winning turfgrass program, has studied the differences between the two surfaces extensively. One of its primary findings, Fouty said, is that since grass is softer players are less likely to be injured playing on it.
"If you see a chunk of Spartan Stadium come up here, we have probably saved somebody's knee, ankle, shoulder, where on an artificial surface, a lot of times that surface hardness will damage the player, the athlete and injure them in some way," Fouty said.
Grass also stays cooler during warm seasons than turf does, Fouty said. And while -- despite a turf team's best efforts -- grass can get more beat up late in a season, Fouty says that's part of the allure.
"It's about the blood and the mud," Fouty said.
Some 825 miles south of the northern city of East Lansing, Michigan is located Starkville, Mississippi. This is home of MississippiSateUniversity, another land grant university known for his athletic programs, especially football. The superintendent of sports turf here is Brandon Hardin. The following is an article written by Brett Hudson titled “MSU turf crew works round clock to get field ready,” and was published in The Dispatch (1 October 2018) at http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=68858:
STARKVILLE -- Joe Moorhead and many of his MississippiState football players have barely had time to gather their things and leave Davis Wade Stadium by the time maroon-clad men take the field again.
This time, they are the members of the turf management crew. By the time one mounts the mower, it's barely been two hours since the field cleared after MSU's 13-6 loss to Florida; the crew is already preparing for the next game.
The process of tending to the playing surface at Davis Wade Stadium is one that almost never stops -- such is the standard for what is widely regarded as one of the finer playing surfaces in the Southeastern Conference, if not the nation. The head of that crew, MSU's superintendent of sports turf Brandon Hardin, let The Dispatch see some of the process.
"Safety is always No. 1. We do a field hardness test on this field to make sure that it's where it needs to be," Hardin said. Playability, those are always the top two. Then you get to looks.
"Fans always tell me, 'Oh the field looks great, you make it look great.' That's not what we're shooting for. We're shooting for safety and playability first, then all the paint stuff comes in."
They test the hardness of the grass with the help of Dr. Eric Reasor of MSU's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. They use a Clegg hammer, a tool that reduces the hardness of the surface to a single number. MSU's staff shoots for a number between 40 and 60; the NFL requires its fields be under 100 to play, and concrete is 300. Hardin said no standard for a Clegg hammer rating exists in college football, but he believes one is one the way. He takes pride in limiting head-to-ground concussions and, as several SEC schools transition from artificial turf to grass, a standard to meet could be produced.
For the most part, they trust the natural abilities of the tifway 419 bermuda grass to stand up to the beating it takes in a game, but the rest of the route to a playable surface begins in those first hours after a game.
In that time, they mow the grass, collect the debris caused by digging cleats and clear it of clippings. From there, a quick fertilizing and a watering -- the latter being the most important in the recovery process, Hardin said -- sets the table for the week to come.
The crew spends Monday and Tuesday maintaining the grass with mowing, edging and water. On Wednesday -- working around if and when the kickers visit to practice -- the crew fertilizes and lays a base layer of paint on the border of the field, among other things.
The real cosmetic work begins 6 a.m. Thursday mornings: after blowing the dew off the field, the entire crew is present to paint the numbers and the hashmarks. The numbers are a labor intensive process with the stencils moving around the entire field, which is why it takes the entire crew to handle; that is to say nothing of the border around the field, which Hardin guesses takes as many as 60 gallons of paint for just one layer. Hardin planned to have three layers for the Florida game. Through Friday, they paint the SEC logos, the 2,400-square-foot midfield logo -- which Hardin paints himself over two days -- and every other touch you see on the field.
They make the job harder on themselves in one aspect: the end zone. Hardin said many schools have a large stencil that expands over the entire end zone, making changes for any special event impossible. Hardin and MSU use the help of Buddy Gentry of Starkville's Gentry Signs and his plywood stencils, which he helps place each week for the turf crew.
"In the event that somebody says, 'Hey, let's go put Bulldogs in the end zone,' we can do it," Hardin said.
That neat template the crew followed for its first two home games was not an option through Florida week. Consistent rain through the week put them as much as a day behind their usual plan at times. Yet, come game day, no touch was missing.
"That's all my crew. That's a testament to the crew I have," Hardin said. "I had my entire crew here and we made up in four hours what should have been done in eight, that's how good my guys are."
Hardin has William Head, Terrell Brantley, Feliciano Grimaldo and Benjamin Baker on his full-time staff with student help: Caleb Paulus, Todd Hughes, Ralan Manuel, Jackson Crump, Payton Smith and Blake Miller. Their combined work through a window of opportunity Thursday and early Friday morning had the crew nearly back on schedule by the middle of Friday morning, when enough of the midfield logo had to be in place for employees and athletic department guests to take part in helping paint the midfield logo.
That last part is a new development, but Hardin is perfectly comfortable tinkering with things. It was his idea to transition from the bulldog midfield logo to the current M banner logo a few years ago; it was also his idea to outline the logo with white instead of gray when the gray didn't pop off the grass the way he wanted it to.
There is also one small spot around a hashmark where the crew has five cultivars of bermuda grass planted in the playing surface, small cups they planted for testing purposes. No novice eye would ever spot the testing ground, but it's important work to ensure MSU continues to have one of the finest playing surfaces available.
In this profession, ingenuity is part of the job, and weeks like the one before the Florida game proved it.
"You can fight Mother Nature but you're never going to win," Hardin said. "I learned that a long time ago."
[No. 118] Watering that artificial turf field! According to a special report on KVIA (ABC affiliate in El Paso, Texas) (8 August 2018), “[m]any cities and school districts across the Borderland have been replacing natural grass fields with artificial turf to reduce maintenance costs, but they may not be saving money when it comes to watering costs. A New MexicoStateUniversity study has found that more water is needed to keep artificial cool enough to safely play on during a hot summer day than what is needed to water Bermuda grass for a day. ‘If you, on a hot summer day, wanted to play two games of soccer on an artificial turf surface, you would have to irrigate at least two times for the surface to be cool enough and provide the athletes with a safe playing surface,’ said NMSU professor Bernd Leinauer, a turf-grass extension specialist for the State of New Mexico. Leinauer said the amount of water needed to cool down the artificial turf ‘is actually higher than what we need on a healthy Bermuda grass lawn to irrigate on a hot, summer day.’ The professor and his research team conducted an experiment in the summer of 2017 that found field turf (a type of artificial turf) can easily reach temperatures of up to 170 degrees on a hot summer day. They found it takes two tenths of an inch of water on artificial turf to keep the field cool enough to safely play on for one and a half hours. Only three tenths of an inch of water is enough to adequately take care of Bermuda grass each day……. School districts and parks in El Paso are also required to follow scheduled watering days, which means they can only water on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from April 1st to September 30th.” Source: Kyle Hanson, “Special Report: Is artificial turf cheaper to maintain?,” on KVIA [ABC affiliate in El Paso, Texas], 8 August 2018, at https://www.kvia.com/special-reports/more-water-needed-to-keep-artificial-turf-cool-study-says/779081355
[No. 117] Southern California – premature aging and failing artificial turf fields are costing taxpayers millions in addition to the expensive upfront installation cost. According to an investigative piece in The Sun (San Bernardino) (19 June 2018), “[i]n 2010, the Chaffey Joint Union High School District joined a wave of cities and school districts around the country when it spent $1.8 million to install synthetic turf fields at four of its high schools. The benefits over natural turf were a big selling point: more durable, less maintenance and, perhaps most appealing in drought-prone California, no watering required. The school district contracted with a multinational company, Montreal-based FieldTurf USA, that promised the fields would last a decade or more. An eight-year warranty was offered in case anything went wrong. ‘About four years after our fields were installed, all four were failing, including fibers breaking, splitting and thinning,’ said Rick Wiersma, Chaffey’s assistant superintendent of business.”
“Across Southern California and the rest of the country, hundreds of FieldTurf customers — most of them taxpayer-supported cities and school districts — have been experiencing the same problems for years. FieldTurf has acknowledged it used defective fibers in its synthetic turf and has filed a lawsuit against its supplier. The fallout, involving untold millions of dollars, has been messy. Each customer with a high school football field, soccer field or other synthetic turf surface has been forced to decide whether to accept a standard replacement from FieldTurf for free, pay extra for an upgraded surface or sue the company. Dozens of fields have been torn up and replaced throughout Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties as the negotiations with FieldTurf play out.”
“The Santa AnaUnifiedSchool District was among the customers that accepted FieldTurf’s offer to provide an upgraded field at CenturyHigh School. The school board voted Feb. 28 to spend half a million dollars to replace the original field, which was installed in February 2011 and remained under warranty until 2019. In the Chaffey school district, officials didn’t like their options to replace high schools fields in Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario and Montclair. ‘When the district requested that FieldTurf replace the fields, the company said it would do so — free of charge — only if it used the same fibers from the same company it had used three years earlier; an upgrade would cost $175,000 per field,’ Wiersma said. ‘Faced with these unacceptable alternatives from a company it no longer trusted, the district opted to replace the fields with turf sold by a different company and sue FieldTurf for damages,’ he said. The district is seeking class-action status for its lawsuit, but it has not yet been certified, said Peter Lindborg, the lawyer representing Chaffey. ‘There are about a dozen pending in federal court right now,’ he said.”
“A 2016 investigative report in New Jersey claims FieldTurf already was aware its Duraspine materials were defective in certain environments and colors when it was selling them across the country. From 2005 to 2012, the company sold 1,428 Duraspine fields costing $300,000 to $500,000 each. Eighty-one were sold to school districts, cities and towns in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San BernardinoCounties, according to records from the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance, a national contracting cooperative. FieldTurf USA replaced one-fifth of outdoor Duraspine fields under warranty. Other customers paid FieldTurf to replace the Duraspine fields with a competitor’s product.”
“Lindborg said the Duraspine fibers in FieldTurf surfaces were ‘supposed to be, essentially, the greatest thing since sliced raisin bread in terms of artificial turf. And when FieldTurf started to market it, it probably believed that.’ Think of synthetic turf as hair transplants for a field, with fibers pushed or punched through backing. A ‘fill’ of sand and crumb rubber pellets from recycled tires is thrown on top. The fill settles in among the fibers and works like an artificial soil, cushioning impacts against the artificial turf.
“Shortly after they started installing them,’ Lindborg said, ‘FieldTurf started getting complaints that they were breaking down prematurely,’ sometimes as soon as within a single year, but more typically within three or four. ‘When the fiber starts to break down, I’ve heard it called cat hair, because it gets that thin. … It gets thin, it lays down flat. I’ve heard one client describe it as a putting green.’ Thus, the fill — designed to protect athletes from injuries — is no longer held onto by the fibers. ‘You’d get a dog pile in the middle of the field and these kids would get up, and on a real field, you’d have them covered in grass clippings,’ Lindborg said. ‘But these fibers don’t grow back, obviously.’”
“FieldTurf sued a Dutch company, TenCate Thiolon, in March 2011. TenCate Thiolon was FieldTurf’s exclusive provider for the Duraspine turf until 2010. But in 2007, it changed its formula and manufacturing process, causing the fibers to break under tension.
FieldTurf alleged a ‘bait-and-switch scheme,’ according to the company’s initial complaint. It accused TenCate Thiolon of changing to cheaper materials and manufacturing, and not using stabilizers to prevent damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. That resistance to ultraviolet radiation had been the marketing hook for Duraspine.
‘These changes resulted in batches of fiber that degraded prematurely and failed to meet contract specifications or live up to the terms of (TenCate Thiolon’s) warranty,’ FieldTurf’s complaint reads in part. According to Lindborg, FieldTurf knew when it sold the fields to the Chaffey district and many others that the Duraspine materials were experiencing problems. FieldTurf, which sold Duraspine until 2012, now makes its own fibers. ‘In the 2009-10 time frame, FieldTurf had enough information to know these fields were failing early on a regular basis,’ he said. The investigation by New Jersey’s Star-Ledger claimed FieldTurf knew as early as 2006. ‘When they were selling these fields to the Chaffey district and the other fields around the country, they either knew or, if they didn’t know, were playing ostrich about the fact that the fields were going to fail.’”
“According to FieldTurf USA’s president and CEO, the problem is mostly a cosmetic one, with fields in sunny areas, especially the South and Southwest, discoloring over time. ‘There is not and has never been any issue with the safety of these fields for playing on,’ Eric Daliere wrote in an open letter on the company’s website, responding to the Star-Ledger story. ‘This is not a new issue. In the fall of 2009, we became aware that FieldTurf was starting to receive more warranty claims related to field and fiber performance than in the past. We came to understand that the Duraspine fiber was prone to premature fiber breakdown in certain high UV conditions and in certain fiber colors.’
In Redondo Beach, FieldTurf installed Duraspine fields in 2009 at Washington Elementary, Parras Middle and Redondo Union High. The artificial turf fibers thinned out enough that Janet Redella, Redondo Unified’s assistant superintendent of administrative services, was able to see the rubber pellet fill showing through. ‘I did look at the field and see the beads and thought that was a little unusual,” she said. “I didn’t remember it always being like that, being able to see the fill.’”
“After FieldTurf won its suit against TenCate Thiolon, the Canadian company got back in touch with Redondo Unified. Representatives told the district it could replace the fields with new ones under warranty or upgrade them. The district decided to go with upgrades, getting even better fields, with new eight-year warranties, from FieldTurf for $150,000 each. ‘And then we did two more,’ Redella said. The district spent about $550,000 on a field at Alta Vista Elementary and $3 million for one at AdamsMiddle School, she said.
It was a similar story in Redlands Unified, where CitrusValleyHigh School had a Duraspine field installed in 2010. The company has already replaced it. ‘Field Turf USA reached out to us, and gave us a full replacement last summer, in 2017,’ said district spokeswoman MaryRone Shell.”
“The Riverside Community College District purchased Duraspine fields for its Norco campus. It has been in contact with lawyers about a class-action suit, but isn’t a named plaintiff, according to Patrick Pyle, the district’s general counsel. Fontana Unified purchased a Duraspine field for Jurupa Hills High in 2010. District officials noticed a little more wear and tear than expected, said Ryan DiGiulio, associate superintendent of business services, but nothing shocking. ‘All of those fields degrade over time, so we were looking to replace it anyway,’ DiGiulio said.”
“Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest public school system, has only one FieldTurf field, although it’s not a Duraspine product, according to district spokeswoman Elvia Perez Cano. That Prestige XM 60 field at Crenshaw High was probably installed by a contractor because FieldTurf is not an approved manufacturer for the district. That said, Los Angeles has had its own, problems with artificial turf fields it purchased from another manufacturer.”
“Not every Duraspine field installed by FieldTurf has failed. Four of them installed at Pomona’s Veterans Park Soccer Complex are aging as expected, city spokesman Mark Gluba said. ‘We didn’t experience any premature failing of the product,’ he said. ‘It’s still there.’ Likewise, Pasadena didn’t have any problems with its fields at Robinson Park and VillaParkeCommunity Center. ‘It’s being replaced free of charge’ by FieldTurf USA anyway, said city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. ‘We are aware of, but not involved in, the class-action lawsuit.’”
“The company’s legal troubles may not be over. One Los AngelesCounty school district says the California Attorney General’s Office could be pursuing a case against FieldTurf USA. When, or if, that’s still happening is unclear. ‘To protect its integrity, we can’t comment on, even to confirm or deny, a potential or ongoing investigation,’ the Attorney General’s Office wrote in an email.” Source: Beau Yarbrough (with Nikie Johnson contributing) of Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, “Artificial turf fields are failing across Southern California, costing millions. Here’s why.,” in The Sun, 19 June 2018, at https://www.sbsun.com/2018/06/19/artificial-turf-fields-are-failing-across-southern-california-costing-millions-heres-why/
[No. 116] Guilford, Connecticut – Had they gone with natural grass they would have saved the taxpayers a ton of green. The incidence of premature aging or defective installation of artificial turf fields are so routine now that we have stopped reporting every incident on this site. There are here and there lawsuits addressing these malfunctioning installations. Every now and then we cannot resist reporting on a situation that catches our esteemed decision-makers flatfooted – agog at their own shortsightedness for choosing plastic over natural grass.
According to a news report on Patch.com (26 March 2018), “[t]he Board of Selectmen [of Guilford, CT] has voted to hire [Kaestle Boos Associates,] a New Britain company, at a cost of up to $40,000, to analyze why synthetic athletic field at Guilford High School has been pulling apart. Parks and Recreation Director Rick Maynard told the selectmen that the field was completed in December of 2016 and was used last year. A few months ago, Maynard said, people began noticing a separation in the turf and that the shock pad was pulling apart. He said it was happening at the 30-yard line on both ends of the field…. After discussing the issue, Maynard and the selectmen concurred that it was better to get an independent audit done of the field problems - with the hopes that the costs can be recouped from whoever is responsible once the problem and the cause of it is determined. First Selectman Matt Hoey said the town needs to have the facts rather than rely on the vendors who may or may not have the same motivation that the town does to have the problems corrected.” Source: Jack Kramer, “Guilford Hires Consultant To Study Synthetic Turf Field Failure,” on Patch.com, 26 March 2018, athttps://patch.com/connecticut/guilford/guilford-hires-consultant-study-synthetic-turf-field-failure
SynTurf.org Note: So according to the aforementioned First Selectman Matt Hoey, “the town needs to have the facts rather than rely on the vendors who may or may not have the same motivation that the town does to have the problems corrected.” On must wonder if the Selectmen actually cared about the “facts” at the time that they decided to go with artificial turf. Do they not all drink the boosters’ and purveyors Cool Ade for the sake of a handful of votes?
[No. 115] The Big Rip! The 2017 Big Ten Football Championship Game was played on 2 December 2017 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, the home of the Indiana Colts. According to a news item on SBNation (2 December 2017), “[i]n the fourth quarter of the Big Ten Championship game between Ohio State and Wisconsin, the artificial turf at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis got all ripped up. It happened as Wisconsin scored a touchdown to pull within a score.”
“Wait, the best and most hilarious part about this is that THEY LITERALLY HAD TO FIX THE DAMN TURF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME. Look at this, people. I think it’s safe to call this man Dr. Turf Extraordinaire, but as it turns out, his real name is Eric Harlow, and folks, he’s got a dang degree in TURF!”
"Lucas Oil Stadium Field Manager Eric Harlow has a bachelor's degree in turf grass management from Purdue. He was previously a groundskeeper for the Phillies & Nationals."
"The crew even brought out gardening tools to clean this rip up."
[No. 114] Ottawa, Canada – City will let unsafe artificial field go on for lack of money to replace it. According to a news report on CBC [Canadian Broadcast Corporation] (1 August 2017), “[t]he City of Ottawa has decided that the cost of replacing the artificial turf at Minto Field behind the Nepean Sportsplex is too high, leaving amateur football teams scrambling to find places to practice and play. A new $1.3-million turf was installed in 2015, but when players suffered scrapes and abrasions, local football teams deemed the new surface ‘unsafe’ and like ‘sandpaper.’ ‘We had nothing but cuts, scrapes, torn uniforms,’ said Scott Boxall, president of Myers Riders Football, about the decision to pull his amateur league from Minto Field. ‘We had players coming off the field bloody.’ said Boxall, whose players range from seven to 18 years of age. …” About scrapping the replacement plan, Boxall said “the only bid the city received for the project would cost more than the $500,000 allocated for the job.” Source: CBC News, “City scraps plans to replace Minto Field’s ‘sandpaper’ turf -- Local football teams not happy 'unsafe'' field won't be replaced,” on CBC, 1 August 2017, at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/minto-park-ottawa-turf-football-1.4230934
[No. 113] Burnet, Texas –Defective artificial turf field needs replacing just two years after installation. According to a news report on the DailyTrib.com (24 May 2017), “Burnet school district officials were probably expecting to get more than two years from the synthetic turf installed at Bulldog Field in 2015, but that didn’t happen and it’s now set the district back $150,000. Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Keith McBurnett, however, said the district is looking to get $105,000 back from one manufacturer. Last year, officials noticed some turf fibers sticking up higher than others, so they took a closer look, McBurnett said. ‘To most people, it probably wasn’t noticeable,’ he said. ‘We had all the experts look at the field, and they looked at the backside. It needed to be replaced.’ Officials determined the problem was the elastic layer (e-layer) shock pad, which goes underneath the artificial turf but above the base or sub-base. The e-layer provides some shock absorption for the athletes as well as helps maximize the performance and longevity of the surface. The district believes the En-Plast shock pad and the Greenfields turf installed in 2015 were interacting in a way that caused degradation of the turf’s backing, which led to fiber loss.” Source: Jennifer Fierro, “Burnet CISD looks to recoup $105,000 after football turf reinstalled,” on DailyTrib.com, 24 Mat 2017, at http://www.dailytrib.com/2017/05/24/burnet-cisd-looks-recoup-105000-football-turf-reinstalled/
[No. 112] Clifton, New Jersey – Another case of premature deterioration of artificial turf fields. According to a news story on NorthJersey.com (22 April 2017), Clifton’s “largest park will have its artificial turf fields replaced beginning in June . Because the fields deteriorated prior to the warranty expired, the City will not be responsible for the $1 million cost.” The three fields at AtheniaSteelPark were “[p]urchased from AstroTurf, LLC in 2010,” which were “under an eight-year warranty which covered defects in materials or workmanship until Nov. 30, 2018.” “Beginning in 2015, municipal maintenance staff noticed a host of problems with the well-used fields, including seams which were ‘coming apart,’ City Manager Dominick Villano said. Clifton’s law department filed a warranty claim last May after an inspection two years ago conducted by independent experts concluded that individual turf carpet fibers were pulling “freely and easily” away from the carpet’s backing and resulting in an excessive loss of fibers. Consequently, the experts claimed the carpet was failing prematurely of the eight to 10 years standard life expectancy associated with turf fields.” According to Villano “This was not your normal wear and tear. It was wearing out much quicker.” Source: Tony Gicas, “Replacement of failing Clifton turf fields set for June,” on NorthJersey.com, 22 April 2017, athttp://www.northjersey.com/story/news/passaic/clifton/2017/04/22/replacement-failing-clifton-turf-fields-set-june/100667716/
[No. 111] Indianapolis, Indiana: WTHR 13 Investigates exposes the dangers of playing on ill-maintained artificial turf fields. According to an extensive news story on WTHR [NBC-affiliate – Indianapolis] (1 February 2016), “[t]housands of Indiana children now play sports on artificial turf. An Eyewitness News investigation finds some of those synthetic turf fields put children at an increased risk of skull fracture, infection or other injury due to inadequate maintenance and safety testing. And the investigation is already triggering action….[According to] Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner Bobby Cox, ‘The sales point and promotion to schools is that this is maintenance-free and you can do everything on it….The band can march on it, footballers can play on it, the physical education department can have their classes on it. Everyone wants to use it.’ Despite the sales pitch, synthetic turf is not maintenance-free and can pose a heightened risk of serious injury if not properly maintained. 13 Investigates discovered some artificial turf fields in central Indiana receive little or no safety testing after they are installed, and even those that do receive routine maintenance can easily fall below basic safety standards designed to keep athletes safe…Maintaining the proper amount of crumb rubber is crucial….A harder surface increases the risk of concussion when a player's head hits the turf. Too much crumb rubber softens the surface to the point where athletes must exert extra energy to perform. Some field managers say that places extra strain on joints and muscles, putting athletes at a higher risk for ankle, knee and lower back injuries….That’s why the NFL now mandates testing on every field before every game - primarily to detect if a playing surface is too hard and poses an increased concussion risk for its players….’[The Gmax (how hard that surface is when you fall on it) is actually pretty simple. A human head weighs about 12 pounds. So to calculate Gmax, a portable computerized device drops a 12-pound weight to determine the amount of force between the weight and the field at impact. The harder the surface, the higher the Gmax score and the higher the risk of a concussion. ‘We definitely want the Gmax level below 200…At 200, there is a danger that there would be a skull fracture.’ There are several different devices that calculate Gmax levels based on a scientific protocol established by the American Society for Testing and Materials, and they rely on different measurements. The F355 device uses an upper Gmax limit of 200, while the smaller Clegg impact tester has an upper limit of 100. [The reference is to] readings on an F355 unit….While Gmax testing is mandated in professional football, the Center for Sports Surface Research says the testing is done only occasionally at the collegiate level and even less frequently on the thousands of athletic fields and sports facilities used by younger athletes. ‘Brand new turf is usually fine for the first two or three years, but after that is when we start to see problems…You like to see some kind of testing done at least once a year at minimum to show you're doing your due diligence.’” Source: Bob Segall, “Trouble in the Turf: Lack of synthetic turf testing & maintenance puts athletes at risk -- Dangers of dirty, compacted or migrated crumb rubber and lack of field maintenance by schools,” on WTHR [NBC-affiliate – Indianapolis], 1 February 2016, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0JMPZQ4P4Q .
[No. 110] San Mateo, California: Synthetic turf maintenance cost – new data.
According to Mateo Union High School District’s documentation submitted to the Board of Trustees on 14 January 2016, the district will be paying $32,000 per year for maintenance for all synthetic turf fields (bi-annual) and GMAX testing (annually) at Aragon High School, Burlingame High School (2 fields), Hillsdale High School (2 fields), and San Mateo High School. The services will include two advanced care visits (per field), pre and post field inspection with written field maintenance summary; seam and inlay repairs, not to exceed eight (8) repairs up to fifteen ( 15) linear sq ft; field magnet sweep; and light infill added to high traffic areas – For details, go here and scroll down to Page 19.
Damaged artificial turf soccer field at 5800 Surrey Street, Near Russell Road between Maryland Parkway and Eastern Avenue is seen on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. Two soccer fields near McCarran Airport have been closed by the County‘s parks department after they deemed them unsafe. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review.
[No. 109] Tale of Two Sites: Poor Management in Las Vegas & Embarrassment of Riches in Portland. In the January 2016 e-mailbag we came across two stories which offer a stark contrast between an overused resource and one not used enough. According to news report in Las Vegas Review-Journal (11 January 2016), Clark County, Nevada, has closed down two artificial turf fields due to unsafe conditions. The two soccer fields at McCarran Marketplace Park, located at 5800 Surrey Street, just east of Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport, “look more like golf course fairways than football pitches.” “The fields, [constructed by http://www.fieldturfofnevada.com/trade/pages/I.htm (or here)] which opened in 2007, have literally been torn to pieces. Large chunks of turf are missing in several areas, the seams between turf sections are showing, and the plastic grass pulls out of the ground with ease. Mindy Meyers, assistant director for [Clark County]’s Parks and Recreation Department, said some of it is from standard wear and tear associated with soccer fields, but added that people playing in cleats, which the park prohibits, have only increased and expedited the damage. But 2-foot-wide holes and exposed seams might not be the only things unsafe on the fields. There is a growing level of concern with the little rubber nubs, which act as the dirt in artificial turf and are often kicked up during play, with some now wondering if they could be harmful to a person’s health. Studies are popping up across the country, including an ongoing one undertaken by Gaboury Benoit, an environmental chemist and professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, that suggest the nubs, often called ‘crumb rubber,’ contain carcinogens. And county officials, including Meyers, haven’t let those studies go unnoticed. ‘If there’s a health consideration that we now need to think about, that will help us make the decision,’ Meyers told the Review-Journal on Friday [8 January 2016] …. Meyers said the county is considering converting the fields near McCarran to natural grass, which is what is used in every other soccer field managed by Clark County.”Source: Colton Lochhead, “2 worn soccer fields with artificial surfaces closed, deemed unsafe,” in Las Vegas Review-Journal, 11 January 2016, at http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/2-worn-soccer-fields-artificial-surfaces-closed-deemed-unsafe .
Meanwhile in Portland, Oregon, on 7 January 2016, on KGW.com (NBC affiliate) reported that Major League Soccer Champions The Portland Timbers “will have a brand new field to play on.” According to Ken Puckett, Vice President of Operations at Providence Park, “[e]very two years we get the latest and the greatest from our friends with field turf and this is our year to recycle and install a new field, so we’re excited about that. [Using a field just two years doesn’t sound long, but Puckett says the Timbers want the best for their players]. These fields have a life span of six to eight years on a rec[reational] level, but we feel that after two years they have about seen their life on a professional level. [They use about 850 tons of fill, including two grades of rubber and silica sand with 15 to 16 layers in the process with the Revolution 360 turf]. It’s also two toned colored if you look real close. There’s olive and green to give it more of a lusher real look on the cameras and a real feel playing in its composition.” “ The old field will be donated to Delta Park.” Source: Joe Becker, “Timbers get new field for upcoming season,” on KGW.com (NBC affiliate in Portland, Oregon), 7 January 2016, at http://www.kgw.com/sports/new-year-new-field-for-timbers/12035895
[No. 108] Mountain House, California: In drought-stricken regions artificial turf fields are between a rock and a dry place; drought limit watering, warranty and players’ health and safety require it. According to a news report in Tracy Press (28 August 2015), at the start of the high school football season on Friday, 28 August 2015, “Lammersville Unified School District [was] still looking for approval from the local government to clean Mountain House High School’s artificial turf with hundreds of gallons of water. The delay in the watering is due to the state’s ongoing drought and the community’s irrigation restrictions, according to James Nolan, director of maintenance operations and transportation, who serves on the LUSD Facilities Use Committee.” “ He said the district was restricted to certain days and times when it could irrigate landscaping. To do the job within the allowed window from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., the district would have to turn on the stadium lights, and he wanted to avoid that.” According to Mountain House High Principal Ben Fobert “watering was necessary to comply with the turf’s warranty conditions.He said “[i]f we don’t water it on a regular basis, we void our warranty on a million-dollar turf. I think the last time we watered it was last football season.” “Nolan explained that water cannons would be used to throw hundreds of gallons of water halfway across the field with the force of a fire hose. He said the district didn’t want the public to think it was wasting water if that was done during the daytime. Committee member Shane Nielson suggested getting water from an outside source and trucking it into the stadium. Fobert said they couldn’t allow any vehicles onto the turf.” Source: Denise Ellen Rizzo, “LUSD seeks OK to wash football field,” in Tracy Press (Tracy California), 28 August 2015, at http://www.goldenstatenewspapers.com/tracy_press/news/mountain_house/lusd-seeks-ok-to-wash-football-field/article_a82a05d4-4dab-11e5-8bd2-7f6a8b99af36.html
If your children have played at Redding Soccer Park — especially in the past few years — you couldn’t have been too surprised this week when a grand jury report described serious problems with the artificial turf on the park’s four fields.
The turf is deteriorating to the point where after a game there are more little tiny fake grass blades on the kids’ uniforms than there are jutting up from the black rubber matting that underlies the “grass.” Instead of the divots that dot real grass fields after a game, Redding’s fields feature ruts where the underlayment has failed and sunk.
Longtime youth soccer fans say the turf started breaking down only a year after the $10 million park opened in 2007. Finally in early 2012 the city called together the contractor, Gifford Construction, the synthetic turf manufacturer, and the drainage system builder to tour the fields. They wanted everyone to be present when they dug into one of them to assess the problems.
It wasn’t pretty. The turf fibers hadn’t had the proper ultraviolet inhibitors and were dried up and breaking off under the heat of the sun, the experts said. The drainage system had failed, which meant the mats were shifting, causing depressions, or valleys, in the field.
Once the problems were documented, the solution should have been simple. The city had an eight-year insured warranty on the fields, which were manufactured and built by a Cheektowaga, New York firm, Surface America, Inc. and their subsidiary, A-Turf.
The city had hoped the work would be completed that summer.
A-Turf’s website features beautiful color photos of the many artificial turf fields the firm has installed for professional and school teams across the country. There’s also a reassuring little video in which company president James A. Dobmeier repeatedly explains that his firm stands behind its products.
Apparently not without a fight. When nobody had heard back from the firm a year after the turf inspection, Assistant City Attorney Lynette Frediani learned that A-Turf’s insurance claim on the project had been rejected. She fired off a letter to Dobmeier reiterating the city’s claim. Nothing.
After 15 months of consulting outside attorneys and experts the city finally sued on Sept. 30, 2014.
What’s sad about this whole thing is that the fields have continued to deteriorate. They’re hardly in shape to lure the major statewide tournaments soccer fans had envisioned when the park opened.
Those soccer fields aren’t the only local artificial turf installations that have gone bad. In 2010, five years after all-weather fields were installed at Foothill, Shasta, Enterprise and U-Prep high schools, the ShastaUnionHighSchool District announced that all would be redone, at a cost of close to $3 million.
The replacements were the results of the district’s settlement with Sprinturf, the main contractor and four subcontractors that had installed the fields. The Shasta and Foothill fields were finished in 2011, followed in 2011 by Enterprise and U-Prep.
It would be nice if the soccer field problems had been so smoothly — and quickly — remedied.
Redding’s lawsuit, moved to Sacramento Superior Court on a change of venue, may be heard later this year.
Meanwhile, the soccer fields have only about two or three years of life left in them, the grand jury reported. It estimated replacement costs at about $1.5 million — money the city doesn’t have.
Given the cost of redoing the high school fields three or four years ago, and the original cost of the soccer fields, the actual costs could be at least double that, one expert told us.
It’s a bad situation all around.
The original soccer lease between the city and the Shasta Regional Soccer Association, which runs the park, was signed in 2005 and called for dedication of 6 percent of gross revenues exceeding $500,000 to be set aside for field replacement.
By the time the soccer park opened in 2007 all the rosy expectations for major statewide tournaments already were fading The recession was hitting with a vengeance and teams and their families were losing interest in long trips out of town. Revenue was steady, but way below expectations.
There’s only $2,300 in the fund.
That’s sad news because it means hopes for field replacement now focus on the breach of warranty suit. If the city’s evidence is solid — and attorney Frediani assures us it is — then there’s hope the deteriorating fields will be replaced. It’s a shame Surface America hasn’t done more to stand behind its product voluntarily.
It would be disastrous for NorthState soccer to have those fields closed.
[No. 106] Saint Charles Parish, Louisiana: Premature aging of synthetic turf due to sunshine! According to a news report in the Saint Charles Herald-Guide (17 April 2015), “[f] ive years after Destrehan and Hahnville high schools spent $2.6 million to install turf football fields, the turf failed and work will soon be underway to replace them.” According to Nick Saltaformaggio, Hahnville head football coach, the removal of the turf involves rolling it up and “they have this big machine that shakes all the rubber pellets out it. Then they redistribute all the old pellets, put new rubber pellets down, smooth it all out and put the turf back down over it. And all the hash marks, numbers, our big H on the 50-yard line and end zones, that’s all sewn in and inlaid into the existing turf.” According to the report, in 2013, that the St. CharlesParishSchool District was “having problems with deterioration of the fibers on the field’s playing surface. Those issues had to do with UV protection on the fibers of the turf not protecting it from the sun. Turf distributor FieldTurf Tarkett confirmed prolonged sunshine caused the artificial turf to wear out sooner than expected.” Source: Thomas M. Baker, “Defective turf will be replaced at both Destrehan, Hahnville,” in Herald-Guide, 17 April 2015, at http://www.heraldguide.com/details.php?id=15511 .
[No.105] Indianapolis, Indiana: Poor Gmax readings, lack of maintenance, and hidden objects found in artificial turf fields pose risk of injury to players. The following is the script of a program that aired on 30 January 2015 on WTHR-TV in Indianapolis (13 Investigates) - Bob Segall (Investigative Reporter), “Trouble in the Turf: Lack of synthetic turf testing & maintenance puts athletes at risk,” onWTHR (Channel 13 in Indianapolis, Indiana—NBC affiliate), 30 January 2015, at http://www.wthr.com/story/27979749/trouble-in-the-turf-lack-of-synthetic-turf-testing-maintenance-puts-athletes-at-risk(slide show and video report).
INDIANAPOLIS - Thousands of Indiana children now play sports on artificial turf. An Eyewitness News investigation finds some of those synthetic turf fields put children at an increased risk of skull fracture, infection or other injury due to inadequate maintenance and safety testing. And the investigation is already triggering action.
If your kids play sports like soccer, football, baseball, field hockey or lacrosse, they likely spend a lot of time training and playing on artificial turf.
Area schools and private sports facilities have recently installed dozens of new synthetic turf surfaces – both indoors and outdoors – and they are in high demand.
"The sales point and promotion to schools is that this is maintenance-free and you can do everything on it," Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner Bobby Cox told WTHR. "The band can march on it, footballers can play on it, the physical education department can have their classes on it. Everyone wants to use it."
Despite the sales pitch, synthetic turf is not maintenance-free and can pose a heightened risk of serious injury if not properly maintained.
13 Investigates discovered some artificial turf fields in central Indiana receive little or no safety testing after they are installed, and even those that do receive routine maintenance can easily fall below basic safety standards designed to keep athletes safe.
Inside the turf
So what's in artificial turf? Like most parents, Stephanie Shepard isn't sure. "I honestly hadn't thought about it before," said Shepard, as she watched her 8-year-old son, Owen, practice on an indoor field at the Zionsville Youth Soccer Association.
Owen and his teammates are running – and frequently falling – on synthetic blades of grass that are supported by thousands of pounds of pulverized rubber. The tiny pieces of used car and truck tires are known as crumb rubber or in-fill, and the substance plays an integral role in the safety of the turf.
Maintaining the proper amount of crumb rubber is crucial.
"That granulated material mixed in with the fibers gives the field its cushioning," said Andy McNitt, director of PennStateUniversity's Center for Sports Surface Research. "Slowly the crumb rubber leaves with the athletes. It doesn't happen all at once, but slowly and almost imperceptibly the crumb rubber leaves the system over a period of three to five years. As the rubber leaves, your cushioning leaves so the surface becomes much harder."
A harder surface increases the risk of concussion when a player's head hits the turf.
Too much crumb rubber softens the surface to the point where athletes must exert extra energy to perform. Some field managers say that places extra strain on joints and muscles, putting athletes at a higher risk for ankle, knee and lower back injuries.
Testing like the pros
That's why the NFL now mandates testing on every field before every game – primarily to detect if a playing surface is too hard and poses an increased concussion risk for its players.
"The Gmax is really, in layman's terms, how hard that surface is when you fall on it," he explained. It's actually pretty simple. A human head weighs about 12 pounds. So to calculate Gmax, a portable computerized device drops a 12-pound weight to determine the amount of force between the weight and the field at impact. The harder the surface, the higher the Gmax score and the higher the risk of a concussion.
"We definitely want the Gmax level below 200," McNitt said. "At 200, there is a danger that there would be a skull fracture."
(There are several different devices that calculate Gmax levels based on a scientific protocol established by the American Society for Testing and Materials, and they rely on different measurements. The F355 device uses an upper Gmax limit of 200, while the smaller Clegg impact tester has an upper limit of 100. McNitt was referencing readings on an F355 unit.)
While Gmax testing is mandated in professional football, the Center for Sports Surface Research says the testing is done only occasionally at the collegiate level and even less frequently on the thousands of athletic fields and sports facilities used by younger athletes.
The Zionsville Youth Soccer Association, where Owen Shepard plays soccer, conducts a Gmax test annually. The organization had its most recent test earlier this month and invited WTHR to witness the test.
"After testing was done last year, we had several big readings, so I fully expect we might have high readings again this year -- simply because of the number of teams and the number of hours this facility is used," said ZYSA facilities director Tim Gernhard, who pointed out that a playing surface gets harder as crumb rubber becomes more compacted over time.
His expectation was accurate.
While some locations on the soccer field tested within acceptable safety limits, the Gmax readings in other areas reached levels as high as 225.
"As a certified Gmax technician, I have to report that is a dangerous situation," explained Field Groomers general manager Stand Moscrip, who conducted the ZYSA testing. "I'm required to give my recommendation that no future athletic play be allowed on that field until remediation events are taken care of."
Gernhard took the news in stride.
"We want to be proactive as a club to prevent our members from getting concussions," he said. "This is exactly why we have Field Groomers come out and do this sort of thing. This is the information you want to know."
But some schools and private sports facilities do not know the Gmax levels of their artificial turf.
"Brand new turf is usually fine for the first two or three years, but after that is when we start to see problems," said McNitt. "You like to see some kind of testing done at least once a year at minimum to how you're doing your due diligence."
"We see some fields that are in really rough shape," said Moscrip, who tests and manicures synthetic turf fields throughout the Midwest. "A lot of schools don't test at all – not until an accident or injury does happen – so they have no idea and, unfortunately, neither do the parents and neither do the administrators in a lot of places."
Years without a test
13 Investigates contacted more than 40 local schools, universities and private sports facilities with artificial turf fields to gather information about their turf testing and maintenance. Only 25% of them provided WTHR with a recent Gmax test scores. Some admitted they haven't tested their turf for years, while others have never tested their synthetic fields since they were first installed.
"It was tested when it was built … but we have not had a test done since," said Franklin Community Schools athletic director John Regas, speaking about the synthetic turf on the district's high school football field. "April 2007. That was the last time we conducted a Gmax test on the field."
Regas told 13 Investigates school maintenance staff provide regular care for the turf. He also said the synthetic turf installer gave the school district an 8-year warranty that guarantees the field will retain a Gmax level below 200.
"How would you know if the field is within that safety limit and whether you need to file a warranty claim if you've never tested the field during the past eight years?" WTHR asked Regas.
"That's a fair question, and I don't have an answer for that other than to say you'd have to ask the installer," he replied.
The athletic director for Zionsville Community Schools tells Eyewitness News the artificial turf at that high school football field has not been tested since installation, either. That was 2010.
Weeks after receiving WTHR's request, WarrenTownship, WayneTownship, Martinsville, Greenfield and Hamilton Southeastern school districts have not provided any information about their turf. Other schools say they cannot find their Gmax test reports.
The lack of information and routine testing concerns the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
"These school corporations and these private organizations hear it's maintenance-free so they install this product and then they turn their head," Cox said. "You can't look at turf fields and say it's a million dollar investment so we don't need to worry about it. I think it's just the opposite. If it's a million dollar investment, you better be worrying about it every day and making sure it works and that it's safe."
Franklin Community Schools tells WTHR it has now asked its turf installer to perform a Gmax test in April so the school district can address any potential problems before its turf warranty ends this summer. Zionsville Community Schools says it has scheduled a Gmax test for this spring, as well. RoundTripperSportsAcademy in Westfield is taking action immediately.
The indoor facility's Community Health Network training field is covered in synthetic turf that is more than a decade old, and the owner admitted the turf had never had a Gmax test.
"I've never even heard of it. I didn't even know what that was," RoundTripper owner Chris Estep told WTHR last week.
When he learned about WTHR's investigation, Estep scheduled a test right away.
In some areas of the turf, the test results were – in Estep's own words – terrible. Crumb rubber levels were depleted to less than half their original depth, creating a dangerously hard playing surface with some Gmax readings topping out above 250.
"I never would have thought that here, especially since how much we take care of the turf," Estep said.
The good news: it's easy to fix.
RoundTripper staff quickly added more crumb rubber to its synthetic field.
ZionsvilleYouthSoccerAcademy did the same thing.
Within minutes, the Gmax readings at both facilities were back to safe levels.
"That's pretty remarkable, and it doesn't take long to address those areas and make them safer for kids," Estep said. "No one knows about this, and I think over time by stories like this being done, people will go ‘Hey, how do I fix this?' We're going to start doing it every year."
"If you're not testing, you're not doing your job and it's a disservice to anyone who steps on your field," Gernhard added.
Cox says mandating proper testing and maintenance for Indiana's synthetic athletic fields would be difficult for IHSAA, but he thinks the organization can help to raise awareness among school administrators and athletic directors.
"I do believe it's something the association can assist schools in. We need to provide encouragement and education and help our schools where we can, and this is an important topic" he said. "I think we can do more on this."
What does it cost?
A survey of Indiana field grooming and testing companies shows a comprehensive round of independent Gmax testing costs between $200 and $800, based upon the type of equipment used and the size of the playing surface.
McNitt recommends schools and facilities that have synthetic turf purchase their own testing equipment – a basic Clegg impact tester is available for about $4000 – to reduce the long term cost and to provide easy access to routine monitoring.
"The smartest investment is in purchasing the device yourself because if you go out and do the test regularly and do basic maintenance based on that testing, you can significantly extend the life of your field," he said.
An average artificial turf football field costs approximately $750,000 and is expected to last approximately ten years. If diligent maintenance extends the life of the field for two additional years, the annual cost savings of $12,500 more than covers the cost of a testing device and additional maintenance.
"My best advice is buy your own device and test routinely, and maybe every other year bring in somebody to do an independent test. It shows a basic level of care is going into that field," said McNitt, who also recommends that field managers look to the Sports Turf Managers Association for training and resources.
For Estep, the cost of testing was well worth the price.
"It's the best 500 bucks I've spent," he said. "I've made sure I'm doing my due diligence as a business owner and as a father, knowing when my kids come in here and play, they're in a safe environment." Hiding in the turf
Proper maintenance of synthetic turf goes beyond testing the turf's hardness, according to Moscrip.
He showed 13 Investigates plastic bags full of sharp metal objects – screws, nails, pins and track spikes – removed from artificial turf fields in central Indiana.
"When I first saw what they pulled out of our field, I said ‘You gotta be kidding me!'" Gernhard said. "I couldn't believe it."
"You'll never see them, and you would not know they're there unless you would use a magnet to pull them out," he said, adding that there is plenty more hiding in synthetic turf fields. "Athletes sweat and they spit and they bleed, unfortunately. It can be a very unhealthy area to play in," he said.
Cleaning the turf with sanitizers or special UV light kills harmful bacteria that can cause infection in athletes, and several Indiana companies provide those services to schools and private sports facilities willing to pay for them.
But facing tight budgets, some choose to limit or cut back on maintenance and testing, or simply believe it is not necessary on a surface originally promoted as maintenance-free. McNitt says the times have changed, and he has a message for field managers who allow years to pass without conducting testing and maintenance:
"Get your head out of the sand. That may have been fine years ago, but that just shows a neglect of the field," he said, shaking his head.
Note: Last year, NBC News and KOMO-TV reported on a different concern involving artificial turf, questioning whether chemicals in crumb rubber led to certain types of cancers in athletes who are exposed to the crumb rubber on soccer fields. While there is no direct scientific link between the reported cancer cases and the crumb rubber found in synthetic turf, the investigations have prompted nationwide calls for more research.
SynTurf.org Note: We call our readers’ attention to several shortcomings of the report. First, the paradox of showing copious amount of carcinogen- and toxin-laden crumb rubber being added to a facility to make up for the poor fractured skull-inducing Gmax reading. Second, the reporter notes that over time some of crumb rubber gets compacted and some just disappear! Crumb rubber—in dust form or granule—does not just leave: it gets ingested, turns into inhalable dust, or simply travels (migrates) off the field and into the general environment.
Villager photo by Cat Cutillo
[No. 104] New York City, New York: Cautionary tale about what mismanagement and lack of maintenance can do to an artificial turf field. The Sara Delano Roosevelt artificial turf soccer field located at the corner of Stanton and Chrystie Streets in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in New York City, opened with great fanfare in August 2006, which the pomp included Rafael Marquez, then a top player from FC Barcelona, trying out the plastic surface with local kids. According to an account of the ceremonies, which took place under a torrential rainstorm, “[u]nlike other ball fields with artificial surfaces, the tiny black rubber beads sprinkled among the green artificial grass are not just bits of old truck tires. Rather, they are ground up particles from recycled sneakers that Nike collects to use for this purpose.” The resurfacing of SaraD.RooseveltPark was “part of a campaign by Nike and FieldTurf to create new soccer fields in 15 different communities in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.” For details, see Judith Stiles, “Stars shine through rain at soccer field dedication,” in The Villager, Vol. 76, No. 3, 16 August 2006, at http://thevillager.com/villager_172/starsshine.html .
Fastforward, to January 2015! According to a news item on Bowery Boogie (14 January 2015), “[r]epairing the dilapidated (nay, dangerous) Nike soccer field in SaraD.RooseveltPark is a high priority, according to the Parks Department. Nearly nine years after its media-friendly debut, the Nike-built pitch is in tatters. Literally. The turf carpeting is a dangerous minefield of burrs, divots, and even exposed metal base. One athlete who plays on the field weekly says that people are constantly hurting themselves due to the subpar conditions.” The field has been in subpar conditions for several years. Source: Elie, “Nike Soccer Field on Stanton Street is in Terrible Shape; Parks Department Considers Repair a Priority,” on Bowery Boogie, 14 January 2015, http://www.boweryboogie.com/2015/01/nike-soccer-field-stanton-street-terrible-shape-parks-department-considers-repair-priority/ . The pictures below—all from Bowery Boogie—tell the tale of overuse and under-maintenance.
[No. 103] Greenbrier, Arkansas: Three artificial turf fields near-death before expiry of warranty.According to a news report in The Log Cabin Democrat (1 December 2014), “[t]he Greenbrier High School football field is wearing thin in places … The players on the field seem to be playing in a haze of fuzz and shedding, especially in the middle where the most use is occurring. Athletic Director Stephen Wood brought a proposal before the Board of Education to fix the problem under warranty or replace the whole field. This artificial turf was the latest innovation when it was installed six years ago with an eight year warranty. Wood pointed out that a warranty is pro-rated, unlike a guarantee. A new field purchased today would cost around $345,000. [Six years ago, two other school districts, Morrilton and Vilonia, … also purchased the same field for their schools. They are having the same problems; but not as bad as Greenbrier…. After extensive discussions and testing, the company agreed to honor the warranty by providing all the labor and new turf between the two end zones at their cost.” Source: BJ Fox, “Football field turf needs a makeover, in Log Cabin Democrat (1 December 2014), athttp://thecabin.net/news/local/2014-12-01/football-field-turf-needs-makeover
Makers of artificial turf fields tout the durability of their plastic, rubber and cork product when making the case that artificial turf fields are superior to natural grass. But before artificial turf can be marketed as more durable than natural grass an honest asses[s]ment must be made of the “premature failure” rate of artificial turf fields.
That is, what percentage of artificial turf fields installed each year need to be replaced before they are suppose to? The answer is especially crucial for the municipalities who are told that artificial turf fields last at least 10 years because the warranties for the fields are typically just eight years.
In Glen Rock, New Jersey, where I live, landscape engineer Gary Sorge of Stantec STN +0.37% claims that artificial turf is the best option for Glen Rock because synthetic fields “retain their resiliency” while natural turf “requires intensive maintenance.” No doubt real grass requires more maintenance, like watering and mowing, than the plastic stuff. But the savings from less maintenance for turf can quickly be eliminated if the artificial turf field does not last as long as advertised. The simple truth of the matter is that unless Sorge knows the premature failure rate of artificial turf installed each year he cannot possibly know if artificial turf is more durable than real grass. Nor can he assert that artificial turf is less expensive than real grass.
But there has been no specific data released by my town–or any other municipality I have researched–with respect to the definition of “premature failure” or the annual rate of failure. The annual rate–especially in recent years–is crucial for prudent cost-benefit analysis. So I put the questions of the definition of “premature failure” and “failure rate” to FieldTurf, who is the largest installer of artificial turf fields and the company Glen Rock politicians want to have install a plasticfield to replace our grass field.
Here is what the company said: “In 2011 we became aware of an issue impacting fields located in higher UV environments. We determined that this issue stemmed from misrepresentations from a vendor that provided the fiber for a certain type of earlier generation FieldTurf field. As a result, we filed a suit against the company (TenCate). This is a matter of public record, and the complaint is attached for your reference. The case was settled, we honored our warranties and since this issue FieldTurf now produces our own fibers, controlling our own quality levels and helping us limit the chances something like this could happen again.”
When I pressed further about the definition of premature failure and failure rate, the company wrote: “Unfortunately we can’t provide this information due to competitive and legal reasons. We totally understand that these may seem like simple questions to you, but as part of a public company and due to the unfortunate fact that we have ongoing litigation to think about, we cannot comment further here.”
But it is imperative that the municipalities thinking about installing artificial fields have this information and data so they can make an informed decision. And if they do not have such data, how can they claim artificial turf fields are more durable than grass fields?
Companies that make and install artificial turf fields market the long-term “cost savings” of using their plastic, cork and rubber product compared with natural grass. The artificial stuff requires less maintenance and can be used more than grass, or so the theory goes.
But all across the U.S. towns and schools that have replaced their grass fields with artificial turf are finding out the hard way that the plastic stuff doesn’t always last as long as advertised.
Says Michael Tarantino, director of maintenance and operations for PowayUnifiedSchool District, and an at-large director for the Sports Turf Managers Association, “I think you are seeing buyers remorse of artificial turf fields because communities quickly lose sight of the replacement costs associated with artificial turf. You wouldn’t use artificial turn from an ROI (return on investment) point of view.”
The Wall Street Journal: “Over the past decade fake-grass fields like those the pros play on have gone mainstream, turning up not just in big stadiums but at high schools, city parks, even some middle schools, usually at a cost of $400,000 to $700,000. But dozens of fields installed between 2006 and 2009 were flawed and are now falling apart, forcing schools to replace playing surfaces they once thought would last a decade or more.”
One result has been fighting among field turf installers and their suppliers. For example, as reported in Ripoff Report, three years ago FieldTurf (the leader in artificial turf) filed a major lawsuit against its largest supplier – Royal TenCate based in Holland. By their own admission, at least 167 Fieldturf fields have failed because the synthetic grass fiber has degraded prematurely.
In many cases, like Hutchinson Field and WalnutHigh School, customers with defective Fieldturf fields have had their defective fields replaced under warranty at no cost to them.
But in other cases, even if municipalities have a warranty they often end up in court over disputes with the companies that installed the turf. In other instances, the “solution” presented to the town by the turf company consists of replacing the turf with the same, “failing” turf at no charge; or the same failing turf and a bit of re-grooming of the field’s base with a possible extended warranty and a big fee.
For example, two years ago, BeavertonSchool District decided it needed to spend as much as $850,000 to replace the artificial turf at Westview and Southridge high schools, after the 6-year-old athletic fields failed prematurely. AvonHigh School had its artificial turf field ,which deteriorated prematurely, replaced by FieldTurf at a reduced cost, but the cost to the school district was still $295,000.
To be sure, some towns are still installing fake grass. After failed bids in 2006 and 2008, voters in Irvington, New York narrowly approved a $4.6 million facilities improvement package this month that will allow for the installation of an artificial turf field.
But with many artificial fields now maturing, there are signs that taxpayers do not like what some towns are going through. In West Deptford voters recently rejected by an almost 2-1 margin replacing the high school football grass field with artificial turf. What is significant about the rejection of the $1.3 million turf field proposal is that at the same the artificial field was rejected, voters approved $16.8 million in improvements at all five of the district’s schools. And last November, voters rejected artificial turf fields in three states: New Jersey, Vermont and Maine.
[No. 100] Brad Fresenburg: On the cost of artificial turf fields, including maintenance. Brad Fresenburg isa turf grass specialists at theUniversity of Missouri extension in Coloubia, Missouri. According to a report by Ryan D. Wilson, the news editor of Clay Center (Kansas) Dispatch(“Grass not cheaper on the artificial side,” 8 September 2014) athttp://www.ccenterdispatch.com/opinion/article_f36e8394-379f-11e4-8d0f-0017a43b2370.html , “[w]hether it’s for the new football stadium proposed for east of the high school, or installing it at Unruh Stadium [in Clay center, Kansas], artificial turf is looking more and more like a bad idea. In either case, artificial turf would cost $700,000 to $760,000 to install, a pretty hefty price tag considering that in the long run, an artificial turf field won’t save the school district any money. A widely publicized study says that despite popular belief, artificial turf fields cost as much or more to maintain than natural grass fields. Several universities, including the University of Arkansas and the MichiganStateUniversity, found in 2009 that ‘it is a myth that synthetic fields require less maintenance than natural turf grass fields.’ Without the need to replace artificial turf every 8 to 10 years, MichiganStateUniversity’s certified sports turf managers said in 2009 the typical annual maintenance costs of artificial turf fields there ranged from $13,720 to $39,220. Artificial fields require additional in fill, disinfectants and sprays to reduce odors and static cling, and removal of organic matter. You can’t even eliminate irrigation from artificial fields because they need it to reduce the temperature of the field on warm, sunny days.”
According to Brad Fresenburg, who is quoted in the piece, “[i]f you include the cost of replacing the field every 8 to 10 years, maintenance cost jumps to $65,000 to $110,000, depending on whether you have a basic or premium field…Just to dispose of the old, worn out field costs $130,000 plus transportation and landfill charges.” “’Don’t let anyone come around and say it’s for cost reasons,’ Fresenburg said on the University of Missouri’s website.” “A basic synthetic field costs roughly $600,000 initially and have an estimated $5,000 annual maintenance budget, Fresenburg’s study found in 2012. A premium artificial turf installation was estimated to cost $1 million, plus $20,000 annually for maintenance. In contrast, natural grass, soil-based field like the ones we have now cost about $33,522 annually; although it can be maintained on a budget of $25,000; Fresenburg said. These amounts are pretty close to what Superintendent Mike Folks has said our grass fields cost to maintain. “’Schools say ‘we don’t have the money to maintain natural fields but then turn around and spend $600,000 to install a synthetic field,’ Fresenburg said. ‘Everyone is going to this because they want to keep up with the Joneses.’”
[No. 99] Winslow, Arizona:Another replacement of artificial turf due to premature aging. According to a news report in the Arizona Journal (5 September 2014), in May 2012 the company that had installed the artificial turf field in 2008 “sprayed sunscreen on the field to make it last longer,” but a month later “the turf began to turn brown and some of the material had begun to deteriorate.” “Field Turf was contacted about the problem, and a crew came and washed the field to remove the sunscreen. The results were not what district officials wanted and when no agreement could be reached” “[t]he [school] board … authorized the district’s attorneys to proceed with litigation [when] the resolution offered by the company was not considered satisfactory under the warranted provided.” Source: Linda Kor, “Winslow Board Works Toward Settlement With Filed Turf USA,” in Arizona Journal, 5 September 2014, at http://www.azjournal.com/2014/09/05/winslow-board-works-toward-settlement-with-field-turf-usa/.
[No. 98] Harare, Zimbabwe: Lessons on maintaining and playing on artificial turf. According to a news report in The Herald (5 March 2014), the artificial turf at Harare’s Rufaro Stadium is overdue for rejuvenation. The field was installed in 2008 and the contractor who installed it has recommended that the rejuvenation take place at least every three years. This is done in order to make it comfortable to play on and avoid injuries to players. “The process which involves the complete removal, thorough cleaning and the re-laying of the turf will require about US$110 000 and will be done once the funds are guaranteed with the machinery imported from Europe. It will take two weeks to complete the process.”
The contractor, “who has been contracted by Fifa to install artificial turf in most of the African nations, also said the turf needed continuous supply of rubber granules to keep it in good condition.” “Basically the process will make the pitch cleaner and softer and afterwards it will last for the next two years in good condition.” “This turf was given to Zifa by Fifa as a present and they in turn handed it over to Harare City Council. It was agreed they will take responsibility for the maintenance including rejuvenation and buying the rubber granules but it seems everybody was busy.” “When you do this you need extra rubber for the next two or three years because it will be expensive to bring half container of rubber from [the Netherlands]” According to the contractor, “Fifa donated 30 tonnes of rubber granules but unfortunately somebody thought that for the next 10 years the maintenance and the rubber, everything will be for free, yet Fifa were only installing.” “The council had been advised from the onset that after eight to 10 years the turf would need to be replaced which costs ranging around US$750 000.”
“Premiership football players and officials have been complaining about the playing surface at Rufaro which they claim is hard and dangerous to play on since it makes them vulnerable to injuries. The stadium authorities … invited the contractors to explain to the Premiership club coaches but unfortunately only three coaches … turned up.” The contractor stated that “Fifa have not insisted on any type of special boots for use on the artificial turf but here it’s advisable to use low penetration boots, the ones that you may use on a muddy pitch. They have better grip on this turf but long studs put an extra strain on the ligaments.” He also said that “the surface needed to be sprinkled with water every time before hosting a football match to cool down the temperatures on the synthetic surface, and the stadium needed to be combed up regularly to make it soft and more comfortable.” “If you don’t brush the pitch the grass will be lying down flat and the ball will roll very fast on the surface. Extra rubber will also help the ball to flow slowly and more consistently.” Source: Eddie Chikamhi, “Zimbabwe: Rufaro Turf Needs Facelift,” in The Herald, 5 March 2014, at http://allafrica.com/stories/201403050172.html .
[No. 97] What is it with these short-lived professional artificial turf fields? According to a news report in The Oregonian (20 March 2014), when the Portland “city officials negotiated a complicated stadium deal to secure a Major League Soccer franchise, both sides expected that new artificial turf installed [at Providence Park] for the 2011 soccer season wouldn’t be replaced until 2019. They were wrong. After just three seasons, the Timbers in January  replaced the synthetic turf because of performance concerns about how the soccer ball bounced. The team will bill Portland for costs up to $343,363."
"At the same time, city officials agreed to pay the Timbers nearly $4 million through 2035 to help cover costs of turf replacement that is now expected every two years. The new arrangement, approved this month [March], defines the city’s long-term financial commitment and eliminates its original promise to replace turf anytime it failed.” “In addition, the city will cover half the cost to replace the shock pad beneath the turf, which should be replaced twice at an estimated cost of about $335,000.”
In 2012, the team’s owner had boasted that “We continue to have what I believe to be the single-best artificial surface for pro soccer in the United States.” In March 2013, the team’s senior vice-president, said, that the surface was the “top artificial playing surface for professional soccer in North America.” According to The Oregonian, “[b]ut seven months later, after another season of wear and tear, Portland no longer had such bold bragging rights. An outside firm hired by the Timbers tested the field in October. The company found the turf passed safety tests but failed certain performance standards for how the ball should bounce and roll, compared to a grass field.” Source: Brad Schmidt, “Portland Timbers and city renegotiate stadium deal, costs because artificial turf fails after just three seasons,” in The Oregonian, 20 March 2014, at http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/03/portland_timbers_and_city_rene.html .
SynTurf.org’s Note: What is exactly really going on with these 2-4 year replacements for professional-grade synthetic fields? Well, there may be issues of manufacturer’s defect that prevents the surface to last the duration of its advertise life or performance; there may issues of negligence in poor design and installation; or there maybe may be issues related to use and maintenance that cuts down the life of the filed as advertised; or all of the above and some. Regardless, for any one of these there are ultimate remedies that can pursued – sue the manufacturer, sue the installer, introduce change in use, and beef up the maintenance (including rejuvenation) regimen. One loss that can never be replaced is the burned on the taxpayers of municipalities that end up holding the bag. The case of Portland above is one such cautionary note. Once you go synthetic, one is on the hook for the short- and the long-term unexpected costs.
[No. 96] St. Charles, Louisiana: Premature artificial turf fields. According to a news report in the St. Charles Herald Guide (28 February 2014), recently, on February 6, “[a]fter signs of premature wear were discovered last year, the artificial turf fields at both Hahnville and Destrehan highs schools were recently inspected to assess whether warranties on the fields had been breached by the company who installed them. Both field systems were installed by FieldTurf Tarkett in 2008 for a combined cost of $2.6 million.” According to John Rome, executive director of Physical Plant Services for the school system, company reps “reviewed the fibers in several spots on the field including the end zones, logos, hash marks and field lines, and documented their inspection with photographs. In addition, inspectors measured the grass blades to assess their length now in comparison to when they were first installed.” “At Hahnville High School, wear to the artificial turf is most noticeable. Some of the synthetic grass blades have broken and fibers within them have become unbound and lay flat on the ground rather than sticking up.” “Officials with St. Charles Parish Public Schools were first alerted to premature wear on the schools’ artificial turfs in November 2012. FieldTurf Tarkett examined the turf and found the fields had not reached the point of failure at that time and did not warrant replacement.” “Rome said since FieldTurf Tarkett holds the warranty, it will be up to their determination on whether the field will qualify for replacement under the warranty in the future. If replacement is needed in the future, it is unclear whether FieldTurf Tarkett will offer to replace the entire field at cost or only give the school system a discount on new turf and installation.” “After being alerted to the issue last year, then School Board Vice President Jay Robichaux said should a disagreement arise between he schools and FieldTurf Tarkett on the handling of the situation the schools may have to pursue action in the courts.” Source: Kyle Barnett, “Inspection will determine if $2.6 million high school fields need turf replacement,” in St. Charles Herald Guide, 28 February 2014), at http://www.heraldguide.com/details.php?id=13868
[No. 95] Charlestown, West Virginia: Another case of premature aging. The Schoenbaum Stadium is a soccer stadium located in Coonskin Park, Charleston, West Virginia. According to a news report in the Charleston Daily Mail (20 February 2014), Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission - by its attorney Jordan Herrick of Attorney Chuck Bailey’ss law firm – “has sent a letter to the makers of the failing turf at the Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium, requesting the manufacturer - FieldTurf, a division of Tarkett Sports - honor the turf's warranty. Earlier this year, the turf began to fail after a heavy rain. While the remaining turf is safe to use, some of the “blades” have come off the field. The turf was installed just six years ago. Premature failures of similar fields around the country have also been reported, including at professional and collegiate stadiums.” “FieldTurf has only offered to provide a discount on installing a new field, rather than replace the failing turf. However, the parks commission felt the entire cost of a new field should be covered.” “We’ll end up suing them,” Bailey said. “They’re not going to honor (the warranty).” Source: Matt Murphy, “Parks board votes to let gas company drill at Shawnee Park property,” in the Charleston Daily Mail, 20 February 2014, at http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/Kanawha/201402200146?page=1&build=cache
[No. 94] Bentoville, Arizona: A field of problems due to be replaced. According to a news report on KFSM, Channel 5 News (18 December 2014), the Bentonville School District “is trying to raise $1 million to replace the turf at the high school’s football stadium and soccer field. Bentonville Schools Athletic Director Scott Passmore said Athletic Surfaces Plus, in Memphis, Tenn., will be assisting the district with a campaign to raise about $1 million to replace the turf on the football and soccer fields. Bentonville High School Football Coach Barry Lunney said it is time for the artificial turf to be replaced. Passmore said the district had the fields evaluated in 2012. Rubber was added to the football stadium, indoor facility and softball fields at a cost of $55,000. Passmore said “We ended up having to do several thousand dollars of renovations just to try and get the fields to last a couple more years. Now we are at this point. We are having some problems with the fibers, and the seams on the fields are wore out.” Lunney said the current condition of the field can be hazardous to those using it. Lunney said “When you start losing the fiber on top, the rubber comes out. When the rubber comes out, you lose your softness of the field, which can be a danger to anybody on it. Injuries happen on hard surfaces.” Source: Katelynn Zoellner, “Bentonville Seeks $1 Million For Football Field Turf, Other Needs,” on KFSM - 5 News (Bentonville, Arizona), 18 December 2014, at http://5newsonline.com/2013/12/18/bentonville-looking-for-donations-to-replace-athletic-fields/
[No. 93]New Braunfels, Texas: School District concerned over premature aging of artificial turf. According to a news report on KGNB (20 November 2013), the “artificial turf at Unicorn Stadium is deteriorating faster than expected, and the [New Braufels Independent School District] school board is becoming frustrated with their vendor while trying to find a solution to the problem.” “NBISD Superintendent Randy Moczygemba says the issue has to do with a breakdown of the fibers that make up the blades of fake grass on the field. And although the district has reached out a number of times to the vendor of that turf, Moczygemba says they have not offered any real solutions to the issue.” Source: “NBISD Sets Special Meeting to Discuss Deteriorating Turf at Unicorn Stadium,” on KGNB (Fox News Radio), 20 November 2013, at http://kgnb.am/news/nbisd-sets-special-meeting-discuss-deteriorating-turf-unicorn-stadium
[No. 92] Des Moines, Iowa: Premature falling apart of high school artificial turf. According to e news story in the Des Moines Register (21 October 2013), the artificial turf field at the Johnston High School Stadium, in its eighth season, is “breaking apart due to sunlight and exposure, said Tim Kline, director of the district’s building and grounds department. An offer from the turf’s manufacturer, FieldTurf, would allow the district to replace the turf for an estimated $325,000, he said.” “The problem came to light after students tracked blades of the artificial grass into the school after being on the field, Kline said. It became similar to the old problem the school had when students tracked in blades of cut grass. In time, the only thing you would see is rubber because all the tops of the grass fibers would be gone.” “The company is offering the district a discount on the installation due to the breakdown, Kline said. Without the discount, the installation would cost an estimated $470,000.” Source: Grant Rodgers, “Johnston considers replacing turf at stadium: The manufacturer has offered the district a discount after the field began breaking apart,” in Des Moines Register, 21 October 2013, at http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20131021/COMM08/310210122/1024/SPORTS/?odyssey=nav%7Chead&nclick_check=1
[No. 91] St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: Widespread premature aging of artificial turf fields. According to a news report in the St. Charles Herald Guide (22 August 2013), “ The artificial turf fields at both Destrehan and Hahnville high schools are experiencing premature wear due to a manufacturer defect.” According to John Rome, executive director of Physical Plant Services for the school system, “the problem is with the artificial blades of grass’ ability to withstand prolonged sunshine.” “They are having a problem with deterioration of the fibers on the field playing surface itself – the turf as we refer to it. There are some apparent issues with the UV protection on these fibers and they are deteriorating.” The fields were installed in 2008 and are under warranty until August 2016.
At Hahnville High School, some “blades of artificial grass have broken and the sheathing on the outside has come off, exposing fibers on the inside that have become unbound and lay flat on the ground rather than sticking up. This problem has been experienced in numerous other fields FieldTurf Tarkett has built throughout the southeast region of the United States, some of which they have had to replace before the warranty period was up.” “I know the fields in the southeast have experienced this problem. Fields local to this area – Newman, St. Charles Catholic, some fields in Jefferson Parish, as well as our two fields,” Rome said. “Over time the fields can get kind of compacted. They bring the fibers back up to the surface, but you are playing on that rubber and sand mixture,” he said. Source: Kyle Barnett, “Hahnville, Destrehan turf fields are defective, might need replacement<’ in St. Charles Herald Guide, 22 August 2013, at http://www.heraldguide.com/details.php?id=12974
[No. 90] FIFA to release in October reports on maintenance and heating up of artificial turf fields. According to an item on Fifa.com (30 August 2013), the FIFA Quality Programme has commissioned two studies regarding artificial turf to be presented on at the Congress of the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities (IAKS), which will be held in Cologne, Germany, on 22 October 2013. The announcement – available here and at http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/marketing/qualityprogramme/news/newsid=2159761/ reads as follows:
FIFA studies the effectiveness of football turf pitch maintenance
(FIFA.com) Friday 30 August 2013
In the various inspections carried out by FIFA in recent years, it has been noted that many football turf installations no longer display the same playing characteristics after a short period of time that they did in the beginning. This phenomenon can generally be attributed to a lack of maintenance, and flies in the face of the prevailing view in the football world that a football turf pitch does not need to be looked after. The result is pitches whose fibres already lie flat on the ground after a few months and whose filling material is unevenly distributed. This impairs not only the surface’s playing characteristics but also its appearance, which is also crucial for the pitch to perform at its best.
To demonstrate how important and sustainable the appropriate maintenance can be, a team led by Prof. Dr. Eric Harrison conducted a study on seven football turf pitches in northern France in conjunction with three providers of maintenance machines (SMG of Germany, Sisis/Dennis from the UK and Redexim of the Netherlands). The pitches were all three or six years old, as the biggest change in quality can be seen after such periods and the effect of regular maintenance was therefore most in evidence.
To identify the effectiveness of the maintenance, performance criteria such as the roll and bounce of the ball and the energy recovery of the pitch were tested before and after application by FIFA-accredited test institute Sports Labs. The resulting data is currently being evaluated and will be presented by Prof. Harrison and the FIFA Quality Programme team at the IAKS Congress in Cologne on Tuesday, 22 October from 14.00 to 16.00. However, it is already apparent that the results will be a clear pointer for all clubs, local communities and municipal authorities.
The FIFA Quality Programme team will also be presenting the findings of a study on heat generation on the surfaces of football turf pitches, which will likewise deliver new insights that will be key to the further development of such pitches.
In addition to the IAKS Congress, the FIFA Quality Programme will have its own stand at the FSB in Cologne, where members of the team will be available for discussion.
[No. 89] Dinuba, California: Premature wearing of turf at the high school. According to a news report in the Dinuba Sentinel (18 July 2013), artificial turf was installed at Dinuba High in 2007. On 15 July 2013, “[t]he field portion of Dinuba High School’s $1.3 million artificial turf and all-weather track had a facelift … to fix the deteriorating field, but how long the field will last is up in the air.” “A FieldTurf subcontractor spent eight hours grooming the field,” which “involved a lawnmower-like machine which picked up the infill, the black rubber material, and dispersed it evenly throughout the field. The machine also collected objects hidden in the field. Numerous bobby pins, nails, screws, paper clips and sunflower seeds were found. Infill was added at both end zones. A brushing attachment was used to brush the field.” According to Dinuba Unified School District Facility Manager Frank Rios, “when they rake the field the synthetic blades of grass come off. The field is showing bald spots. He said that many of the blades are getting very thin.” “Dinuba High’s field has an eight year warranty from FieldTurf, starting from the March 25, 2008, completion date.” Rios said, the “grooming picked up the grasses which were laying down, got rid of the bald spots and picked up lots of metal objects which were on the field and could have hurt a player.” “Rios picked up a large nail that was collected from the field and said, ‘Imagine what would have happened if a player fell down and this stuck him in the eye.’” “Rios said that he plans to have the field professionally groomed on a yearly basis.” “Despite the turf looking better, the field will be restricted to only high school team play this coming school year, said Rios.” Source: Keven J. Geaney, “Football turf shows wear,” in Dinuba Sentinel, 18 July 2013, at http://www.thedinubasentinel.com/articles/2013/07/18/news/doc51e83476cbb43451581685.txt .
[No. 88] Minneapolis, Minnesota: Concerns over cost of artificial turf. According to a news report inThe Star Tribune (20 October 2012), many school districts in the state wince at the initial costs of artificial turf fields and yet take the plunge anyway. “The trend is continuing even as leading experts such as John Sorochan, co-director of the Center for Athletic Field Safety at the University of Tennessee, caution that artificial turf has not been shown to be cheaper over time and others say that heavy use of the fields shortens their life span. Brad Fresenburg, a turf-grass specialist at the University of Missouri, said some officials are simply eyeing rival schools and making the purchase to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’” “’I always laugh at how [financially] strapped schools can all of a sudden come up with $600,000 to $1 million’ for an artificial turf field, said Sorochan, whose field safety center is funded in part by an artificial turf company.” He acknowledged there is a ‘time and a place’ for artificial turf fields, especially at schools where multiple sports must share limited space and ‘you just can't keep grass alive.’But too many schools, Sorochan said, are creating reasons to justify the expense.”
“Brian Horgan, a turf-grass specialist at the University of Minnesota, said that schools need to realize that the more teams they line up to use the field and justify its expense, the quicker it will have to be replaced. ‘If the promotional materials are saying 10 years, you will get less than that if you have lots going on on it,’ he said. ‘If you look at the cost, it doesn't always play out to the benefit.’
“Many schools have stopped saying an artificial turf field is cheaper than natural grass over the long run, largely because comparisons can yield blurry results. While FieldTurf says that an artificial field may initially cost more, the company said the field costs just $5,000 a year to maintain, compared with an estimated $52,000 for a natural grass field. But Mike Richardson, a horticulture and turf specialist at the University of Arkansas, said that companies regularly inflate the cost of maintaining a grass field, and downplay the cost of keeping up an artificial turf field. He said that the cost of an artificial field, plus its annual maintenance over 10 years, totals $800,000 or more. ‘I challenge you to find one high school athletic program that’s spending $80,000 a year” to maintain a grass field, he said.” “At RichfieldHigh School, business manager Michael Schwartz said the school still likes its nearly $1.1 million artificial turf field even though FieldTurf workers had to be called back to fix a tear following the first year of use in 2011. The money to install the field, which Schwartz said had an eight-year warranty, became available when the school district sold a surplus building.” Source: Mike Kaszuba, “Schools’ sports turf is artificial, but cost concerns are real,” in Star Tribune, 20 October 2012, available at http://www.startribune.com/sports/175030471.html?page=1&c=y .
[No. 87] Reading, Pennsylvania: More schools report pre-aging artificial turf fields. According to a news report in The Reading Eagle, 14 November 2012, “Six years into its eight-year warranty, the artificial turf field behind TwinValleyHigh School has left the district with a crummy situation on its hands. In the past year, athletic director John Giuseppe said he has seen an excessive amount of the grasslike artificial fibers come loose from the field, exposing patches of the rubber crumbs and sand used at the base of such fields. Addressing the board finance-construction committee Monday 12 November 2012], Giuseppe said the field’s condition could incur future maintenance, or even replacement, costs after the A-Turf warranty expires in two years District officials said they were unsure of what those costs might be ‘The conversation we’ll have to have is what is our plan five years down the line if that field disintegrates and we're left with crumb-rubber and sand,’ Giuseppe told board members. Giuseppe said A-Turf, the company that installed the field, has been responsive in meeting the district’s repair needs. But after contacting other districts with the same surface, Giuseppe said other schools had similar problems, including a California school district that met with lawyers after its field was so worn down that it resembled a checkerboard.” Source: C. Ryan Barber, “Artificial turf not aging well,” in The Reading Eagle, 14 November 2012, available at http://readingeagle.com/SponsoredBy.aspx?page=http%3A//readingeagle.com/article.aspx%3Fid%3D427686
[No. 86] Palisades, PA: Colored lines and logo fibers go brittle in 4th year. 13 August 2012. According to a news story onPhillyburbs.com (30 July 2012), the artificial turf field at the Walter T. Rohrer Stadium at Palisades High School was installed in 2006, with an 8-year warranty, while the school district anticipated that the field would last 10 to 15 years. Four years into the field’s lifeless existence, in 2010, “school district staff noticed that color fibers on the turf field were showing signs of wear…. Though the green fibers appeared to be fine, an inspection found that the colored fibers for the lines, numbers and logo were thinner and becoming brittle.” At the time, “district officials met with the architect who designed the stadium project and a FieldTurf representative. FieldTurf reps agreed to replace the colored lines under warranty, but not the white lines. The school district maintains that the white lines should also be replaced.” According to district’s facilities manager, “We are in the middle of negotiating an agreement with FieldTurf to either replace the colored lines now or replace the entire field at a later date at a discounted price.” So much for warranty! Source: Amanda Cregan, “Palisades tackles turf problems, on Phillyburbs.com, 30 July 2012, available at http://www.phillyburbs.com/search/?t=article&d1=1+year+ago&q=turf .
[No. 85] Beaverton, Oregon: Failing artificial turf fields; faulty record-keeping as to use and maintenance; useless warranty = taxpayers’ nightmare! See story below at No. 84. According to a news report in The Oregonian (6 April 2012), “Beaverton School District plans to spend as much as $850,000 to replace the artificial turf at Westview and Southridge high schools, after the 6-year-old athletic fields failed prematurely. Although the district signed a limited warranty with the installer, faulty record-keeping on the district’s part complicated negotiations for a new field.” “In 2006, the district spent $1.7 million to replace natural grass at the two schools with artificial turf fields expected to last until 2016. At that time, the district signed an 8-year limited warranty with the installer, FieldTurf. Although the two schools have the newest synthetic turf among the district's five high schools, staff noticed in 2010 that the fields appeared to be prematurely aging. Clumps of grass fiber pulled free and bald spots appeared, both posing potential hazards for athletes. FieldTurf, which provided and installed the synthetic grass, repaired the damage for free as it occurred, said Dick Steinbrugge, the district's facilities administrator. But in March, Steinbrugge recommended to the school board that the district replace the fields before the warranty ran out. ‘The rugs are falling apart,’ he said.” “Steve Coury, regional sales manager for FieldTurf, said the Beaverton fields are among a group of sports fields installed during that time that aged prematurely because of a manufacturing defect. ‘We’ve been monitoring the fields for a couple of years, and they just weren’t up to the standards,’ Coury said.” “Two years remain on the warranty, but as Steinbrugge and project manager John Hartsock negotiated with FieldTurf to replace the grass, they discovered the district had not followed the requirements of the warranty. ‘To be frank, we haven’t done the best job of maintaining the records,’ Hartsock said. The warranty signed by the district required the staff to keep track of the hours of field use -- normal is about 3,000 hours a year -- as well as the frequency and type of maintenance.” “The warranty also limited the field use to football and soccer, but the schools used them for lacrosse, baseball, band, cheerleading and PE [physical education] classes. It also restricted repetitive or high-intensity training on the same part of the field, such as around goals.” “Under the agreement with Beaverton, FieldTurf will provide the new turf for free if Beaverton pays for installation, $550,000 for both fields. After a few additions for general repairs to the fields and a funding cushion to cover unknowns, the total reached $700,000 for both fields.” “On Tuesday, the school board approved an $850,000 contract with FieldTurf, which includes $232,000 for what Steinbrugge calls ‘cushioning pads’ but FieldTurf calls ‘drainage tiles.’ Steinbrugge said the extra cushioning would help absorb impacts to athletes. ‘We understand that these pads are not a requirement but are being used more often nowadays as concern about concussions is growing,’ he said in an email.” “The money for the fields will come from the 2006 construction bond, savings on projects that came in under budget, Steinbrugge said.” Source: Wendy Owen, “BeavertonSchool District to spend up to $850,000 to replace failing artificial turf fields,” in The Oregonian, 6 April 2012, available at http://www.oregonlive.com/beaverton/index.ssf/2012/04/beaverton_school_district_to_s.html
[No. 84] Beaverton, Oregon: premature falling apart of artificial turf fields at two high schools. According to a news report in The Oregonian (13 March 2012), the artificial turf fields at Westview and Southridge high schools – installed in 2006 - are literally falling apart. According tothe executive administrator for facilities, “The fiber is separating from the backing and coming out in handfuls … The rugs are falling apart.” The fields were still under warranty, according to the administrator, but the “warranty language is fairly weak.” Source: Wendy Owen, “Beaverton School Board wants more parents at budget meetings, hears about new science and swears in a police department,” in The Oregonian, 13 March 2012, available at http://www.oregonlive.com/beaverton/index.ssf/2012/03/beaverton_school_board_wants_m.html
[No. 83] Artificial pitch maintenance - who, how, when and why? The December 2011/January 2012 edition ofPitchcare Magazine (Issue 40) carried an article by one Nick Harris from Technical Surfaces Ltd. on the maintenance protocol for artificial turf playing fields - http://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/artificial-pitch-maintenance-who-how-when-and-why.html . The following consist of excerpts from the article (italics are added for emphasis):
“Your artificial turf pitch represents a substantial investment, purchased with a view to lasting between ten and fifteen years and, as such, demands a maintenance programme that reflects the value of your asset.”
“For new-build facilities, a good starting point will be the guidelines laid out in the manufacturer's guarantee, which will help you to identify the daily, weekly and monthly maintenance requirements of your artificial pitch. Aside from recommending best practice, an approved maintenance programme is intrinsically tied to the manufacturer’s guarantee; failure to properly maintain your pitch will often invalidate your warranty.”
“Your pitch installer will detail a set of maintenance duties that must be performed (and logged); from basic inspections, litter picking, leaf collection and brushing, through to mechanical sweeping, infill top-ups and decompactions. They should also give advice on the most appropriate machinery and equipment to use to enable these tasks to be completed.”
“It is important to remember that a maintenance programme can be introduced at any stage in the life cycle of an artificial pitch, although the benefits are always most apparent when introduced from day one. That said, there are specialist services available from pitch maintenance companies which, when supplemented by a continued programme of regular maintenance, can add a further five years' use to an older pitch that might otherwise be considered beyond repair.”
“So, having identified the essentials of maintaining your artificial pitch, the next task is to assign the responsibility to a dedicated team, be it your in-house groundstaff or outsourced to a specialist contractor. Again, any decision-making will be governed primarily by constraints on time, funds and knowledge, so you will need to adapt your maintenance regime accordingly.”
“You could choose to project-manage the full maintenance requirements of your artificial pitch in-house. To do this correctly requires a large initial budget (in the region of £20,000) [$US 31,200] in order to purchase a suitable machine. There are a select number of specialist manufacturers in the industry, whose machinery has been modified from the technology used to develop grass-cutting and floor-cleaning equipment.”
“The one procedure that cannot be completed using this type of machinery, however, is infill extraction and replacement - a highly specialised process typically required later in the life cycle of an artificial pitch, when draining capabilities have failed.”
“Regular brushing and mechanical removal of leaf and tree debris, dirt, detritus and broken-down carpet fibres will help to minimise contamination levels, if administered at appropriate intervals throughout the life of an artificial pitch but, ultimately, whether it is the result of insufficient maintenance practices or simply the age of the artificial turf itself, the likelihood is that water will eventually fail to drain away completely.”
“When this happens, you will be faced with either resurfacing your artificial pitch or replacing the contaminated infill by means of a specialist deep-cleaning service that is only available from dedicated pitch maintenance experts. Replacing the artificial pitch before it is has reached its full life expectancy is an economically redundant decision, and represents a poor return on your initial investment. Yes, resurfacing is a certainty with an artificial pitch, but there are services available that can help to delay the inevitable, from which you may not benefit if you choose to complete all your maintenance work in-house.”
“The most fundamental operations are daily and weekly duties; regular brushing, dragging, litter picking and leaf collection, all of which require minimal time and effort. By completing this work in-house, rather than outsourcing it to a contractor, you can dramatically reduce your spending, freeing up additional funds for more specialist procedures.”
“If you are assuming that the outsourced maintenance of your artificial pitch will cost less to maintain than a natural grass surface, then you could well be disappointed. However, an annual budget in the region of £7,500 [$US 11,700] should provide you with a comprehensive maintenance service that will help to enable your pitch to be used for around forty-five hours a week, which equates to approximately £3.20 [$US 5] for every hour that the pitch is in use.”
“For pitch owners and operators, the warranty implications of carrying out incorrect, or no maintenance, are serving to promote a greater understanding of the importance of a dedicated maintenance programme, to the useable life of their artificial surface. Exactly how that maintenance is implemented depends on key indicators, primarily available funds.”
“As with natural grass, time and effort is required to effectively maintain an artificial pitch, and the necessary knowledge of the construction and maintenance requirements of these facilities should form part of any grounds team’s skill set.”
“For every ten hours of use on an artificial pitch, one hour should be allocated for maintenance and, if you follow this rule from day one, a successful maintenance programme can help you maximise the return on your investment and enjoy many years of use from your artificial sports pitch.”
[No. 82] More premature aging of artificial turf fields. According to a news report in the Beaumont Enterprise (26 January 2012), on 26 January 2012, the Port Neches-Groves school board, in Beaumont, Texas, voted unanimously at a special meeting to hire a local law firm to represent the district and to authorize the superintendent “to take legal action against FieldTurf,” the company that installed the artificial turf at Port Neches Groves-High School football stadium in 2008. According to the article, “District officials said the turf, which was supposed to last eight to 10 years, is experiencing premature wear. The turf is still under warranty, but Superintendent Rodney Cavness said it is not being honored by the company.” Source: Amos Morale III, “PN-G fires first shot in turf war,” in Beaumont Enterprise, 26 January 2012 , available at http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/PN-G-fires-first-shot-in-turf-war-2726642.php
Meanwhile in Breckenridge, Texas, according to an article in Breckenridge American (24 January 2012), on 23 January 2012, the Breckenridge Independent School District Maintenance Director Tommy Wolfe and BISD Athletic Director Steve Freeman reported to the Breckenridge ISD Board of Trustees that “[t]he artificial playing field, or FieldTurf, [at Buckaroo Stadium] has been wearing prematurely and hasn’t been up to the standards set forth by the company’s representatives.” According to the article, “Wolfe said the company offered to come in and coat the field with FiberGuard, which will prolong the life of the field. However, Freeman said a situation similar to the one at Buckaroo Stadium took place at Aledo ISD and the company came in and corrected the situation. The Board of Trustees decided the FiberGuard coating was not an option and they were prepared to take legal counsel against FieldTurf, if needed.” According to the article, “[t]he white portion of the field, which is mainly the yard lines, sideline areas and lettering has been breaking loose prematurely.” “We just want to make sure we are getting what we paid for,” Wolfe said. “Coming in with that FiberGuard is not the answer, in my opinion.” “Wolfe said the company finally contacted him for the first time since September, when the problem was originally reported to FieldTurf.” Source: Rob Durham, “BISD Board prepared to battle over FieldTurf,” in Breckenridge American, 24 January 2012, available at http://www.breckenridgeamerican.com/news/get-news.asp?id=10646&catid=1&cpg=get-news.asp
[No. 81] Renton, Washington: CenturyLink Field’s artificial surface bites the dust just after 4 years.According to a news item in Soccer America Daily (23November 2011), “[MLS] Fans and players had hoped otherwise, but rather than install a grass surface at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders and NFL Seahawks have again opted for FieldTurf. The teams announced Tuesday that the latest version of FieldTurf will be installed next February. It replaces a surface laid in 2008 that had deteriorated considerably in the past two seasons.” Source: by Ridge Mahoney, “FieldTurf will be back in Seattle for 2012,” in Soccer America Daily, 23 November 2011, available at http://www.socceramerica.com/article/44767/fieldturf-will-be-back-in-seattle-for-2012.html .
[No. 80] Fort Myers, Florida: Another artificial turf filed is done in prematurely. Bishop Verot is a private high school in the Fort Myers’ area. According to a news report in News Press, June 1, 2011, “In 2006, Bishop Verot became the first and only school in LeeCounty to install an artificial surface on its football field. Five years later, the Vikings are prematurely due for an upgrade. Starting last week, the FieldTurf company began removing the original surface, the first step in the process of replacing it.” “There were three years remaining on the warranty. Two years ago, [athletic director and football coach Phil]Dorn began to wonder about the field, which cost about $675,000 to install in January of 2006. ‘We started noticing that the fibers were broken down on the field about two years ago,’ Dorn said. “It was a matter of seeing what the issues were. They believe it was a malfunction in the production of the fiber.” Verot was one of the first in the country to receive the “duraspine,” type of strand, said Chris Wedge, regional sales manager for FieldTurf. ‘It’s a thicker strand,’ Wedge said. ‘In areas where there’s a high ultraviolet index, like Florida, on some fields the fiber has deteriorated very quickly.’
[No. 79] Dewitt, NY: Premature wearing of artificial turf fields due to lack of maintenance. According to a news report in Oneida Daily Dispatch (June 21, 2011), “Schools or private facilities that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to install synthetic turf fields often run the risk of wearing out their investment faster than it should.” “While very few schools like HamiltonCollege have their own machine, places like MorrisvilleState, Colgate and ChristianBrothersAcademy call Fisher to do the once-a-year field cleaning.” “The year-old Sports Turf Care business not only decompacts turf fibers and spreads out the rubber pieces that have built up, but also removes foreign objects. What type of objects? [Bobby pins, metal … mouthguard, bandage, screws]. “Besides the danger to athletes falling on sharp objects, artificial fields with long blades become matted down in high-use areas if they are not brushed regularly. That will wear out the field faster. “These fields are made to last 12-15 years tops,” Fisher said. “It’s going to ensure that in 15 years it doesn’t look like Utica’s.” “UticaCollege was one of the first places in the country to install a turf field with individual blades in 2000. It lasted longer than its 8-10 year expectancy but, according to Fisher, it would have been in much better shape if there had been regular maintenance on it.” “Fisher also makes sure to spray anti-microbial on indoor fields, where a surface that catches spit and other bodily fluids does not get cleaned by rain and UV rays. As synthetic field technology continues to improve, so are the ways to ensure turf lasts as long as possible. Fisher hopes the niche industry will continue to grow as more schools and organizations install artificial surfaces.” Source: David M. Johnson, “Artificial field maintenance a 'turf' sell for Oneida man,” in Oneida Daily Dispatch, June 21, 2011, available at http://oneidadispatch.com/articles/2011/06/21/sports/doc4e013e827ed92083871740.txt
[No. 78] More replacement woes about artificial turf fields. By Now it is a very familiar story: a municipality rushes to placate the boosters and sports-craved parents and soaks the taxpayers for millions of dollars that are required to install artificial turf fields – without giving a hoot at the time about who will fund the replacement when the time comes to retire the worn out field (see some of the recent posts on this page below)- and what if the field fails prematurely and the purveyor sells the buyer an upgrade model at additional cost. In the vein – according to a PR Press release (May 27, 2011) “The Naval Academy Midshipmen [Annapolis, Maryland] will be playing on the very best in turf technology this coming season at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Naval Academy Athletic Association has announced that they will be installing FieldTurf Revolution on their stadium field. The decision to replace their current FieldTurf surface was made after the Midshipmen looked at the innovative FieldTurf Revolution system that was launched at the beginning of 2011.” Source: “It's a FieldTurf Revolution for the Naval Academy,” at http://www.pr.com/press-release/327027 . Interestingly, according to FieldTurf’s own web information, http://www.fieldturf.com/baseball-turf/high-profile/naval-academy-midshipmen-terwilliger-brothers-field-at-max-bishop-stadium/ the field that is being replaced was a FieldTurf installation, put in on January 19, 2006 – that is only five years ago. Did the field wear our prematurely? Or the American taxpayers like for theMidshipmen to play on an arguably the state-of-the-art artificial turf field when there are other pressing needs face the nation?
The Atlanta Silverbacks are a USL-1 soccer club and they play at Silverback Stadium. According to a news item on IMSoccerNews (May 24, 2011), “The original playing surface was laid in 2006, when the stadium opened for professional play. Despite having a warranty of eight years, by the time the Silverbacks were to return to the field in 2011, the FieldTurf in the stadium had experienced rapid deterioration. Many factors contributed to this, including a flood in September of 2009 that completely inundated the park. ‘The flood had a moderate effect, as it did put a lot of debris and silt on the field,’ said [Atlanta Silverbacks President Michael] Oki. ‘However, the field had already been slated to be replaced due to the turf having warranty issues with the fibers. The fibers in the original turf were defective and not holding up properly.’” Source: Chris Martz, Atlanta Silverbacks Stadium Gets New Turf, on IMSoccer News, May 24, 2011, available at http://www.insidemnsoccer.com/2011/05/24/atlanta-silverbacks-stadium-gets-new-turf/ .
The Youngstown State University’s Beede Field at Stambaugh Stadium is home to the YSU (Youngstown Ohio) football and soccer programs and plays host to high school football games, numerous intramural events and Health and Physical Education classes. According to a news item on YSU Sports (May 22, 2011), “Through careful planning, the funding for [replacement of the artificial turf field] comes from a reserve plant fund dedicated solely for the replacement of the stadium’s turf.”The stadium opened in September 1982 with Astroturf surface. That surface was replaced in March 1991 with Astroturf. In May 2002 the surface was replaced with SprinTurf. “This [newly-planned] surface replaces the SprinTurf synthetic field that was installed in May 2002. It marks the fourth time turf has been installed since the Stadium opened in September 1982.” Source: “Stambaugh Stadium Synthetic Playing Surface Replacement Underway,” on YSU Sports, May 22, 2011, available athttp://www.ysusports.com/sports/fball/2011-12/releases/turf-update1 .
[No. 77] Ridgewood, New Jersey: Costly face job on artificial turf field. This is the story that keep son giving – first the flooding, then the clean up, and now a wrinkle removal procedure for the artificial turf field that got shriveled in the face of heavy rains that reminded everyone why some places are called flood pain and not very suitable for a million-dollar artificial turf installation. For previous posts on the plight of Ridgewood, seehttp://www.synturf.org/waterdamage.html (Items No. 14 and 15). According to the news report in The Ridgewood News (April 27, 2011), “The final repair of the wrinkles left on new turf installed on Ridgewood High School's (RHS) Stadium Field after flooding this month [April 16] cost the school district about $21,000, Superintendent Daniel Fishbein disclosed at a Board of Education (BOE) meeting Monday night.” Fishbein stated that the cleanup was being conducted by the district's contracted custodial company, "so there's no additional costs." “However, when The Ridgewood News questioned Fishbein during the public comment portion of the [Board of Education]meeting about the cost of hiring an outside company, LandTek, to repair the turf wrinkles, the superintendent reported that the field repair in fact cost about $21,000. "I'm sorry. There was a cost for LandTek. I neglected to say that," he said, adding that he considered the repair of the wrinkles a "correction" and not a "clean-up" cost. For more, please go to Kelly Ebbels, “Ridgewood turf field's 'wrinkle release' costs $21,000,” in The Ridgewood News, April 27, 2011, available athttp://www.northjersey.com/news/120734824_Ridgewood_turf_field_s__wrinkle_release__costs__21_000.html . Go to the site for a picture of the wrinkled field.
[No. 76] Lodi, California: Grape Bowl rules dictate graduation ceremony seating, footwearand snaking. According to news reports in Lodi News-Sentinel (May 3, 2011), “Not only will Lodi Unified School District seniors be prohibited from wearing heels, eating sunflower seeds or chewing gum at this month’s graduations at the Grape Bowl, but their parents and other guests cannot greet them on the field at the end of the ceremony. Plus, the district must buy an estimated 500 or more new chairs to fit guidelines set by the city of Lodi, which owns the field.” “To protect the [synthetic turf] material, the city directed the district to use chairs with a rail connecting the legs instead of those with four points … The rail creates a rounded corner to guard against holes in the turf and displaces the weight across a bigger surface…. [T] he district was informed of the change at least a couple of months ago and its officials opted to buy new chairs instead of renting them.” According to school officials “Not allowing four-leg chairs is pretty standard procedure at colleges with field turf fields. The legs will sink way into the sand (and) tire crumb mixture, resulting in an uneven playing surface after the chairs come out. The manufacturer has specifications on field care that the city must abide by or void the warranty.” Source: Jennifer Bonnett, “Grads annoyed but understanding of Grape Bowl rules, in Lodi News-Sentinel, May 3, 2011, available at http://www.lodinews.com/news/article_53455730-e0e3-5942-8950-287700a16516.html . A day later, Lodi News-Sentinel reported that “The Lodi Unified School District has spent approximately $39,000 to buy new chairs that fit requirements by the city to use the Grape Bowl [made necessary because of the synthetic field turf at the stadium].” See Jennifer Bonnett, “Lodi Unified School District buys chairs for Grape Bowl use,” in Lodi News-Sentinel, May 4, 2011, available at http://www.lodinews.com/news/article_8e94c999-778e-5044-bb7a-989df76b2c4f.html
[No. 75] Fairfax, Virginia: Hosing the taxpayers for artificial turf field replacement! According to a news report in the Fairfax Times (April 9, 2011), “Fairfax County youth sports leaders say the county needs to sock away more money than it plans to save for replacing synthetic turf fields. CountyExecutive Anthony Griffin has proposed creating a new field replacement fund that will start out with $500,000. But according to Fairfax County Park Authority estimates, the county will need to replace about three fields per year, at a cost of about $1.2 million per year, starting in fiscal 2013.” Mark Meana, chairman of the Fairfax County Youth Football League and Fairfax County Athletic Council Chairman Harold Leff “said during budget testimony last week that the Board of Supervisors should allocate additional money to the field replacement fund when there are surplus dollars at the end of the fiscal year.” “And while youth sports groups pay fees for the use of county facilities, those charges will not cover the remainder of the costs associated with replacing fields, Meana said. ‘User or athletic fees will never be enough,’ he said.” “The county has 26 turf fields with several more in the pipeline.” “The fields have a lifespan of eight to 10 years, so the first three fields to be installed likely will need to be replaced in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively, said Deborah Garris, who manages the synthetic turf field program. Starting in 2016, the fields will need to be replaced at a faster rate because six fields were installed in 2006, Garris said. In all, it will cost an estimated $14.5 million to replace fields through 2022, Park Authority spokeswoman Judy Pedersen said.” Source: Kali Schumitz, “Turf replacements looming for county fields: Officials say $1.2M needed annually to refurbish surfaces,” in Fairfax Times, April 9, 2011, available at http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/cms/story.php?id=3285 .
[No. 74] Seattle, Washington: Artificial turf field at Qwest not doing the job for soccer. According to a news report in the Seattle Times (April 12, 2011), in the week of April 3, “Sounders FC commissioned a study to see if grass could be a viable playing surface in the future.” “Three things are a given when it comes to Sounders FC games at Qwest Field: a passionate crowd, attack-minded play and complaints about the artificial turf. The surface is a constant issue for soccer purists, who think the game should be played exclusively on grass. The grumbles aren't unfounded. In January, Qwest Field's three-year-old FieldTurf failed to achieve FIFA two-star certification (the highest rating for artificial surfaces) and currently holds FIFA one-star status. All the other MLS teams that play on turf — New England (Gillette Stadium, FieldTurf), Portland (JELD-WEN Field, FieldTurf), Vancouver (B.C. Place, Polytan) — play on two-star artificial surfaces or will upon the completion of their permanent stadiums. FIFA's official website categorizes one-star synthetic fields as ‘mainly for recreational, community and municipal use.’” “Players almost unanimously prefer grass as well, and Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller said Tuesday that the opportunity to play on a natural surface on the road could be one reason why the team plays so well away from home.” Source: Joshua Mayers, Turf at Qwest Field not holding up well for soccer, in Seattle Times, April 12, 2011, available at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sounders/2014756247_sounders13.html
[No. 73] Arlington, VA: Time to pay the piper as artificial turf field due for replacement. According to a news report in the Sun Gazette (March 16, 2011), ArlingtonCounty has nearly 100 government-owned sports fields, seven of which currently have synthetic surfaces. This includes the multi-purpose field at Gunston Middle School/Gunston Community Center in Arlington proper. “It was the ArlingtonCounty government’s first synthetic-turf field when converted from natural turf in 2002 … becoming the first county synthetic field to be renovated. [The County] Board members last November approved a contract of up to $715,000 to replace the field.” Source: “Gunston Synthetic-Turf Field Back in Use After Replacement,” in Sun Gazette, march 16, 2011, available at http://www.sungazette.net/articles/2011/03/16/arlington/news/nw82n1a.txt .
[No. 72] Clark County, Washington: School district’s artificial turf field flunks impact test, but still in use. According to a news item in The Columbian (March 7, 2011), last year, tthe Washougal School District’s artificial turf field at Fishback Stadium “failed two portions of a Portland-based firm’s ‘playing surface impact test.’” The aging artificial turf field is nearly nine years old. Regardless, the student are allowed to play on it. “[S]chool district officials and coaches say the field has been repaired and offers no significant injury threats to players. Still, the field needs to be replaced in the next year or two due to the effects of age, use and weather, said Doug Bright, the school district’s human resources director. A new turf is expected to cost more than $400,000.” “The WashougalSchool District recently hired FieldTurf to patch minor problem areas on the field at a cost of $800. Coaches and the school’s athletic trainer have declared it sound. ‘The surface is not in the type of shape where we would have to close it down,’ Bright said. The district needs to make a decision either this summer or next summer, he added, because the turf is ‘at the end of its life.’” “The school district is talking with industry leaders Sportexe, FieldTurf and AstroTurf about replacing the turf, Bright added.” Source: Ray Legendre, “Washougal schools again considering replacing aging surface at stadium,” in The Columbian, March 7, 2011, available at http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/mar/07/district-faces-tough-decision-on-fishback-turf/ .
[No. 71] Orlando, Florida: Citrus Bowl’s brand new artificial turf field needs a re-do. According to a news item in the Orlando Sentinel (March 4, 2011), in August 2010, the field at Citrus Bowl was converted into AstroTurf GameDay 3D60X at the cost of $975,338 to the city. As it turns out “[the field] isn’t level, so it has to be ripped up and redone.” “Fixing the field is potentially a costly job, but taxpayers won't be on the hook. City officials say it's up to the synthetic turf's manufacturer to pick up the tab.” Source: Mark Schlueb, “Citrus Bowl's new field of dreams needs a do-over,” in Orlando Sentinel, March 4, 2011), available at http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-03-04/news/os-citrus-bowl-astroturf-20110304_1_fake-grass-new-field-artificial-turf .
[No. 69] Port Neches, Texas: Another artificial turf field one bites the dust, only after two years. The playing surface at the PortNeches-GrovesHigh School’s Indian Stadium is FiledTurf. It was installed as a part of a $10.2 million renovation project that began in February 2008. Seehttp://www.pngindians.com/sports/football/indianstadium . According to a news report in The Port Arthur News (February 8, 2011), “The lush green field with purple and white markings has seen numerous football and soccer games since it was installed in 2008. But last fall the field began to show some wear and tear.” According to Superintendent Rodney Cavness “The problem … is fraying of individual turf fibers in the white sections of faux grass. It’s premature failure on the part of the turf itself.” According to Cavness, “of about 4,000 FieldTurf fields there are about 50 of them showing premature wear. All of these are in the southern portion of the U.S. where it is very hot with extreme sunlight/ultraviolent rays.” According to FieldTurf, the company “has 4,000 fields in the United States with more than 500 fields that are eight years or older.” Source: Mary Meaux, “Turf wars; PN-G to see replacement to 2-year-old field,” in The Port Arthur News, February 8, 2011, available at http://panews.com/local/x655594044/Turf-wars-PN-G-to-see-replacement-to-2-year-old-field and here.
[No. 68] Elizabethtown College: Artificial turf field is worn out for good. Wolf Field in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, is home to Elizabethtown College's lacrosse and field hockey teams. Opened in 2002, the surface of the filed is Softsport. According to a news item in the College’s newspaper, The Etownian (February 3, 2011), Wolf Field has been “deemed unplayable by an outside company that inspected the turf.” According to Athletic Director Nancy Latimore, the field had "reduction/loss in synthetic fiber resiliency due to fiber breakdown and wear" and “the turf could no longer hold the proper amount of sand and rubber fill and was worn down in ‘high traffic areas,’ like where the lacrosse goals are set up.” According to Director of Facilities Management and Construction Joe Metro, the NCAA does not require evaluations like these, but athletic representatives from the College Safety Committee asked that the field be tested. According to Metro, the inspection, which was done on November 10, 2010, “found that ... the field has essentially lost some of its ‘shock absorbency,' [and] it was recommended that the field not be used until the surface could be brought into conformance with current impact standards." According to Women's Head Coach Mike Faith, “when his team went on the road to play teams with newer turf, his players could see a difference.” Faith said, “I was concerned with how hard the turf [on Wolf Field] was in spots and how there was divots and regular wear and tear on the turf … since we've been playing on it every year, it's gotten worse and worse.” Source:T. Gavin Nevill, “Turf pronounced unplayable after inspector’s findings: Wolf Field in disarray after years of use,” in The Etownian, February 3, 2011, available at
[No. 67] Muskogee, Okla.: What’s the feel of a 10-year old artificial turf surface? The standard artificial turf industry warranty is 8 years. Of course, this does not mean that a turf field will last only 8 years – some do and some don’t depending on a variety of factors, including legitimate use, illegitimate use, quality, etcetera. According to a news item in the Muskogee Phoenix (January 29, 2011), the 10-year old artificial turf field at Indian Bowl “is coming apart, leaving rubber pellets on the surface” and “melting [players’] cleats on hot days.” According to junior Cody Heaton, “The quality of this turf has really gone downhill … During the year it will get air pockets and bubble up. Where the turf has worn away, black rubber beads are showing through. I’ve had the spikes on the bottom of my cleats melt.” According to junior Victor Williams, “This turf just comes right out, moves around … Where the rubber is showing through is hard. The flat spots are compacted. It’s just worn down.” The maintenance director said that safety “could become an issue in a few years, if the field isn’t repaired … We know from other fields, once you lose that top surface, the turf gets hard, more compacted … We’re anticipating a problem in about two years.” Source: Wendy Burton, “Bond issue would allow MPS to resurface football field,” in Muskogee Phoenix, January 29, 2011, available at http://muskogeephoenix.com/local/x135632056/Bond-issue-would-allow-MPS-to-resurface-football-field .
[No. 66] Navasota, Texas: Another premature aging of an artificial turf field. The NavasotaHigh School’s artificial turf filed at Rattler Stadium was inaugurated in September 2007. The turf at the time was touted to be “of the quality used in collegiate and professional teams.” See Steve Fullhart, “Navasota Opens Rattler Stadium,” on KBTX.com, September 8, 2007, available at http://www.kbtx.com/home/headlines/9659947.html . According to a news item The Examiner (Navasota, January 26, 2011), “Crews from the company Field Turf began tearing the carpeted turf from Rattler Stadium this week because of the shattering of some fibers in the turf. Last summer the company replaced the white on the turf and some of the infield… The new turf will still be under warranty for another 4-5 years.” Source: Scott McDonald, “Ripping up Rattler turf,” in TheExaminer, January 26, 2011, available at http://www.navasotaexaminer.com/news/article_e022e3a4-2982-11e0-aae5-001cc4c002e0.html .
SynTurf Note: In item 64 below, SynTurf.org reported on another Field Turf 2007 vintage that seemed to have prematurely aged. Is there a nationwide trend to these 2007 installations by this and other companies that may have used a specific “bad batch” carpet?
[No. 65] La Cañada Flintridge, California: Premature aging of synthetic turf field catches authorities off-guard. According to a news item in the La Cañada Valley Sun, (January 20, 2011), the artificial turf field at La Cañada High School “will need to be replaced within the next three to four years … Black pellets from the artificial turf have begun appearing on the field's surface because the turf is being crushed down … The estimated cost for replacing the artificial turf is $382,000.” The field’s joint use is governed by a tripartite agreement among La Cañada Unified School District, the Arroyo United Foundation and La Cañada High School Boosters Club.
The cost of the field’s installation in 2003 was borne by Arroyo United, which got in return the use of the facilities when they're unused by the district. In 2004 the La Cañada High School Boosters Club joined Arroyo and La Cañada Unified School District, with Arroyo and the Boosters agreeing to contribute a total of $120,000, which would go toward replacing the field in 2014 or 2015.
Now as it turns out, “Arroyo United and the Boosters Club have had difficulty meeting the financial obligations outlined in the contract.” Currently, there is only a balance of $58,869 in the replacement account.
[No. 64] Financial impact on sellers and insurers of premature deterioration of artificial turf fields under warranty. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. December 12, 2010. Recently, SynTurf.org posted a story about concerns over the cost of replacing artificial turf fields all at once in Los Angeles County. Seehttp://www.synturf.org/maintenancereplacement.html (Item No. 63, December 2010). That story got us thinking of a scenario in which a bunch of artificial turf fields having to be replaced because of product defect or poor installation while the fields are still under warranty. The nightmare of the original installer no longer being in business is a familiar one. Less appreciated is the effect on the industry that has to make good on the warranty in the case of a large scale replacements of prematurely deteriorated artificial turf fields. In a scenario like this, the manufacturer or its insurer will be bearing most if not all of the cost of the replacements.
SynTurf.org raises this concern because when municipalities decide to buy artificial turf fields they rarely look at the financial viability of the sellers, their insurers and the soundness of the warranty system. The potential for getting the run-around when it comes to fixing defective or worn fields was the subject of an article that SynTurf.org shared with the readers in http://www.synturf.org/industrynotes.html (Item No. 1). A few years back, SynTurf.org also reported on an item in Warranty Week (February 10, 2004) that warned: “In some of North America's largest sports stadiums, the grass is always greener, thanks to AstroTurf and its successors. Unlike the sods it replaces, an artificial sports surface comes with an eight-year warranty. But if you're planning to make a claim, bring your lawyer.” Seehttp://www.synturf.org/industrynotes.html (Item No. 6).
In the same report, Warranty Weekly quoted Darren Gill of FiledTurf as saying that “FieldTurf installations come with eight-year warranties, which is more or less the industry standard. ‘But our warranties,’ he said, ‘are the only ones backed by a third party insurer [Virginia Surety Company Inc., part of Aon Corp.].” Furthermore “Gill said that means whether FieldTurf thrives or disappears in the future, an insurance company will always be around to honor its warranty claims. In contrast, warranties issued by a small self-insured company would become worthless upon the demise of the manufacturer. So far, all that’s come back are minor repair jobs, Gill said. FieldTurf has yet to forward a warranty claim to its insurance carrier, he noted.”
That was in 2004. SynTurf.org does not know if FieldTurf has forwarded any warranty claims to its insurer since that time. However, if the proceedings in Santa Ana, California, in June of 2010 is any indication then it may well be the case that FieldTurf potentially will be drawing on its insurance carrier.
According to the Request, dated 21 June 2010, “On May 2007, the City of Santa Ana completed the installation of a $1.5 million synthetic sports filed in the Stadium…. Filed Turf, the supplier of the synthetic turf, provided an 8 year warranty on the product…. Recently, Filed Turf inspected our Stadium turf and noted that the monofilament fiber is deteriorating faster than normal. Filed Turf indicated this deterioration was due to a particular batch of monofilament fiber material that was provided three years ago.”
The Request further noted: “Filed Turf is offering to replace the entire filed free of charge using Field Turf Duraspine. The current 8 year warranty would continue for the remaining 5 years. They also offered the City an option to upgrade the synthetic turf with Field Turf Duraspine PRO, for $150,000.” Following negotiations, ultimately, “the City would pay for a material difference of $125,000 and a new 8 year warranty period will start upon completion of the project.” “If the City, the Request noted, “were to replace the synthetic field outside the warranty, the estimated cost would be approximately $500,000.”
Exactly how many Field Turf installations have used the prematurely deteriorating monofilament that was implicated in the case of the Santa Ana Stadium? According to the Synthetic Turf Council’s website, in 2003 there were 400 artificial turf fields in the United States. Today (2010) there are 5,500 fields, with nearly 1,000 being installed in 2009 North American schools, colleges, parks and professional sports stadiums.http://www.syntheticturfcouncil.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=3 . That means between 2004 and end of 2010, there has been 5,100 installations. Factoring out the 1,ooo installations from the mix, some 4,100 fields were installed in 2004-2008 and 2009, for 6 years, yielding an average of 700 fields in each of those years, including in 2007. Assuming a market share of 50% for FieldTurf, it is potentially plausible that in 2007 FieldTurf had some 350 installations. A list of FiledTurf installations is available on Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_FieldTurf_installations and the company’s own website http://www.fieldturf.com/installations/ .
The question therefore is how many of the 350 installations by Field Turf and hundreds of other by other vendors in 2007 used the bad batch of monofilament? Are they going to be replaced? Voluntarily? Do the owners of these 2007 installations even know that the deterioration of their fields is caused by a defective or prematurely deteriorating monofilament?
Naturally, not all field replacements are due to monofilament or construction problems. Many still under warranty are being replaced due to normal wear and tear. One example of this the artificial turf field at Freedom High School in Oakley, California. According to a news item in The Brentwood Press (December 7, 2010), after seven years of use, “[r]ubber chunks from the current field’s foundation have been coming lose, sending them flying as players dig in their cleats. Freedom Athletic Director Steve Amaro said some tests were done over the summer showing that the field is wearing out faster that it should.” “Since the current field is still under warranty, the Liberty Union High School District will pay a deeply discounted price for the new field. Freedom bought the current synthetic turf field in 2003 for $700,000, according to Wayne Reeves, the district’s Director of Project Development. That field came with an eight-year warranty.” “The district is purchasing the new synthetic field, which Reeves said will be state-of-the-art, for about $250,000. Reeves noted that this money is not coming out of the district’s general fund, but from cash specifically earmarked for construction. The new field will carry another eight-year warranty.” See Justin Lafferty, “Freedom to get new field,” in Brentwood Press, December 7, 2010, available at http://www.thepress.net/view/full_story/10559172/article-Freedom-to-get-new-field?instance=top_stories2 . The news report did not identify the supplier of the 2003 field.
To conclude: In the absence of cash reserves to contribute to the replacement cost of a field, or a significantly lower cost of production for replacement fields, a mass-number replacements of under-warranty fields cannot bode well for the financial viability of the suppliers of artificial turf fields or their insurers. It behooves the buyers of artificial turf fields to demand all relevant disclosures bearing on the ability of the sellers to withstand the financial risk of a mass-number replacements.
[No. 63] Los Angeles, California: Time to face the music: The cost of replacing so many artificial turf fields at one time. There is a Persian parable about an eagle who one day gave to a little boy one of its feathers in remembrance of their encounter by the brook. As the boy was not destined to become a scribe, he spared the feather from becoming a quill. As he grew older and mastered archery, he came to use the feather on an arrow just before he set out for his first solo hunt. Spotting an eagle in the distance, the mighty lad pulled at the bow and let go of the arrow. It flew high and fast and lodged itself under the eagle’s wing. Recognizing its own feather, the Eagle bemoaned: ‘tis of mine that is now in me.” The moral of the story is that one reaps what one sows.
And now the time has come for the Los Angeles area schools to visit the consequence of their decisions (wise-at-the time) to install artificial turf fields.
Earlier this decade, lots of high schools began switching to synthetic turf fields, spending more than $1 million. The fields were beautiful and held up great in all weather conditions. But now comes the hard part. They're starting to wear out. Ten years was the expected life of a field.
Now schools have to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace them. North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake will replace its eight-year-old synthetic field in June. The school has been putting away money in anticipation.
La Canada St. Francis, which was one of the first schools to purchase a synthetic field in 2001, is making plans to replace its field in the spring. For those who want to see how a field wears down, go see the St. Francis field.
My concern is that in a time of tight budgets, how are these public and private schools who took the plunge to replace grass fields with synthetic fields going to come up with the money to replace them? Hopefully, they've been planning for that day. If not, it could get ugly.
[No. 62] Point Grey, Vancouver, Canada: Tips for maintaining artificial turf fields. In November 2010 we came across this bulletin on the website of Point Grey Soccer Club, announcing “Pt. Grey turf closed for practices” http://pointgreysoccer.ca/node/724 . The notice stated the following information about the artificial turf fields:
Current Status Andy Livingstone East Closed until further notice Andy Livingstone West Closed until further notice Eric Hamber Closed until further notice Point Grey Closed until further notice Van Tech Closed until further notice Jericho West Closed until further notice
Weather Artificial Turf Fields can be played regardless of the ambient temperature. Artificial Turf Fields should not be played if there is snow present on the field. The field becomes exceptionally slippery and therefore hazardous. If standing water or snow has frozen onto the surface or "grass" then play or removal will damage the surface. Snow removal should NOT BE ATTEMPTED on Artificial Turf Fields. This Field Status Page will be updated before 12:00 noon on a daily basis until all artificial turf fields have reopened.
[No. 61] Calcutta, India: Artificial turf field dying from thirst! According to a news report in Calcutta Telegraph (October 25, 2010), On Sunday, October 24, 2010, “Tokuaki Suzuki, the director of competitions and a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) inspection team” blasted the condition of the artificial turf field at the “Salt Lake Stadium,” formally known as the Yuva Bharati Krirangan or Stadium of the Indian Youth, in Bidhannagar, Calcutta, in the West Bengal. “According to the AFC delegates, the grasses have died down “far too early” reflecting a clear sign of lack of maintenance. ‘Grasses of artificial turfs are livelier and more often seem natural. But here, it looks to have died down completely. This should not have been the case with something installed just a year-and-half before. It only tells that there’s not enough watering done,’ Suzuki said.” “Ever since the artificial turf was laid at the Salt Lake Stadium, there have been complaints about the turf.” Source: “Delegates blast the artificial turf,” in Calcutta Telegraph, October 25, 2010, available at http://www.telegraphindia.com/1101025/jsp/sports/story_13097105.jsp .
[No. 60] New York City: Ah! Those ever so enduring, immortal, low-maintenance and indestructible plastic fields! According to a news report in the New York Daily News (July 4, 2010), “Maybe artificial turf fields aren't all they're cracked up to be. Nearly half of the synthetic fields surveyed in a new report are so worn they failed to make the grade - even though city officials have long trumpeted turf over grass for being easier and cheaper to maintain.”
“Clearly more maintenance needs to be done,” said Cheryl Huber, deputy director of New Yorkers for Parks, which released the study last week. Of the 40 fields and playgrounds with artificial turf surveyed by the group over the past two summers, 19 were slapped with grades of D or F - mostly for having dangerous holes, loose seams and worn-out plastic blades. Among the worst spots was SternbergPark in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where investigators found problems as far back as 2008 - just three years after the turf was installed, the group said.” “The city keeps installing more, but they don't take care of the ones they have,” said Geoffrey Croft, head of New York City Park Advocates, which has been critical of the city's push for artificial turf. “They are repeating the same mistakes as with grass fields, but this time it's much more costly.”
“City data cited in the report show that turf fields cost nearly double to install, though officials estimate that over time they save about $15,000 a year through reduced maintenance costs.” “Parks Department spokeswoman Vickie Karp acknowledged “that several of our turf fields have shown wear and tear due to their age and heavy use,” but said “maintenance crews make every effort to perform repairs.” “In recent years, artificial turf has also come under fire for environmental reasons and for getting dangerously hot in the sun. A Daily News investigation in 2008 found the turf can get as hot as 162 degrees on even a mild summer day. Proponents argue that artificial turf stands up better to heavy use than grass and can be played on year-round.”
[No. 59] MetroWest (Boston), Mass.: Complaints about trash pile ups at artificial turf facilities. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass.May 30, 2010. At a conference a year ago a friend thought of making a video with an inquiring message that would ask: Artificial turf, what’s it good for?” The camera would then pan out and reveal a couple of hucksters, outside their trail trash surrounding, sitting in chairs on a large carpet-size piece of fake grass, with the dog relieving it self in the corner of the spread. The image captures a sentiment that most who live in green, vegetated neighborhoods have long felt – artificial turf playing surface is ghetto-izing our natural grass landscapes and living spaces. In the urban areas, where greenery is not very much a part of the landscape, the turf fields have managed to extend impervious surfaces between the asphalt and the concrete environment. But then children need a place to play, no?
Two specific report in the last week or so have shed a new light on the mindset that uses these fields – mostly over-privileged or under privileged adults and children who cannot be bothered to pick up after themselves. And a municipal government and management body that is incapable of enforcing a community’s sanitation code. It is not news to those who have made the logical point that if artificial turf fields increase play time that leads to more games per day and for a longer day, then more players and spectators will be at the fields at any given day – result is the generation of greater trash, plastic bottles, wrappers, and rubbish – either strewn about the place or piled high and overflowing the trash cans. Bees and flies hover around.
In a letter, entitled “Needham town fields are trashed,” written by Nancy Simpson-Banker, of Sutton Road, published in WickedLocal.com (Needham), April 27, 2010 (available at http://www.wickedlocal.com/needham/news/opinions/x749219355/L-etter-Needham-town-fields-are-trashed ): “My family has lived near DeFazio Field for over 10 years. We have always enjoyed walking and playing the fields. The new fields [that contain also two synthetic multi-purpose fields with athletic field lights] are beautiful, but they are covered with trash. My husband and I often take an early morning walk through the fields and over to the golf course. The amount of trash on the sidelines in the last week has been staggering. There is enough trash around side of the side of the back field to more than fill a town trash bag. Many mornings I fill a plastic grocery bag with field trash but my small efforts aren’t a longterm solution. I would like to ask the coaches to please help us keep the fields clean. If each player spent five minutes picking up trash after each practice and game, our trash problem would be eliminated. The current picture of the Needham fields is not one we want to present to children and parents who visit our town.”
By a letter, dated May 22, 2010, SynTurf.org heard from a reader whose property abuts the two artificial turf playing fields at the Sprague Elementary School area in Wellesley, Mass. Commenting on the state of the fields next to her, she wrote: “There definitely is an increase in trash, lining the new fields....the coaches, see to it that the fields are cleared and do not care in the least where the trash goes as long as the fields (Persian carpets!) are taken care of....as a result...I find plastic bottles etc thrown over our fence.....the athletes do not want to walk to the trash cans and the coaches are not making them.....and nobody cares....the DPW does not come around and clean the outer edges.....I can see by the Needham article that the same is true.....Defazio and Sprague were used constantly as natural grass fields...and there was not as much trash as now.....I am thinking it has to do with the coaches not paying as much attention to the surrounding area but rather the new facility....”
[No. 58] ArlingtonCounty, Northern Virginia: $835,000 to replace a single artificial turf field. According to a news report in The Sun Gazette (May 26, 2010), “As the county government expands its effort to build artificial-turf fields across Arlington, the time has come to reconstruct the very first such field built in Arlington. A synethetic-turf field at GunstonMiddle School [in Arlington] is slated to be replaced in the coming fiscal year, at a cost of about $835,000, county officials said.” The field was installed in 2002. Because “the useful life of a synthetic field is eight years,” “it will be beyond due for replacement,” county government spokesman Mary Curtius said. “All the county’s fields are on an eight-year rotation for replacement - their useful lifespan, according to their manufacturer.” Source: Scott McCaffrey, “Synthetic-Turf Fields Starting to Come Due for Replacement,” in The Sun Gazette, May 26, 2010, available at http://www.sungazette.net/articles/2010/05/26/arlington/news/nw130a.txt .
[No. 57] Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Sink hole in 1-year old artificial turf field deep-sixes soccer match. According to a news report in The Carlisle Sentinel (May 4, 2010), the Boiling Springs vs. Middletown varsity girls soccer game on May 4 “was cancelled due to the discovery of a sinkhole on Ecker Field,” on the 49-yard line; it was “about the size of a manhole cover, Superintendent Patricia Sanker said.” “Sanker attributes this most recent one to the heavy rains that recently hit the area.” “This is the first sinkhole on the field since renovations to replace the natural grass with synthetic turf were completed last May .” “Two sinkholes were reported on the field in November 2008, just after the renovations began.” Source: Erica Dolson, “Boiling Springs vs. Middletown girls soccer cancelled after discovery of a sinkhole on Ecker Field,” in The Carlisle Sentinel, May 4, 2010, available at http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2010/05/04/news/local/doc4be09e9fa72eb518200066.txt .
[No. 56] Winter damage to artificial turf fields. According to a news report in the Horticulture Week (May 12, 2010), an artificial turf specialist “has warned the harsh winter has put additional strain on synthetic pitches through increased usage and challenging conditions.” “Curtis Allen, of Charterhouse Turf Machinery Ltd, claims little thought has been given to the effects of constant damp and increased traffic on the synthetic surface.” According to him, “This damp and the increased usage make the usual compaction and drainage issues escalate, which means water pooling and contamination in the surface are more obvious.” “Shovelling [sic] snow from synthetic surfaces can also cause problems, according to Allen, who urges caution.” “It is important snow is dealt with correctly and the right equipment is used to remove the snow if using the surface is unavoidable. Using the wrong methods or treatments on the surface in the winter months will only add to the summer cleaning tasks and risk damaging the carpet.” “Most synthetic pitches are not cleaned over winter and Allen recommends groundsman [sic] use early summer to begin maintenance work.” “The infill will benefit from a deep clean to remove all of the debris and contamination which will have been pushed or washed into the carpet. The fact that the surface will be now dry means dust and lighter particles can be more effectively removed from the surface.” Source: Jack Sidders, “Synthetic turf not immune from winter damage, warns expert,” in Horticulture Week, May 12, 2010), available on HortWeek.com at
SynTurf.org Note: And what is the additional cost of proper maintenance of artificial turf fields in early summer through the winter months?
[No. 55] Park CityUtah: Snow removal woes at artificial turf fields. According to a news report in The Record (April 23, 2010), “A major obstacle to year-round - or even partial - snow removal for the artificial turf field at Quinn’s Junction Sports Complex is the potential damage that could be done by machinery.” The field is currently in the fifth year of an eight-year warranty; the manufacturer neither recommends nor bars snow removal, according to The Record. “While snow could be removed from the field, damages become more likely with more frequent removals. The risk is much slimmer, however, if equipment is modified for safe use.” Last year, the snow removal at the ParkCityHigh School’s artificial turf field (Dozier Field) “caused thousands of dollars in damages because the blades on a utility tractor were not covered.” The field was not under warranty and was not plowed with modified equipment. “If the removals are too infrequent, Edward said, the pressure of snow-removing machines can alter the field because of the torque on their back tires.” One manufacturer recommends the following: “Under no condition should anything bigger than a small utility tractor (35 hp) with turf tires be driven on a snow-covered or wet field. The biggest issue is the wet sub-grade material. Even a light pick-up truck will create tracks/dents in the sub-grade material and ruin the flatness and playability of the field. The field cannot handle construction-type front-end loaders and, certainly, no dump trucks. The simple turning motion of their wheels will tear/bunch up the turf. Most places will take a utility tractor with turf tires and a bucket - using a PVC or rubber protectent [sic] on the blade - and push the snow off the field. This approach is good for pushing up to 6-8 inches of snow. Then, from piles accumulated off the field, use larger equipment to remove/haul off the snow.” Source: Matthew Piper, “Risky business? Year-round snow removal for turf fields can do damage,” in The Record, April 23, 2010, available at http://www.parkrecord.com/summit_county-sports/ci_14947171 .
Farriella for News. Forest Hills Girls soccer coach Bob Sprance shows the extensive wear and tear on field 5 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park
[No. 54] New York City, NY: Soccer referees boycott two turf fields due to dangerous conditions. According to a news report in New York Daily News (March 26, 2010), the New York City Soccer Officials Association is boycotting two of artificial turf fields at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (Fields 1 and 5) because of several gaping tears and ripped seams at each field.. “They are not playable,” said Bob Sprance, varsity girls coach at Forest HillsHigh School. “They must be repaired before somebody gets seriously hurt.” “I go out with giant cones to mark the spots that the girls need to be aware of,” said Keith Horan, varsity coach at the High School for Arts and Business in Corona. “It’s plain dangerous.” Queens Parks Commissioner, Dorothy Lewandowski, said it could cost up to $500,000 to replace a synthetic field, depending on its size. Source: Leigh Remizowski, “Referess [sic] cry foul as soccer association refuses to play on park's torn up fields,” in NY Daily News, March 26, 2010, available at http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2010/03/26/2010-03-26_refs_call_field_foul_wont_go_on_parks_torn_up_soccer_fields.html.
The BigAppleSoccer.com (Unplayable Fields, March 21, 2010) available at
http://www.bigapplesoccer.com/sections/youth2.php?article_id=22969 reported on the story from the refs’ perspective. Here is what some of them had to say: “We as referees, have . . . refused to allow the games to be played on these fields as the safety of the players would be compromised, NYCSOA president Jim Memos said in an e-mail to the organization's membership. “We have moved games if and when at all possible, depending on open field availability, or just flat out postponed them.” Memos added that he didn't think game officials should be subject to lawsuits because of the condition of the fields. “This is a lawsuit happy country and to take a chance of us, the referees, and allow the games to be played on these fields, would be ludicrous. I for one, am not about to place my personal property, well being and finances at stake for some attorney to take advantage of a loop-hole and take away all I have worked for all these years. All it takes is one serious injury sustained under these playing conditions for the aforementioned to become a reality. Sorry, not worth it!!”
SynTurf.org Note: The foregoing story reminds us of the time when some of the coaches would cram the city hall with their players and their parents and say how they had to use cones to mark the divots and gopher holes and puddles in the disgraceful natural grass playing fields! Ah! If only we could have artificial turf fields to play on! The situation in Queens is an interesting one because some of the grass fields also need repairs. Comparative cost analysis, anyone? The cost of repairing/replacing a turf field vs. a few shovelfuls of dirt. You do the math.
[No. 53] Honolulu, Hawaii: Aloha Stadium artificial turf filed is in a sorry shape after just six years. According to a news story in The Advertiser (October 11, 2009), “When Aloha Stadium rolled out a new $1.3 million artificial turf in May 2003, the expectations were that the new surface would last until early 2011. Six years later, the turf already has hit a rough patch.” “[T]he surface increasingly is drawing criticism that it’s worn and no longer offers a soft cushion.” “Montreal-based FieldTurf provided the turf under a sole-source contract awarded by the Hawai'i Tourism Authority in 2002. The turf replacement was required under a contract between the HTA and the Pro Bowl to keep the annual all-star event in Hawai'i.” But recently, the “[p]laying-field conditions have generated complaints and were a factor behind a major international soccer tournament declining to return to Hawai'i.” For more on this story, go to Sean Hao, “Stadium faces big bill for new turf,” in TheAdvertiser, October 11, 2009, available athttp://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20091011/NEWS01/910110370?source=rss_localnews .
[No. 52] Friendswood, Texas: Artificial turf field falling apart after just 3 years. According to a news report in the The Daily News (September 16, 2009, “School district officials claim the artificial turf at Friendswood’s high school football stadium is coming apart at the seams — and want the contractor to replace it.” Superintendent Trish Hanks blames poor installation and poor workmanship for the problem with the field. Three years ago, the district spent a little more than $1 million to replace the turf and track at Henry Winston Memorial Stadium, but “the turf was never properly installed, resulting in more than 300 repairs in the past three years, Athletic Director Steve Van Meter said.” “Canada-based FieldTurf Tarkett, which has manufactured turf for more than 40 universities, dozens of National Football League teams and three Major League Baseball teams, hired Dallas-based RS Global to install the turf at the Friendswood stadium in summer 2006, Van Meter said. FieldTurf Tarkett representatives declined to comment about the district’s complaints. Officials with RS Global could not be reached for comment Tuesday [September 15].” For the list of woes afflicting the installation of the field, see the source: Rhiannon Meyers, “Officials: Surface at stadium should be replaced,” in The Daily News (Galveston, TX), September 16, 2009, available at http://galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=8925302272cfdb30 .
[No. 51] Mercer Island, Washington: The under-warranty Islander artificial turf field wears out before time, stop-gap measures fail; replacement will cost upward of $450,000. According to a news report in the Mercer Island Reporter (August 18, 2009), the “Mercer Island High School Stadium is getting an unexpected facelift. After seven years of wear and tear, Islander Stadium’s artificial turf field is being pulled out and replaced entirely, a surprise, since the field’s eight-year warranty does not expire until Oct. 1, 2010.” “The turf, which accommodates MIHS and city-organized football, soccer and lacrosse teams, as well as the MIHS band, track and field team and Island residents, has been showing signs of deterioration for months now. According to Mercer Island High School Athletics Director Craig Olson, pieces of the turf field were falling apart and the field recently failed a periodic safety test.” “Last spring, Olson spoke with the field’s manufacturer, FieldTurf Tarkett, about the problem. ‘The field didn’t meet standards for resiliency. It was determined that strands of turf had lost height. Bits and pieces were torn away,’ Olson said.” “[T]he turf company offered to remediate the situation by plugging in 16,000 pounds of rubber pellets, theoretically increasing the field’s cushion factor. The company covered all costs. Unfortunately, the effort was unsuccessful. ‘We thought the 16,000 pounds of rubber pellets — pushing the pellets into the turf to increase resiliency — would solve the problem. It didn’t,’ said [Mercer IslandSchool District] Business Services and Human Resources Executive Director Dean Mack, who was working with FieldTurf Tarkett to mediate the issue.” It was determined that the stadium needed a new field “[a]nd so began a last-minute scramble to arrange for FieldTurf Tarkett to replace the stadium turf before the 2009 high school sports season begins in September.… As for cost, the company offered a 20 percent price reduction, since 14 months remained on the warranty. District and FieldTurf Tarkett representatives debated and negotiated until both sides agreed on the overall replacement cost of $455,504, which includes the 20 percent discount.” For more on the story go to Elizabeth Celms, “Last-minute field replacement surprises district,” in Mercer Island Reporter, August 18, 2009, available at http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/east_king/mir/news/53600417.html or click here.
[No. 50] Whittier, California: Irrigation of Artificial Turf: An Oxymoron? Hardly.
SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. August 9, 2009. The people in the know are well aware that artificial grass does not need water to grow. It fact is does not grow, scientists tell us. And we believe them. We also know that artificial grass does not need mowing, scientists tell us. In fact, artificial grass is versatile that over time it gets shorter all on its own. And, if artificial grass does not need watering then why do artificial turf field operators keep watering them? Have they not heard the turf manufacturers’ scientists? The ordinary people, not scientists, have observed over time that while artificial grass does not need watering that an artificial turf playing field does. Water dampens the infill, keeps the dust down, washes off the vomit from the last game, adds some shine to the surface (for appearances sake), and – get this – it also cools down the temperature of the field. That is the following excerpt from a case study at WhittierCollege is a good read:
The school decided it would bring its football field up to the speed of the 21st century by converting it entirely to synthetic turf … There was only one problem in going synthetic: Once summer rolled around, the field would get much hotter than standard grass fields.
And since hotter temperatures are the last thing athletes need when pushing themselves to the max, something would have to be done… To handle the hot temperatures, [the Contractor] Byrom-Davey decided to install a cooling system. The system’s capabilities were impressive: It would provide 125 feet of water coverage at 100 gallons per minute, each sprinkler running for only a minute long. A groundskeeper would activate each sprinkler one at a time simply by using an ICC Remote to connect to the Hunter ICC Controller. This would “spritz” the turf’s surface in less than 10 minutes, bringing it back down to a cool, comfortable level.
[E]ight M-125 valve-in-head sprinklers were installed around the field. These sprinklers featured two extra-high capacity nozzles for an extended throw radius of 125 feet, a four-inch pop-up height and a 22-degree trajectory. In addition, the sprinklers’ covers were colored a green, grass-like tint to blend them right into the field.
Today, the people of WhittierCollege are happy with their new football field. Able to deliver 100 gallons of water a minute, the field can be cooled and cleaned in a matter of minutes.
[No. 49] East Greenwich, Rhode Island: Sub-carpet work to fix flooding/drainage. We reported on the flooding woes at EastGreenwichHigh School earlier - Seehttp://www.synturf.org/waterdamage.html (Item No. 10). According to a news report in the Providence Journal (August 7, 2009), “Spooked by discovery in July of water collecting on the newly installed football field at the high school, the committee overseeing the project on Thursday voted to take core samples of the stone and gravel beneath the artificial turf and send it out for independent analysis.” “The group, meeting in a packed School Department conference room, also decided to call in a plumber who can use remote sensing equipment to see if the pipes designed to carry water from the field have become blocked or damaged.” “Contractors have already pulled back part of the turf and begun installing an additional drainage system in an attempt to relieve the problem, which became apparent after storms flooded part of the field and the surrounding track.”
“We have a second-rate situation for something we brought brand new," said Town Councilman Henry V. Boezi, a former public works director for the town, who recommended that core samples be taken throughout the field and that the drainage pipes be checked. He questioned whether the washed stone and gravel that is supposed to provide drainage beneath the artificial turf was installed property. “Whether or not the base was adequate and how it was installed was questionable,” he said, explaining that the gravel became visible when workers pulled back the turf to add a makeshift drainage system and looked much too compacted -- almost like concrete. “I saw four to six inches of processed gravel as tight as it can be. That can choke off the drainage,” he said. “It could be the entire width of the field.” “The artificial turf carries warranties of one year on installation and eight years on the carpet itself.”
[No. 48]Belton, Texas: Artificial turf grows bald spots; buyer wants replacement. According to a news report in the Temple Daily Telegram (July 8, 2009), the Belton independent school district has filed a lawsuit against three corporations over the synthetic turf at Tiger Field. The artificial turf football field that was installed in 2005 “is defective and [the district] wants the company that manufactured the surface …to replace it.” Under an 8-year warranty, the district wants the field replaced and for the companies named in the suit to cover attorney fees. “[C]oaches alerted administrators to concerns about the field earlier this year. An inspection found nearly 30 bald spots or defective tuft binds on the field.” “The turf was almost completely gone in those areas. There were some spots as small as an inch in diameter and others as large as 3½ inches in diameter.” Nevertheless, “the district’s athletic director and football coach said the field would be safe to play on this year.” “Two weeks ago about $10,000 in repair work was done on the bald regions and a loose seam The bald spots were cut out and replaced.” The district paid $670,750 for the turf and “expected the turf to last 12 years.” Source: Paul A. Romer, “Belton ISD in turf war over ‘defective’ surface,” in Temple Daily Telegram, July 8, 2009, available at http://www.tdtnews.com/story/2009/07/08/59126/
[No.47] Chicopee, Mass.: Field of repairs, costly fresh crumb delivery.Chicopee’s two new high schools each has an artificial turf field. The ChicopeeHigh School’s field is about five years old; the ComprehensiveHigh School’s field was finished in November 2008. According to a news report in The Republican (June 26, 2009), the “seams on the Chicopee High field need to be repaired and the rubber pellets which lay under the turf need to be replaced.” According to Superintendent Richard W. Rege “the benefit of having an artificial turf field is it does not need regular mowing but the bad side is they wear out and repairs are expensive,” with “a delivery of the rubber pellets cost[ing] $50,000. So the School Committee “is reviewing its price to rent its fields to outside sports teams. The policy currently gives ChicopeePublic School teams first priority when using athletic facilities. If the fields are not being used, Parks and Recreation teams and local leagues can schedule games and practices. Outside leagues may use them if the first two are not occupying them.” Recently, the town received a request from an outside soccer league interested in renting one of the high school fields for a year at a price of $15,000 to $20,000. Such rentals would help offset the cost of maintenance and repair. Source: Jeanette DeForge, “Policy reviewed for school fields,” in The Republican, June 26, 2009, available at http://www.masslive.com/chicopeeholyoke/republican/index.ssf?/base/news-21/1246000754129030.xml&coll=1 .
[No. 46] Potomac, Maryland: School turf field not draining properly. According to a news story by ABC 7 News (June 13, 2009), “St. Andrews Episcopal School in Potomac put in an artificial turf field last fall. Neighbors say it doesn’t drain correctly.” “That's the school and you can see where the fence is, how close we are,” said one neighbor. “The runoff has been overwhelming... It’s a big plastic bag! And when there’s rain...” Source:
[No. 45] BryanCounty, Georgia: Gotta water that turf! The synthetic turf fields need to be watered, especially in the summer heat to keep players from getting heat stroke. The watering also helps in the grooming process, keeps down the dust and by wetting the sand adds to the ballast effect of the infill. The industry has pushed these fields saying they would save on water consumption because the artificial fields would not have to watered like real grass. So, we got a kick out of reading in the Bryan County News (June 5, 2009) thatthe “County votes to spend as much as $30,000 to keep Henderson Park synthetic turf cool.” The appropriation was for the installation of the watering/irrigation equipment alone. “We did artificial grass thinking we wouldn’t have to water it,” said chairman of the county commissioners. The plan is to mount sprinklers on new poles with separate concrete foundations just outside the soccer field fences. Another commissioner expressed some frustration with the park, which opened in March at a cost of approximately $7 million. “This is the problem this month. What’s going to be the problem next month?” he asked “Safety is paramount,” he said, “We don’t need anybody dying of heat stroke.” Source: Gina Sutherland, “County votes to spend as much as $30,000 to keep Henderson Park synthetic turf cool,” in Bryan County News, June 5, 2009, available athttp://www.bryancountynews.net/news/article/4222/ .
[No. 44]:Swaziland: More hocus pocus on Somhlolo turf: natural grass to the rescue! According to a news report in the Swazi Observer (June 1, 2009), pre-game rituals have once again taken a toll on the turf field at Somhlolo National Stadium. Prior to the game between Mbabane Highlanders and Manzini Wanderers, the offcials discovered “a big hole … at the centre and match officials decided that the game would not start until it had been repaired as it could have injured the players. Inside this hole were raffled feathers, eggs and coconuts.” Moreover, “all the four corner-kick areas had some holes with the same strange stuff and apparently, the turf was dug up.” Here is an irony: the match commissioner, Philemon Mkhaliphi, “had to organise natural grass to fill up the big hole at the centre of the pitch before the match could commence.” Source: Sabelo Ndzinisa “Somhlolo artificial turf damaged again,” in The Swazi Observer, June 1, 2009, available at http://www.observer.org.sz/index.php?news=4581 . For background, see
[No. 43]Dodge City, Kansas: Pamper that turf! According to a news story in Dodge City Daily Globe (May 22, 2009), the Community Facilities Advisory Board has okayed spending up to $26,000 on a turf-protection system for Memorial Stadium. Turf protection from what, you may ask? Usage! Here is the problem: “The school district wants to purchase about 10,000 feet of temporary flooring made of polypropylene, a plastic polymer that can be used as both a structural plastic and as a fiber. The material would be put directly on Memorial Stadium's turf to protect it from foot traffic and other wear and tear. The district currently uses plywood to protect the turf for occasions like graduation, but plywood increases the risk that people could trip and fall, said Bill Hammond, USD 443's assistant superintendent for business services. He also said unless the wood isn’t painted properly, rain could cause it to stain the field. Hammond said the polypropylene flooring would make it possible to accommodate more community events, as well as school-sponsored activities at the stadium.” Source: Eric Swanson, “CFAB backs school district's request for funding,” in Dodge City Daily Globe, May 22, 2009, available at http://www.dodgeglobe.com/localnews/x862899737/CFAB-backs-school-districts-request-for-funding . Plastic cover to protect plastic fields!
Editor's Note:The maintenance of a synthetic turf field is not as inexpensive or as "labor free" as the promoters of artificial turf claim. Understand please, one of the reasons why municipalities undertake to install artificial turf is to cut maintenance costs associated with grass fields. This predisposition to acquire a system that is low-maintenance therefore resonates with the decision-maker, who is assured that the savings and fees from additional playing time will pay "in no time" the $1 million cost of installing a single synthetic turf field. The replacement cost of the carpet part of the field every 10 years or so is $500,000 (in 2007 dollars). The replacement cost does not include the cost of disposing of the old rug and/or layers of the gravel/sand/rubber under the carpet. Most buyers make the mistake of calculating the level of future replacement cost for a single field on the basis of one replacement. A field typically lasts for decades, which makes the true cost of replacing the carpet for a field during its life span - let us say 50 years - at 2.5 million (in 2007 dollars). Moreover, rarely, if ever, the buyers of artificial turf factor in their financial calculations the cost of maintenance, repair and replacement of the drainage system of the field. There is also vandalism and protection from it that add to the coast of maintaining a turf field. The installation of an artificial turf and its maintenance is done by contractors aside of the municipality's or institution's own public works or grounds-and-buildings nodes. For a municipality, with every artificial turf installed there is one whole or fraction of a worker that becomes redundant, as the maintenance of the field is outsourced. This represents a human cost to the existing community work force, until the displaced worker is employed in another capacity. The savings to the employer from outsourcing field maintenance is illusory, because the contractor who repairs and maintains the field will price its services just below the total amount "saved" by the employer. The ultimate silent cost associated with artificial turf is the externality that it imposes on the environment and as such on society as a whole.
[No. 42] Swaziland: Ritual causes extensive damage to turf field.SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. May 10, 2009. We are not quite sure how the classify this story – under ‘maintenance’ or ‘vandalism.’ Anyway - The scene: Somhlolo National Stadium, Lobamba. The time: Saturday, May 2, 2009. The Event: The Mbabane Swallows versus Green Mamba. The surface: artificial turf. The problem: mysterious burns to the turf at the centre of the pitch. The damage: $US 100, 000. According to reports in Swazi Observer, “the turf has been mysteriously burnt at the centre spot of the pitch. [T]he centre spot was not only burnt but black chicken feathers were found scattered all over the same spot. Close inspection revealed that the part of the artificial turf was uprooted and underneath were more chicken feathers.” For details, please go to Bodwa Mbingo, “Heads will roll,” in Swazi Observer, May 6, 2009, available at http://www.observer.org.sz/index.php?news=3859 ; “Fifa need a witchdoctor,” onKickoff.com, May 5, 2009, Touchline Media, Cape Town, South Africa), available at http://www.kickoff.com/static/news/article.php?id=8218Fifa ; and Ntuthuko Dlamini, in Swazi Observer, May 5, 2009, available at http://www.observer.org.sz/index.php?news=3799.
[No. 41] Mahwah, NJ: Turf replacement just after 7 years.According to a news report on NewJersey.com (March 21, 2009), “[p]remature wearing and safety concerns” have convinced the township to replace the artificial turf at ContinentalSoldiersPark. “More than 200,000 square feet of faux grass [which was installed in 2002] will be removed and a newer product - believed to be safer because it’s lead-free - will be installed. The work is expected to … cost the township $560,000.” “[u]nder a 10-year warranty [n]ow, seven years later, the fibers on the soccer, baseball, softball and football fields have begun shedding” and according to Mayor Richard Martel, “The grass-like blades are starting to separate from the turf itself.” According to NewJersey.com, “Officials negotiated with the manufacturer and installer, FieldTurf, to get the fields redone before the warranty runs out, Business Administrator Brian Campion said. Had the warranty lapsed, the cost of resurfacing the fields would have been $1.2 million to $1.5 million, he said. Mahwah's current artificial grass is made from polyethylene fiber film. It will be replaced with a monofilament fiber product that is certified to be lead-free.” State officials have said no one under the age of 8 should use the turf fields, players must wash their bodies and clothing after playing on them, and students should not eat on the fields. Source: Allison Pries, “Mahwah, New Jersey to replace artificial-turf field,” in NewJersey.com, March 21, 2009, available at http://www.northjersey.com/bergen/Mahwah_to_replace_artificial-turf_field.html .
[No. 40] Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU covers turf field with tarp to prevent storm damage.According to a news report in Bleacher Report (March 27, 2009), “[a] line of strong thunderstorms and damaging winds ripped though Baton Rouge and the campus of LSU on Wednesday [March 25] night.”“School officials covered the practice facility turf with tarps to prevent the rain from damaging the artificial turf [of the indoor practice facility].” Source: Corey Gautreux, “Severe Storms Damage LSU Athletic Facilities,” in Bleacher Report, March 27, 2009, available at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/145969-severe-storms-damage-lsu-athletic-facilities .
[No. 39] San Diego, Calif: “You don’t say? Water the turf!” SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 28, 2009. So far we know for sure that the annualize cost of an artificial turf is more than the annualized cost of natural grass. We also know that artificial turf runs tens of degrees hotter than natural grass. We also know that artificial turf takes maintenance, which includes application of antimicrobial agents and cleansers to the surface. So much for the promise of the “low cost” turf! Many of us also have know for a while that while the plastic flower in a vase does not require watering, artificial turf fields do! Water cools the surface, cuts down on silica and other dust, and washes out the harmful bacteria and other nasty stuff that gets left behind by man and beast. This is especially true of the hot and semi-arid climates around the country.
A recent TV news story by KUSI-TV (San Diego) highlights the issue: “KUSI’s Michael Turko is investigating a San DiegoSchool District plan to install new irrigation systems at local high schools. Turko says the district wants to use tax money to water the artificial turf on the schools football fields. Until my first report, no one knew school district bureaucrats were planning to use Prop ‘S’ bond money to put in sprinklers on artificial turf football fields. It’ll cost at least twenty five thousand [$25,000] bucks per field, not counting the cost [of] the water. And it'll use a lot of water at a time when we're all being asked to conserve. And now it looks like our elected school board officials are buying into that plan... hook line and sinker!” See the video news report at KUSI, “School Board Backs Turf Irrigation,” February 17, 2009, at http://www.kusi.com/features/turko/39767772.html .
[No. 38] New Jersey: Notes on replacing the supposedly lead-free fields. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 8, 2009. The function of a turf field warranty is to render the buyer harmless in the event the field becomes unusable because of a shortcoming in its installation (design, labor, and materials) or lousy maintenance practices recommended by the warrantor or its agents. Naturally, every warranty, like an insurance policy, has exemptions and exclusions. Many fields last beyond the term of their warranty. Many do not. In the literature from past December  one story in particular caught our attention because the fields at issue were made by a manufacturer that routinely proclaims its product to be lead-free and that the fields at issue were taken out and replaced with new ones while they were presumably under warranty.
The case concerned the removal of the two artificial turf fields from NorthernValleyRegionalHigh School in Demarest (New Jersey), beginning on Monday, December 1, 2008. The two fields were being removed because of presence of lead in them, even though the fields were supposed to have been “new generation” and made by a company that constantly proclaims its product as being lead-free!
According to Northern New Jersey media, “The fields were installed several years ago at a cost of $1.4 million to the district. They will be replaced with a new product by a Canadian company that provided the initial fields.” Each multi-sport field, more than 102,200 square feet each, costs $700,000 to replace, a discounted price that includes disposal of the old fields, an amount considered “reasonable” by district officials who believed the actual value of the replacement to be more than $1 million a piece! For more on this story, see Evonne Coutros and Andrea Alexander, “Playing safe on health,” in NorthJersey.com (Hackensack, NJ), December 2, 2008, available athttp://www.northjersey.com/betterliving/recreation/Playing_safe_on_health.html ; and Marc Lightdale, “Schools to get new turf fields,” in Northern Valley Suburbanite (Cresskill, NJ), December 2, 2008, available at http://www.nvsuburbanite.com/NC/0/1522.html .
[No. 37] Wellesley, Mass.: Plow, plow, plow, your turf gently into spring; merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, grass is but a dream! In the last week, the theatre of the absurd pitched its tent at the turf fields next to Sprague Elementary School, in Wellesley, Mass. On Monday, January 26, 2009, the town’s Department of Public Works (DPW) was out snow-plowing one of the artificial turf fields just ahead of the next snow storm. For a carpet that was sold on the premise of low maintenance, it sure looked silly to be using municipal equipment and man-hour clearing a field that could hardly be used in the freezing temperatures that predominated during the week. On Tuesday, DPW was back during recess and afterwards – that is, longer than two hours, plowing the other turf field. On Wednesday, a snow storm dumped another 8 inches of snow on the newly-plowed fields. On Friday, DPW was back out plowing the fields, again.
From the looks of the visible green plastic turf fibers, no doubt, the DPW did a great job, even though as of this writing the fields are under asheet of ice! But here is what SynTurf.org likes to ask: Why was it okay with the town management and DPW to divert resources from clearing the ice- and snow-bound sidewalks, which victimize the pedestrians, especially the elderly? What was the cost associated with plowing the turf fields so? Would it at least be equal to the cost of mowing natural grass during the summer months? Where are the savings in turf now? What about the greenhouse gases from the plows? And to think that having a turf field was supposed to set free the people of the planet from the greenhouse-gases once associated with maintaining natural grass playing fields!
Update: February 8, 2009.Eyewitness reports from the artificial turf fields at the Sprague Elementary School indicate that during the snow-plowing operations reported earlier (see above), resulted in the depositing of broken turf fibers and crumb rubber in the snow mounds. It seems like presently, the Department of Public Works has taken to using snow blowers instead of plows.
[No. 36] Pine-Richland, Penn.: When turf goes bad before it’s time!The artificial turf field at Pine-Richland stadium was installed in 2001. According to a news article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (January 11, 2009), the “turf is wearing out.” This is only after 8 years in an environment where most municipal governments belive or operate on the false or contrived assumption that the life of an artificial turf field for them will be 10 to 15 and, yes, even 20 years. The assumption is necessary in order to accomplish two things (1) to justify the upfront cost of installation of turf (it will pay for itself over time by saving on maintenance), and (b) to give the political impression that the replacement of the carpet would be so far in the future that it need not concern the short-sighted now-oriented public. That is until the turf goes bad before it’s time.
On Tuesday, January 6, 2009, the Pine-Richland school board's planning meeting considered the issue of replacing the turf and its estimated cost of $300,000 to $400,000 or more. No decision was taken. According to the “who said what at the meeting,” here is the sign of theatrics to come for many unsuspecting municipal and school officials:
Official #1: The artificial turf has become rippled and worn to the point that it is a safety concern. A rubberized mat and drainage system beneath the turf would not need to be replaced.
Official #2: The turf had a 10-year warranty for “normal” use, but the field is heavily used for a variety of sports and activities, including football, lacrosse, physical education classes, graduation and band. The company with which the school had a 10-year warranty is out of business now.
Official # 3: I just feel like we didn't see it coming.
Official # 4: Replacement of the turf had been planned in the budget for two years from now.
Official # 5: It's [replacement] come to the forefront ... because it's a safety issue.
[No. 35] Liverpool, New York: The bubbling turf field is still closed! Corrections 12/3/2010. The fate of the quarantined artificial turf field at Liverpool High School Stadium is back in the news. As reported in July 2008 (http://www.synturf.org/maintenancereplacement.html -- Item No. 22), the officials closed the 10-year old artificial turf field in December 2007 because its surface had developed potholes and soft spots. According to a news item in The Post-Standard (November 24, 2008), the school district is back to deliberating what to do next with the stadium. “The field's surface bubbled and district officials have not been able to determine what caused that to happen,” according to the news report. According to Liverpool’s acting athletic director, Mark Potter, “It kind of looks like a miniature golf course, it’s not flat.” Having been rebuffed twice before by the voters, a group called the “stadium committee” now recommends that the school board consider sending what it calls a “bare-bones” proposal to voters for approval in February 2009. This time the proponents of the fake-grass field have cut from their proposal such amenities as expanded parking, a new press box, restrooms, concession stand, scoreboard, field lights and visitor bleachers. Source: Catie O’Toole, “Liverpool Stadium Committee to address school board tonight,” in The Post-Standard, November 24, 2008, available at http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2008/11/liverpool_stadium_committee_to.html.
SynTurf.org Note: Here is the irony – The proponents of artificial turf fields often pitch their quest with the help of a slide show that compares a brand new artificial turf field with some pathetic looking natural grass field with potholes, standing water and dirt. How interesting that after 10 years a turf field that cost $100,000s to $1 million is in no better shape than a natural grass field that costs a lot less to install and care for. Our advice to the Liverpool voters – for the sake of human health and the environment and your pocketbook - go with a natural grass field for a fraction of the cost of an artificial turf field. Who knows, maybe there will be enough money left over to get the amenities too!
[No. 34] Redwood City, Calif.: Frayed carpet increases the rate of crumb migration from artificial turf field. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. November 24, 2008. According to a news item Palo Alto Daily News (November 15, 2008) [Shaun Bishop, “Turf field in Redwood City gets tune-up,” in Palo Alto Daily News, November 15, 2008, available at http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_10996530 ] the artificial turf field at Hoover Park in Redwood City still has two years left on its 8-year lifecycle warranty, but already it has begun to show what the paper calls “a 5 o’clock shadow all day long.” This refers to a condition where the crumb rubber overwhelms the carpet fiber. This happens in three ways: First – when a field is freshly installed the crumb rubber has tendency to be generously applied with the understanding that eventual use of the field would compact some of the crumb into the space between the fivers. In September 2008 SynTurf.org posted picture and video clip showing this phenomenon at Saunders Field in Boston (see http://www.synturf.org/miscellanea.html --Item No. 18). This condition may also obtains when an in-use field is groomed periodically with fresh applications of crumb rubber.
Second: the five-o’clock shadow also comes about when the carpet is worn so thin that the crumb rubber is exposed all the more. Third: the “shadow” phenomenon also can occur when a field is not properly maintained and so the forces applied to the crumb either by nature (water and wind) or players tend to push the crumb to the areas of least resistance. For crumb rubber migration, seehttp://www.synturf.org/migration.html .
The worn out fiber uproots or unhinges or de-nestles the rubber crumb from in-between the turf fibers and therefore increases the likelihood of it migrating to other parts of the field or from it. This migration necessitates the need for additional application of crumb in order for the field to retain its uniformity and softness/bounce. It is a poor choice – a new expensive carpet or more crumb rubber?
According to News, “The city council last week green-lighted spending $905,447 on the upgrade, and city planners are hoping to start the replacement — a two-month project — next month.” The Parks Superintendent Gary Hover reportedly told News “We knew from day one that FieldTurf, who was the manufacturer of this product, was very concerned about it lasting because it got a lot of use.” According to News, “The city said it circumvented a competitive bidding process for the project, which is usually required by state law, because Oregon-based FieldTurf's discounted price of about 40 percent off was not available from other suppliers.”
SynTurf.org smells a rat -- In order to minimize wear and tear on the one turf field the municipalities ought to consider getting several!
[No. 33] Duluth, Minn.: Halfway into its lifespan, artificial turf carpet needs major repair. According to a news item in the Duluth News Tribune (November 13, 2008), the artificial turf field at Public School Stadium (near Denfeld High School), in Duluth, Minnesota, is showing so “much wear and tear that Duluth school officials have asked the manufacturer to make repairs before the surface’s warranty expires.” “In the past two years, yellow soccer markings that were originally woven into fabric and then glued onto the turf have uprooted, causing a potential safety issue for football and soccer players,” according to the Tribune. The patching of the lines with a heavy-duty adhesive called Gorilla Glue, as the manufacturer [Sprinturf] recommended, failed to keep the markings in place.
The field was installed in 2001 under the impression that it would last 10 to 15 years, though the warranty on the lines would expire after this year, according to property manager for the school district. “The heavy use [200 football and soccer games and practices this fall alone], and what the district acknowledges has been a lack of maintenance, has caused the middle section of turf to erode, exposing a black-rubber appearance underneath.” Another culprit seems to have been the “grooming machine,” which may have ripped up the yellow lines, according to the property manager.
[No. 32] HarrisonCity, Penn: 8-year old turf good for one more year. According to a report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), on November 3, 2008, the directors of the Penn-Trafford school district (HarrisonCity in western Pennsylvania) postponed discussion about the replacement of the turf surface at Warrior Stadium. According to the report, “School officials have said the cost to replace the artificial turf could be between $350,000 and $450,000. The current turf was installed [in 2000] for $623,798. An independent contractor tested the field last month and estimated it would be safe for another year.” Source: Chris Foreman, “Penn-Trafford to hold off on new turf,” in PittsburghTribune-Review, November 4, 2008, available at http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribunereview/news/westmoreland/s_596704.html .
[No. 31]: Midland, Texas: Turf busts at the seams, needs replacement after five years. As reported by KOSA CBS 7 (Odessa, Texas), on Tuesday, October 28, 2008, the Midland City Council cleared the way for the replacement of the artificial turf field at Grande Stadium, part of the Scharbauer Stadium, Midland, Texas. The Parks and Recreation Manager, Scott Swigert, showed the council how the original turf kept coming apart at the seams on either side of every five-yard marker, where the turf got the most wear. At the cost of $700,000, including 12% for contingencies, the replacement, according to CBS 7 “The new turf will have only one seam, between the yard.” Source: “Artificial turf to be replaced at Grande Stadium,” in CBS 7 (Odessa, Texas), Ocotber 28, 2008, available at http://www.cbs7kosa.com/news/details.asp?ID=9106 .
The turf field in question was put down in 2002 by Southwest Recreational, which went out of business 3 years ago, according to the administrator of Scharbauer Sports Complex contacted by SynTurf.org. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Southwest Recreational Industries, owner of AstroTurf, was taken to the mat by FieldTurf on allegations that did not stick but may have cost Southwest Recreational to go under. SeeNationMaster.com’s Encyclopedia at “Filed Turf: legal disputes” at http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/FieldTurf#Legal_disputes or click here.
[No. 30] PelhamBayPark (New York City): Negligent management and lack of maintenance turn turf into a field of nightmares. At over 2,700 acres, PelhamBayPark in the Bronx is New York City’s largest park. It has a long and intricate history, with many of its historic features still observable to a visitor. The park also has many significant environmental features. Its variety of habitats enables one to see a diversity of wildlife throughout the park. The turf soccer field on the premises sticks out a like a sore thumb, as it is neither enhancing of the environment nor is it in keeping with the park’s historical features. The turf was travesty to begin with and it is now even more so because a pronounced lack of maintenance and lousy field management have turned the artificial pitch into a field of nightmares.
On October 8, 2008, YourNabe.com reported that the condition of the turf field at PelhamBayPark is “egregiously unkempt and downright dangerous.” “Weak spots covered the field revealing the ‘gravelly,’ slippery secondary layer of recycled rubber and virtually every five-yard white line marker on the hundred yard field was raised inches above the ground, presenting a trip hazard,” according to the report. The Warriors are one of the field’s user groups. Lack of maintenance or little of it can cause developing slopes, unsafe undulations, and weak spots on the turf surface. “Negligence in sustaining and protecting the field by the Department of Parks is precisely what the Warriors are charging,” YourNabe.com reported. “The field needs to be re-stretched, so its taut and the whole top layer need to be flattened” said Warriors’ director. “God forbid one of my kids gets his foot stuck in a raised spot, and turns awkwardly. These are the sort of things that can lead to crippling injuries.”
According to the report, “the gradual destruction of the field … could so easily have been avoided with proper, routine maintenance by the Department of Parks staff. In the equipment shack is housed barrels of replacement rubber pellets that should have been used to fix the raised and weak spots on the field.” Additionally, the indifference to certain prohibited practices for the field/track facility – such as the use of metal cleats and heavy, metal garbage cans as goal posts by pickup soccer players – has helped the deterioration. According to officials, the field is under warranty and so the manufacturer will be repairing the seams along the stripes re-sealed as soon as possible. Source: Andrew Ulrich, “Tuff play destroys Filed Turf: Non-permitted sports activity destroys PelBayPark’s football field,” in Your Nabe, October 8, 2008, available at http://yournabe.com/articles/2008/10/10/bronx/doc48ed18642f6e6945615071.txt .
SynTurf.org Note: No turf field warranty known to SynTurf.org provides coverage for negligent or improper maintenance practices. If anything, the exclusion provisions of the warranty protects the warrantor from consequences of prohibited practices and per se exclusions. For example of an industry warranty, see “Warranty Talk” at http://www.synturf.org/industrynotes.html (Item No. 20).
[No. 29] Blantyre, Malawi: Surprise! Unscheduled practices taking toll on turf field. According to a news report The Daily Times (September 30, 2008), Malawi’s premier daily, the Football Association of Malawi is arranging training sessions for the Malawi Flames without consulting the authorities at Kamuzu Stadium, where the soccer team is supposed to practice. “Kamuzu Stadium authorities have expressed fear that the life span of the artificial turf is under threat due to Flames ill-timed preparations for the 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against DR Congo,” The Daily Times reports. The tractor that is supposed to brush the turf is broken and therefore, the maintenance crew requires advance notice to prepare the field for play/practice, a process that takes the tractor one day but four to six days if done by humans! Furthermore, the management of Kamuzu Stadium is none too pleased with the Football Association for not honoring its portion of the stadium’s water bill. Source: Mphatso Malidadi, “Flames training damaging artificial turf,” in The Daily Times,September 30, 2008, available at http://www.dailytimes.bppmw.com/article.asp?ArticleID=10914 . For a background story on Kamuzu Stadium, see http://www.synturf.org/forbiddenfields.html (Item No. 06).
[No. 27] Stratford, Conn.: If you give a mouse a cookie ….: Oh, those pesky tie-ins that go with turf fields! Synturf.org, Newton, Mass. September 26, 2008. It is no secret that turf manufacturers do not just put down a field and leave the scene. There is much money to be made in after-sale products and services. Often a condition of any warranty, the buyer is advised to use buy or use only grooming equipment that the turf manufacturer recommends; that also goes for paints and paint removers for lines on the fields. Now comes a situation where the turf manufacturer seems to get into the business of even deciding for the seller what chairs and tables could go on the field. The case of the ScottBunnellHigh School turf field in Startford, Connecticut, is good example of this tie-in practice by artificial turf sellers. According to news story in the Connecticut Post (September 23, 2008), “is vulnerable to damage from chairs, tables, tents and other objects, creating a variety of logistical problems that may force the district to buy hundreds of new chairs before next year's graduation ceremony.” The superintendent of schools told the meeting of the board of education on September 22, 2008, that "The chairs appear to be presenting the biggest problem because we may be forced to buy new chairs or retrofit the old ones to chairs with bars connecting the bottoms of the legs, and that could be costly.” The superintendent and Bunnell’s athletic director have been charged to report back to the board about “how the district will cope with the field's ‘extreme sensitivity’ during heat, and its vulnerability to a wide range of objects that could puncture the turf.” “[M]ost of [the] issues can be dealt with by using special equipment supplied to the town by [the firm] that is installing the artificial turf at Bunnell,” the Post reported on the say so of the town officials. Source: Richard Weizel, “Startford seeks to protect turf field,” in Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.), September 23, 2008, available at http://www.connpost.com/localnews/ci_10540929 . For a background story on BunnellHigh School, see http://www.synturf.org/forbiddenfields.html (Item No. 05).
[No. 26]Maysville, Ohio: Winds rip through turf field.WHIZ News (Zanesville, Ohio) reported on September 15, 2008, that the turf field that was being installed at MaysvilleHigh School fell victim to the high winds of the past few days. “The field is a total loss, and Maysville will now have to start over from the beginning and reset their new field. The new date for the field to be done is now late November,” reported WHIZ.Source: J.T. Raymond, “Maysville turf project back to square one,” in WHIZ News, September 15, 2008, available at http://www.whiznews.com/article.php?articleId=22699 .
[No. 25] Brookfield, Conn.: High School turf field is in dire need of repairs after just two years. The turf field at BrookfieldHigh School was installed in the fall of 2006. According to a report The Brookfield Journal (September 12, 2008), at the time of installation the town had issued a certificate of acceptance, even though the surface did not seem to have met the town’s specifications. There were “unlevel parts to the surface.” When a June 2007 survey showed "substantial gaps" on the surface of the field, the town asked the Morganti Group, which managed the renovations, “to make repairs, recommending that the sub-base be reinstalled and a new turf be placed down.” When several seams burst apart, the town was forced to close the field. “The field should be able to be used for 10 years and it didn't last for 10 hours,” Selectman Jerry Murphy is quoted by the Journal as saying. The town has hired another consultant to assess the damage/defect and recommend if a new carpet is warranted. Meanwhile, with the season on the way, a group of irate parents and students have taken twice to protesting in large numbers against the Morganti Group. The parents are asking that the contractor replace the defective turf with a new one – and quickly. For more on this story, see Scott Benjamin, “‘Study’ an issue in stadium field discussions,” in The Brookfield Journal, September 12, 2008, available at http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=20118517&BRD=1656&PAG=461&dept_id=13278&rfi=6 . For an earlier report on this field, see http://www.synturf.org/maintenancereplacement.html (No. 23) below.
[No. 24] St. Charles Parish, New Orleans: Plasticfields need watering, too! On August 13, 2008, the St. Charles Parish School Board authorized the purchase of two water cannons for use at each of the district’s high school turf fields, and a groomer to be shared by both. According to the report in The Times – Picayune, the cannons were purchased at a cost of $7,500 each, along with a mechanical groomer costing $8,900 to be shared by the schools. “The cannons can cool down a field to an optimum level, ‘where players wouldn't be as hot,’ said John Rome, school system administrator of physical plant services. They will be most useful during the day, since temperatures drop at night, but they can be used to wet down a field before games, he said.” At the time of the twofields,“Officials knew from their initial studies that an artificial field would be warmer than natural grass,” as Field Turf had “reported the fields are an average of 10 degrees hotter.” Sandra Barbier, “It’s artificial, but it gets genuinely hot,” in The Times – Picayune, August 15, 2008, available at http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/riverparishes/index.ssf?/base//news-5/1218778306185770.xml&coll=1 . For the heat effects of artificial turf fields, at time rising to double the ambient temperature (not just the lowball 10 degrees that was claimed by manufacturer’s rep, see http://www.synturf.org/heateffect.html .
[No. 23]Brookfield, Conn.: BrookfieldHigh School turf unplayable after a couple of years. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. August 3, 2008. According to a news story in The Brookfield Journal, “the synthetic field at the [Brookfield High School] football stadium has come apart in some sections and is currently unplayable.” The First Selectman Robert Silvaggi is quoted as saying “The town has already paid for it, and we're not going to pay for it again. Right now it is not something that you would want your children to play on.” The field was installed more than a year ago and has split apart in places. Silvaggi said “it appears that it will be up to the appropriate subcontractors to repair the field so that it can be used.” Source: Scoot Benjamin, “Residents to mull BHS funding,” in The Brookfield Journal, August 1, 2008, available athttp://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19883246&BRD=1656&PAG=461&dept_id=13278&rfi=6 .
[No. 22]Liverpool, New York: Team has no home field, as 10-year old turf rots away. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. July 25, 2008. Liverpool advertises itself as a delightful 1-square mile community of 2,600 residents on the north shore of OnondagaLake, with lovely lakeshore trails. The LiverpoolHigh School’s football team is called the Warriors. “There will be no home football games, no Friday Night Lights this fall at Liverpool,” writes The Post Standard. Reason: “Their once state-of-the-art stadium is closed - head football coach Dave Mancuso calls it condemned - because of erosion problems that left potholes lurking under the 10-year-old turf.” According to the Post, “The school board voted in December  to close the stadium because of safety issues with the playing field, which had been rebuilt and fitted with a new Astroturf surface in 1998. The track surrounding the football field had been closed previously because of the same concerns. Now, Section III officials were recommending that the football field be closed as well. Acting director of athletics Mark Potter said erosion in a crushed stone layer underneath the turf has created soft spots - or potholes - along with bumps. He likened the experience of walking down stairs, only to miss the last step.”
[No. 21] Boston, Mass.: Saunders Stadium turf field in South Boston dies after 5 years, $500G to replace the carpet.SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. June 29, 2008. The Boston Herald reported on Saturday, June 28, 2008 (page 2) that the City of Boston is replacing the turf field at Saunders Stadium in Joe Moakley Park, in South Boston. The cost of the replacement is reported at $500,000, and the replacement is coming just five years after the City spent $1.7 million to refurbish the stadium, with turf and all. One very irate Bob Ferrara, director of the South Boston Youth Lacrosse program, has told the Herald that he had told the City “to put up a security fence, charge adults a user fee that could be spent on upkeep and adhere to a rigorous permitting process to control access.” But, “They kind of pooh-poohed all that, and we said this field will be destroyed in no time. They didn’t take our advice and, five years later, the field is basically destroyed. The thing is, the city is doing the same thing they did last time, and there is going to be no protective fence, nothing different. Six years from now, it is going to be good money spent after bad,” he told the Herald. According to the Herald, Mary Hines, a spokeswoman for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department expects the replacement turf to last eight to 10 years, just as the original one was supposed to last8 to 10 years. Installed in 2003, the field started to show signs of wear around 2007, as the turf started to disintegrate and became pocked with holes and tears. The company that made the turf has since gone out of business and there is no chance of recovering the cost of early replacement, according to Hines. The field hosted football, soccer and lacrosse was one of the most popular fields in the area, being used by people from all over the city, including Dorchester, Roxbury, and East Boston. According to the Herald, District 2 City Councilor Bill Linehan said he hopes the new field will be as popular as the old. But he doesn’t think the city needs to put up a security fence or do more to control access. “What they have now is more than adequate,” Linehan said. “And people always have a way of getting around a fence.”
[No.20] Wimberley, Texas: After eight years, ‘tis time to replace the FieldTruf at the High School. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. June 11, 2008. A town of less than 4,000 people, Wimberley is located 28 miles southwest of Austin. According to a news story in the American-Statesman, the artificial turf field at Wimberley High School is worn “so short that [an independent football filed inspector] couldn't measure them.” The inspector earlier this month “found that the field failed to meet safety requirements.” Apparently, this has been the condition of the field for some time now and the field is only eight years old, according to a Athletic Director Weldon Nelms. Nelms said “he has contacted the makers of the turf, FieldTurf, for three years, since paint stopped sticking to the worn fibers, in hopes of getting it fixed or replaced.” According to the Statesman, “FieldTurf representative Darren Gill said in a statement that the field lasted for the full eight year warranty, making it a success.” Nelms estimates the cost of replacement of the field to be about $400,000, according to the Statesman.
[No. 19]Cedar Hill, Texas: Repairs to stadium’s turfdrainage system may cost district $850,000. The CedarHillIntegratedSchool District is located in Dallas County, Texas. In the last two years, the district has been dealing with one expense after another in addressing the ISD stadium turf drainage system. According to a report in Dallas News:
The Cedar Hill school district may need to spend approximately $850,000 to fix a problem taxpayers paid almost half a million dollars to correct two years ago.
Standing water on the field has plagued the district's $6.2 million Longhorn Stadium since it opened in fall 1999. In 2006, the district spent $480,000 to replace the drainage system and artificial turf.
By the time school officials realized water still was not draining from the field, the company that installed the new system had declared bankruptcy.
"The year after it was installed we had a drought so the system wasn't tested, and by the time it rained enough to cause pooling, they had gone out of business," said Mike McSwain, the district's chief financial officer. "The contractor did have insurance, and they came out and looked at it, but they denied the claim."
In addition to water problems, Mr. McSwain said sink holes are forming on the field, creating a safety hazard.
Cedar Hill ISD has hired McKinney-based Sports Design Group to oversee the new installation. Richard McDonald, a landscape architect with the firm, came up with the $850,000 estimate based on similar projects.
Sports Design Group will receive 6.25 percent of the installation cost up to a maximum fee of $55,000, according to Mr. McSwain.
Trustee Valerie Banks said she is livid over the failed fix.
"Spending this kind of money to correct something that's two years old just gives me heartburn," Ms. Banks said.
Alternatively, the system can be repaired for about $130,000, but Mr. McSwain said it would be a temporary patch that probably would only last two years.
Mr. McSwain said the 2006 fix failed in part because some of the drain lines were installed too close to the surface. The company that did the work used a steamroller to press down gravel covering the pipes rather than hand-tamping it, he said. That caused the pipes to collapse in several places.
Artificial turf is designed to last 10 to 12 years, Mr. McSwain said, but the turf will have to be replaced because it's too difficult to re-align the seams. The two-year-old turf will be stored for possible re-use on softball and baseball fields.
Mr. McSwain said several factors have contributed to the higher price tag, including rising oil prices that affect shipping fees and materials cost. Artificial turf is a petroleum-based product, he said. There also is an environment fee for disposing of the petroleum base under the current turf.
"This also will be a more extensive fix than before," Mr. McSwain said. "Last time we tried to rework the base and replace the drainage system. This time we're going to take it up all the way to the base and start over from scratch."
The district received three bid proposals this week from turf installation companies. Two are lower than the estimated cost and one is higher, Mr. McSwain said.
"We'll check each one and make sure they're based on the true scope of the work, then take our recommendation to the board on Monday," he said.
Officials hope to complete the project before the first 2008 football game in mid-September.
Kathy A. Goolsby, “Repairs to stadium’s drainage system may cost Cedar Hill ISD $850,000,” in Dallas News, May 29, 2008, available at
[No. 18] The Boston University turf field will be replaced after only seven years. According to the item in BU Today, the turf field at Boston University’s Nickerson Field will replaced this summer. According to BU’s executive director of constructions services, the field, which is only 7 years old, “has outlived its life.” The rips and tears pose serious safety issues to the teams that practice there on a daily basis, she said. Source: Vicky Waltz, “New Track, Turf on tap for Nickerson Field,” in BU Today (Campus Life), May 20, 2008, available at http://www.bu.edu/today/campus-life/2008/05/19/new-track-turf-tap-nickerson-field .
SynTurf.org Note: The BU artificial turf field is among the older ones in the Boston area. Could it be that the lead scare that has caused the closing of several fields in New Jersey and elsewhere spooked the BU administration?
[No. 17] Grass costs less: turf versus grass comparative maintenance cost. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. April 25, 2008. In the various materials posted on this page, notably Item No. 16 below) readers have been apprised of the comparative cost estimates associated with artificial turf versus natural grass playing fields. While these number provide a basis for an institution or municipality to budget its resources. When a community installs a an artificial turf field, the ultimate financial/fiscal cost borne by the municipality depends very much on its maintenance culture as well as replacing, as matter of carbon neutrality,the subtraction of a natural resource (grass field) with an acquisition of a comparable sizegreen space or equivalent in vegetation.
In the recent literature, SynTurf.org has come across two comparative cost estimates that compare the cost of natural grass with artificial turf. Both bode well for natural grass fields, because they calculate cost of maintenance in manner that it truly affects the financial and fiscal resources (bottom line) of a community.
1. In relation to the Manchester Field renovation project, the town of Winchester, Mass. Will be considering appropriation for an artificial turf field. “A synthetic turf field would allow increased capacity and usage. It would also cost more money to maintain.
Information provided by the town shows that maintenance of a natural grass field would be about $22,100 compared with $38,100 for synthetic turf. The bulk of turf costs are for replacement, which would run about $37,000 annually. Eric Tseti, “Field of dreams depends on where you live,” April 23, 2008, available at http://www.wickedlocal.com/winchester/news/education/x1319858953.
2. “Tire Waste Athletic Fields Have Expensive Hidden Costs, read the title of a balance sheetposted on http://sfparks.googlepages.com/claim6, a website dedicated to saving San Francisco area’s dwindling green space, especially from conversion to artificial turf. Based on figures obtained from San Francisco’s Parks and Recreation Department, the ledger includes two items that are rarely considered when municipalities try to sell a proposed turf installation to the taxpayers.
The average annual cost for the guaranteed life of 8 years is $106,000 for turf and $74,500 for grass. On a 15-year life span, the average annual cost for life of turf evens out with natural grass at $59,333.
The ledger also allows for the cost of disposal of turf, which is $1.75 - $2.25 per square foot, versus $0 for natural grass. This estimate does not include the cost of transportation or landfill surcharges for environmentally controlled products.
The story of an artificial turf does not end with its 15-year life cycle, because a municipality presumably would want to replace the carpet, ensure the integrity of the drainage system and substrate conditions. The carpet replacement alone is $500,000. That too ought to be prorated in the cost of annual maintenance, as should the debt service on any borrowing that finances any aspect of the installation or replacement cost of the turf field. There is also the cost of peripheral requirements as to safety and lighting and camera to ensure the protection of the turf field from vandals or misuse. The cost of repairing a damage caused by vandalism too is a factor that could increase the annual maintenance cost of a turf field beyond the numbers what the sellers of the product and their allies in City Hall would disclose to the public.
[No. 16]Liverpool (NY)field closed due to drainage and substructure problems. In December 2007 the authorities closed the artificial turf field at LiverpoolHigh School in Liverpool (NY). It was an AstroTurf brand, like the field that Syracuse area authorities closed on April 21, 2008 due to elevated lead readings. The problem that led to the closing of the turf filed in Liverpool was due to drainage issues and the field’s below-ground substructure. Sapna Kollali, “High lead levels in turf close C-NS field,” April 23, 2008, available at http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf?/base/news-14/120894131115030.xml&coll=1.
The Liverpool scenario raises two interesting points. First, given the drainage problems at the site, to what extended lead bearing fibers and leachate entered the soil and water resources connected to or abutting the field. Secondly, how does one safely dispose of the lead bearing fields not only in Liverpool and Cicero-North Syracuse high school but also with regard to the three that have been closed in New Jersey (and at what cost)?
No. 01] The Myth about Maintenance, by Guive Mirfendereski, www.SynTurf.org, revised November 17, 2007.
The purveyors of artificial turf fields often emphasize the environmentally friendly aspect of their product. The buyers are told that by installing the rubber infill variety of fields and other synthetic surfaces that one is helping the cause of recycling used tires and rubber and plastics from the municipal dumps. Mostly, however, artificial turf is touted for eliminating the need for pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that are associated with natural grass playing fields; it requires neither watering nor mowing like grass. These claims are disingenuous because the maintenance of artificial turf has functions that are elaborate, often involving the application of chemicals, with specialized equipment. In order for the benefits of an artificial turf to be realized by the playing public, a rigorous maintenance regime is not only recommended by the manufacturers but is made necessary as matter of warranty or insurance coverage.
The sports field manager for the Detroit Lions football team, Charlie Coffin, told a reporter in May 2005 that "We were sold these fields on the basis that there would be no maintenance. That just wasn't true." [Lynne Brakeman, “Experts spell out the true cost of synthetic turf maintenance,” Athletic Turf News, May 24, 2005, available at http://www.athleticturf.net/athleticturf/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=162975].
One representative sample of the claims that are made by promoters is found on the website Fieldturf (www.midwestfieldturf.com/maintenance.asp): “The cost of maintaining Fieldturf is Minimal. The primary maintenance item is removing leaves and other debris which stray onto the field. Removal is accomplished by a tractor-pulled vacuum system. These tractors can be used without removing the fill material. Fieldturf also recommends brushing the field (every 9-10 weeks depending on use).”
The maintenance of an artificial turf filed requires a number of treatments – combing, deep-tining, fluffing, application of herbicide, and sanitation. Combing is a process whereby the synthetic grass blades are brought back to “life” by combing the field and applying crumb and sand mix. The deep-tining procedure ensures that the rocks and other matter, like shard of glass if the filed is located on an old dumpsite, are pushed back below the grade so that they do not cause injury to the players. In indoor installation particularly, gallons of fabric softener is used in order to rid the field of the smell of rubber and other odors. The fabric softener may also be used to rid the field of static electricity, even though for this purpose often watering does the trick. . Herbicide is required to ensure that seeds of plants and fruits do not germinate and set roots in the crumb and rubber mix. Field sanitation includes the removal of bodily fluids (spittle, blood, sweat, vomit, urine), and/or bird or animal droppings may present a unique problem for artificial fields. A revealing discussion of maintenance of synthetic turf is set forth in a Pennsylvania State University study (2007) available at http://cropsoil.psu.edu/mcnitt/infill8.cfm.
The promoters of artificial turf are quick to point out “One of the advantages of artificial turf is that it is unaffected by weather conditions and that is resistant to almost every climatic condition.” Factually, the climate places limits on the playability of an artificial turf, just as it does on the players themselves. Extreme cold, ice and snow conditions, as well as thunder and lightning storms and heavy rain make the field as unusable as natural grass. In the words of Koninklijke Ten Cate, Nijverdal, Netherlands, a manufacturer of artificial turf, “Always available, but not always playable.” In other words, Artificial Turf: Nor for All Seasons!
The manufacturers of the turf often advice the buyers of a large number of conditions that go with keeping the field in good condition. The list of “do” and “don’t” is hardly ever shared with the public. Each of the commands and prohibitions requires an investment of time and resources to accomplish. In the following we have set forth the precautions and protocols issued by Ten Cate about the challenges that winter and fall pose for artificial turf.
No. 02] Ten Cate Thiolon Product Advisory
When the field is covered by a layer of snow, the game is played on the snow rather than the carpet itself. The snow protects the carpet from damage. Note that this will cause the snow to be compacted making further removal difficult. Also: If mechanical snow removal is required, one must ensure that (a) the carpet is not damaged by the removal procedure and (b) the players are not injured by remaining frozen material between the fibers. If there is a reason for removing snow however, use a wooden – never metal! – scrapper or a broom. “Playing under thaw or glaze ice conditions may render the field very slippery causing dangers for the players!”
Furthermore, according to Ten Cate advisory, polypropylene (PP) fibers should not be used for rubber-infill pitches nor for use at low temperatures. In cold (-15°C / 5°F) the PP transitions from rubber-like to glass-like, which makes the fiber brittle. Bottom-line: Polypropylene pitches are never to be used nor cleared at temperatures below 0°C (32°F).
Even the lower sliding resistance (LSR) fiber types should not be used in –20°C (-4°F) conditions. The LSR transition point is around -100°C / -150°F. Click here for full PFD version.
Winter has its challenges, but the real scourge of artificial turf is the fall season. The Ten Cate Thiolon Advisory (Issue 2005-03) on “Autumn-specific care and troubles” is reproduced here verbatim [Click here fr PDF version]: Leave the leaves out please! Pollution is one of the enemies of an artificial turf pitch. The Autumn season forms an important hazard for pollution of the pitch. Leaves and twigs fall down or get blown onto the pitch. Combined with rain, pitches get slippery, systems compact and microclimates are created, enabling moss, bacteria and algae to flourish.
Consequences of pollution. Pollution is fatal to every artificial turf construction. Debris, leaves and small twigs, but also small particles like moss, algae and fine grains of sand can compact the top layer. This forms a hard layer that leads to slipperiness, reduced porosity and increased susceptibility to injuries. Also the lifespan of an artificial turf pitch, naturally, suffers from this.
Removal of leaves and twigs. Use a wide brush, a special vacuum cleaner or a leaf blower. This way the infill materials remain in place. When cleaning, also clean the area outside the playing surface.
TIP: If possible, have the fence around the (soccer) pitch installed at around 10 centimeters from the ground. Leaves can then be blown from the pitch directly.
Moss. Remove moss as soon as it appears with a high-pressure cleaner. If this is not possible due to the infill, moss-killing herbicides can be used. Be very careful with the choice and use of moss-killing herbicides, and always consult the installer of the pitch beforehand.
Bacteria and algae. The combination of “warm” artificial turf, water and particularly light, offers a perfect breeding ground for the growth of bacteria, and to a lesser degree algae, on the artificial turf fibers.
Prevent dirt from settling on the pitch. It is important only to step onto an artificial turf pitch with clean shoe soles. Furthermore the pitches themselves must also be swept and brushed. This also removes all organic materials that have been pressed slightly deeper into the surface. It reduces the formation of bacteria and the increase of algae. Nevertheless, if algae should still arise, then a method of suppression can be necessary.
Algae killer. Prevention of algae growth is hardly possible. Early detection is key, especially in shaded areas. For combating algae, products with the active agent “alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride” (a.o. Dimanin Spezial from Bayer) give very good results, without damaging the artificial turf fibers. In some cases it is possible to add this agent to an existing irrigation system.
In all cases use only carefully chosen products, and always consult the instructions on the package, and local regulations.
Sources: TenCate Thiolon Product Advisory: Artificial turf in wintertime (Issue 2005-01) Ten Cate Thiolon Product Advisory: Autumn-specific care and troubles (issue 2005-03) -- PAThiolon@tencate.com, www.tencate.com, www.thilon-grass.com. For the full PDF versions of Advisory 2005-01 and 2005-03 click on the appropriate icon.
No. 03] Dollars and cents. When promoters or consultants are asked about the annual cost of maintaining an artificial turf field, most often I have heard estimates in the range of $5000 to $10,000 per year. It is upon pressing the promoters and agents for more realistic data that the estimates tend to get revised upward. The fact is that even an estimated maintenance cost of$22,000 is not accurate, as that number is usually with respect to indoor fields and a few years behind the current price list.
Your estimates may also vary if you have an outdoors venue, particularly in a wooded area, snow and ice conditions, hot summer days, and where the local economy enjoys a higher standard of living. Your estimate will also differ if you have greater wear and tear, due to increased playing time, vandalism, and other factors. The cost of supplies, consulting, and maintenance equipment may be yet other factor in determining the ultimate maintenance annual. Extended warranty and insurance premiums too will increase the overall annual cost for the fields. Below are summaries of two seminal works on maintenance cost of artificial turf fields. The first one form Missouri State University is about outdoor field and second one is from Michigan State University’s indoor facility. Instructive in the second summary is the cost schedules in reference to the type of maintenance service, price and equipments involved in the process. A third summary appears at the end of this section from anecdotal information obtained from Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
No. 04] Missouri State University/Fresenburg Study. In 2005, Brad Fresenburg, PhD, a turfgarss specialist at University of Missouri Extension concluded that synthetic turf costs more, a lot more, than natural grass to install and maintain. In a 16- year scenario, Fresenburg came up with an annual average cost of$65,846 for the basic synthetic field and $109,013 for the premium synthetic field. Often the low cost of maintenance is a reason cited for the investments. “Don’t let anyone come around and say it’s for cost reasons,” Fresenburg said. In Fresenburg’s scenario, the basic synthetic field would cost $600,000 initially to install and have an estimated $5,000 annual maintenance budget. The premium artificial turf installation was estimated to cost $1,000,000, plus $20,000 annually for maintenance. According to Fresenburg, most public agencies spend much less than $25,000 annually maintaining a natural field. A public agency could take the same money it would cost to install a synthetic field and instead put in a sand-capped field. The remaining money could be placed into a maintenance fund with recurring bond revenue. Then the agency would have a premium natural grass field with most of the maintenance costs covered. “Schools say ‘we don’t have the money to maintain natural fields but then turn around and spend $600,000 to install a synthetic field,’” Fresenburg said. “Everyone is going to this because they want to keep up with the Joneses.” Sand-capped fields are natural grass fields made with a mostly sand base. The fields are less prone to compaction and muddy conditions common in native clay soils. Synthetic grass infill fields are fake grass with a base of rubber pellets or other materials. Source: Chuck Adamson (email@example.com) “Synthetic turfgrass costs far exceed natural grass playing fields,” November 28, 2005, is available at http://new.turfgrasssod.org/pdfs/Synthetic_Turf_Costs_Far_Exceed_Natural_Grass.pdf. Fresenburg can be contacted by phone at (573) 442-4893, with digital download available at: http://AgEbb.missouri.edu/news.
No. 05] Fouty's Perspective. Amy J. Fouty is the Michigan State University’ athletic turf manager. On May 11, 2005, she made a presentation at the Synthetic Turf Infill Seminar, in Detroit, Michigan, entitled “A Sports Field Manager’s Perspective: Synthetic Turf Construction Considerations, Maintenance Costs & Concerns." She stated, "There are concerns with regard to the safety of the products used to make the fields, as well as with how to clean and disinfect synthetic infill fields. Synthetic infill manufacturers need to get information and solutions out to the people who have to deal with these issues on a daily basis."
Among the problems tackled by Fouty was the removal of metal objects that got tossed or dropped on the field. She has her crew manufacture a field magnet that could be dragged over the field once or twice a year to capture the objects. Furthermore, "If you paint lines, the first time you groom over the lines the product spreads over the field. The dried paint is abrasive, slippery and the lines don't look good very long," she said. And, for the first few years, static control is a problem that requires a spray of diluted fabric softener. "It also takes away the old tire smell," Fouty said. "Without the fabric softener, our indoor facility smells like old tires and locker rooms."
Fouty’s presentation included a break down of the annual maintenance budget for MSU's 3-year-old synthetic infill field (indoor), which added up to nearly $23,000, on such items as equipment, outside contractors, materials, and labor for regular field grooming. Outside Contractor Maintenance Charges
- Consultation and/or Training: $1,200 to $3,000/day plus expenses - Repairs: $30 to $70/linear foot - Crumb Rubber:$.50 to $1.00/pound applied
Synthetic Turf Maintenance Equipment : Total:$8,250 to $82,000
-Boom Sprayer:$1,000 to $35,000 -Sweeper: $500 to $3,000 -Broom: $500 to $3,000 -Painter: $500 to $3,000 - Groomer: $1,500 to $2,000 -Cart: $2,500 to $16,000 (for towing equipment) -Field magnet: $500 to $1,000 -Rollers: $250 to $2,000
No. 06] Boston College Interview (May-June 2006). The Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts (Newton/Brookline) has had its rubber infill synthetic field since 2004. According to Mr. Joseph Shirley, Director of Facilities, the college should expect to replace the field within 7-10 years and not the 10-15 years often advertised. The BC field has following maintenance performed on it:
-- Since the infill is disrupted with usage, the field is “raked and flattened” every 2 weeks. This ensures that the rubber and sand infill is distributed evenly over the entirety of the field surface. BC purchased a machine as part of the overall construction project by Geller Associates, BC’s artificial turf contractor. The machine is made up of a tractor with various devices to rake and flatten the field and accessories for snow plowing, snow blowing, leaf blowing, and more.
--After raking and flattening, the field appears black owing to the rise of sand and rubber to the surface. The field is watered with a sprinkler system to (i) eliminate severe static electricity and (ii) push the sand and rubber back into the base below the synthetic surface.
-- Geller Associates performs “deep tining” using much larger equipment with a bigger rake that goes down deeper into the surface and removes any bigger rocks or debris deeper in the bottom. It also removes any foreign debris (e.g., metallic, organic, etc.) that gets into the turf. This is done twice yearly at a cost of $3500 per application.
--An anti-bacterial treatment is applied once monthly. This is sprayed on via a tractor with “fertilizer-type” sprayer once a month (probably not a good idea to spray on anti-bacterial agents with a device also used for fertilizer).
--Rips are fixed periodically. --Based on full-time usage, a “bounce test” is performed every year to determine the status and viability (safety) of the field.
No.07] More Equiment: A Pictorial ...
In addition to the pictures featurd at the left margin of this page, here are some more devices used in maintenance of an artificial turf filed.
No. 08] Who says turf doens't need watering!? Here is an item by Anne Blythe, “Fake turf watered as supplies dry up: Hockey fields need soaking,” News Observer, October 19, 2007, available at
But in the midst of what may be the worst drought ever in North Carolina, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are watering the synthetic turfs used by their field hockey teams.
The International Hockey Federation insists.
The universities are not breaking any rules. But like clockwork, as residents in Durham and Chapel Hill see their plants and lawns wither, the sprinklers go on at the UNC-CH Francis E. Henry Stadium and at Duke's Williams Field.
Brad Schnurr, a Chapel Hill contractor who does work in Durham, saw the sprinklers go on one afternoon recently at Duke and drove around the block to make sure he was not seeing things.
"Sprinklers aren't even the right term, they're like fire hoses," Schnurr said. "I was like, 'What is that? What is that?' I couldn't believe it."
The International Hockey Federation requires the college teams to saturate the synthetic turfs before each practice and all games.
It's not just the way the ball bounces, athletics officials say, although field hockey balls do bounce better on saturated fields. When the turf is wet, coaches add, field hockey players have better grip on the surface and report fewer injuries.
Beth Bozman, Duke's field hockey coach, said she understood why passers-by could get all worked up over sprinklers going full blast amid conservation pleas.
"I drive a hybrid, and I recycle," Bozman said. "I'm as green as anybody. I understand."
Durham, which has about 69 days left in its water supply at the current use rate, has banned all outdoor watering. Duke, which could not supply a number for the gallons used on turf watering, gets a business exemption to spray the field and other places on campus as long as overall consumption decreases by 30 percent.
Outdoor watering was permitted in Chapel Hill until Thursday night, when the Orange Water and Sewer Authority adopted more restrictive conservation measures. It was not clear whether UNC-CH would be able to water the field hockey turf for a home game Saturday. OWASA, which reports 180 days left in its supply at current use rates, provides special exemptions for safety reasons.
When Durham started its conservation measures, Bozman cut the turf watering at Duke from 36 minutes per day to 6 minutes on the days the team takes the field. She also asked more of her entire staff.
"We made a commitment that we would not water at our homes," she said. "We're very empathetic to the needs of the community."
The International Hockey Federation, based in Switzerland, could not be reached for comment.
But the requirements certainly raise questions on Triangle turf.
"People want to know why in the world we're watering an AstroTurf field," said Willie Scroggs, UNC-CH assistant athletics director of game operations. "They can understand why we water a natural grass field, but they don't know why we're watering an artificial field."
At the end of this season, Scroggs said UNC-CH will resurface its field and as part of that process, officials plan to see whether there is a way to capture water and reuse it throughout the season.
"We're trying to be very mindful of the situation in our community," Scroggs said.
After a home game against Maryland this weekend, the UNC-CH Tar Heels will spend the remainder of the season on the road.
Duke, too, will be away more than it's home.
Those trips, athletics officials say, will allow the teams to conserve water.
"We can then be more in compliance with what the community would like," Scroggs said.
No. 09 ]Vandalism adds to the cost of maintenance of artifcial turf. The damage caused by vehicular pranks and burning of the turf occur with greater frequency than is reported nationwide.The news about the torching of artifcial turf in Arlington and Charlestown, Massachusetts, are reported in the "Introduction" page of this website. The frequency of vandalism and the hidden cost associated with it require that an entry be made of such reports on this page. Here is the first one -- in the latest pranks as reported in the media.
On September 7, 2007 the media reported a story about the Holliston (Mass.) High School girls varsity soccer team urinating on an opponent’s field in Medway, Mass., causing officials to disinfect the field in a two-day protocol. The presence of a policeman (on paid detail?) at the prankster team’s next game is yet anohter unimagined cost associated with playing on turf. “Medway School Superintendent Richard Grandmont said the synthetic field, just 3 years old, was not damaged and scheduled matches will not be disrupted. Hanlon Field was hand-sprayed Wednesday [September 5] with ‘an environmentally safe’ disinfectant. It will be retreated today or tomorrow. ‘is is being done very much as a precaution,’Grandmont stressed.” Read more about this story at: Soccer rivalry hits new low, http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/homepage/x477569027, and at Urine trouble at http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/general/view.bg?articleid=1029883.
No. 10] Board considers cameras at field, Capital on line News, August 14, 2007. http://www.hometownannapolis.com/cgi-bin/read/2007/08_14-41/TOP. ANNAPOLIS - The Board of Education is scheduled to vote tomorrow on whether to install a wireless security camera system in the stadium at Broadneck High School. The $41,000 camera system would be installed and maintained free of charge by Lensec, the school system's current vendor for security cameras. Broadneck was chosen for the project because of its new artificial turf field. The technology is new, and because the cameras are wireless, they can be installed farther apart outdoors than the wired versions, said Bob Yatsuk, project manager in the school system's office of school security. Lensec officials said they wanted to try out the new system at a school, and donating this system will give the company a wireless presence on the East Coast and serve as a working example of the system to potential customers."It's no cost to us, and it gives us a chance to try out the new technology and see if it's worthwhile," Mr. Yatsuk said.The school board will meet at 10 a.m. at the school board office, 2644 Riva Road, Annapolis.
YMCA-Newton, Mass. 12/8/07
[No. 11] Bad Maintenance Practices at the West Suburban YMCA! Newton, SynTurf.org. December 8, 2007.The general protocol for dealing with snow-covered artificial turf fields is as follows: When the field is covered with a layer of snow, the game is played on the snow rather than the carpet itself. The snow protects the carpet from damage. If mechanical snow removal is required, one must ensure that (a) the carpet is not damaged by the removal procedure and (b) the players are not injured by remaining frozen material between the fibers. However, if there is a reason for removing snow, one must use a wooden – never metal! – scrapper or a broom. Playing under thaw or glaze ice conditions may render the field very slippery causing dangers for the players! Source: Ten Cate Advisory on snow dealing with turf in snowy conditions, see http://www.synturf.org/maintenance.html [Item: No. 02].
That said – about 12:30 PM on December 8, 2007 (temp: low 40's degrees F), SynTurf.org noticed a group of four men vigorously at work on the artificial turf field at the West Suburban YMCA on Church Street, in Newton, Massachusetts. Each of the four was removing the snow with the help of a common household snow shovel. Two of the shovels appeared to be of the model that has a metal strip attached to the hard plastic edge.
SynTurf.org examined the pile that the crew had shoveled to the northern sideline and western end-zone. No broken polygrass was observed in the snow banks. However, the snow pile contained a generous amount of crumb rubber, which had been removed from the field in the process of snow removal.
Maintenance Question: Did the removal of the snow with shovels violate standard maintenance protocol?
Athletic Health: How safe is it to play on thawing turf or on a surface that is not cleared completely of slush?
Environmental Issue: When the snow thaws and melts away where do the crumbs go? The leachate, if any? Where does the field’s drainage system empty into? Where does the runoff from the field go? The filed is some four feet higher than the street level and the northern side of the field borders the street that has storm drains.
[No. 12] Delaware Riverkeeper slams artificial turf on cost and other issues! October 16, 2007. In a letter addressed to the Radnor Township [Pennsylvania] School Board, Delaware Riverkeeper (www.delawareriverkeeper.org) sought to dispel the myth associated with installation of artificial turf playing field at a middle school in the town. The letter pointed out, among other things, artificial turf costs excessively more than natural grass under every cost scenario applicable to the situation, and the environmental, educational and social affects of artificial turf could not be justified. See the text of the letter at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/newsresources/factsheet.asp?ID=53 (October 16, 2007). If this link does not work go here.
DelawareRiverkeeper.org has a very well informed Fact Sheet on Artificial/Synthetic Turf. It can be accessed at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/newsresources/factsheet.asp?ID=50 (September 9, 2007). If this link does not work go here. It discusses the actual and potential adverse impact of artificial turf fields with regard to stormwater considerations, water quality issues (leachate and discharge containing harmful particulates and substances), heat island effect, and costs in dollars and cents terms.
From a cost standpoint, Fact Sheet states: “It is generally agreed that artificial turf costs more to install than natural grass, while natural grass costs more to maintain.Installation and maintenance costs for each must be assessed on a case by case basis depending on site specific conditions.But generally speaking, when the installation and maintenance costs of artificial turf are assessed for the life span of the turf, particularly when the cost of disposal is added, the cost of installing and maintaining natural grass is far less.The guaranteed life and/or lifespan of artificial turf is 8 to 10 years.Some attempt to claim a longer life in order to assert a lower annual cost.” Footnotes omitted.
The comparative cost figures for artificial turf and natural grass as set forth in Delaware Riverkeeper.org’s Fact Sheet:
Cost of disposal: turfunknown (significant/hazardous waste)v.natural grass$0
Av. annual cost for8 yrs:turf$106,000v.natural grass$74,500
Av. annual cost for 10 yrs:turf$86,000v.natural grass$68,000
Av. annual cost for 15 yrs:turf$59,333v.natural grass$59,333
Per Facts about Artificial Turf and natural Grass (Turfgrass Resource Center):
Cost of construction and maintenance per sq. ft.: turf$7.80-$10.75v. natural grass$6.50-$7.95 (with high quality soil amendments), or $2.50-$5.25 (with native soils)
Cost of disposal per sq. ft.:turf $1.75-$2.25v. natural grass$0
Springfield College case study installation and maintenance: turf &105,000v. natural grass$78,000
Av. annual cost for 8 yrs(without disposal cost): turf 800,000 install and annual maintenance of $5,000 v. natural grass $400,000 and $28,000, respectively
Av. annual cost for 10 yrs (without disposal cost): turf $85,000v. natural grass $68,000
Av. annual cost for 25 yrs (without disposal cost): turf$58,377v. natural turf$54,666
Per A Guide to Synthetic and Natural Turfgrass for Sports Fields:
Cost of installation per sq. ft.: turf7.80-$10.75v. natural grass$2.50-$5.25 (if done with native soils), $3.50-$5.25 (if done with combination of native soils and sand),$6.50-$7.95 (if done with sand drainage)
Annual maintenance:turf $5,000-$25,000v. natural grass $4,000-$11,000 (per the case studies provided)
Disposal per sq. ft. (exclusive of transportation and landfill surcharges for environmentally controlled products):turf$1.75-$2.25 v. natural grass$0.
[No. 13]Anti-staph treatment: What cost?“Synthetic turf breeds MRSA Staph: 10 million square feet of turf set to be treated in 2008 in response to MRSA outbreaks,” in PRNewswire, Rochester Hills, Mich., January 8, 2008, at http://blackhole.xerces.com/showthread.php?t=10136.
[No. 14]Auburn, New York: Cost of Turf Replacement In 10 Years’ Time Worries Board of Education Member. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 24, 2008.
Joseph Leogrande is a member of Auburn Enlarged City Board of Education. Auburn is small city located in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. The heart of Cayuga County, this city of some 32,000 people lies at the northern tip of Owasco Lake. This May, the voters in this educational district will be considering an ambitious project to renovate and expand the athletic facilities at Holland Stadium, which is located on the grounds of East Middle School. The $15.68 million capital project will pay also for the installation of synthetic turf at the stadium.
Leogrande has questioned the cost and environmental/health risks associated with artificial turf. In that, he is not alone as many around the country do make similar points about the product. Leogrande however has put his finger on something that hardly gets any attention – the cost of replacement of a turf field every 10 years or so. “Down the road, in 10 years, we're going to have to replace it with no state aid. It will be a full shot, like one or two million dollars,” he told Alyssa Sunkin of The Citizen . “Combined with the toxicity and the very expensive surface, I think we can put the money somewhere in the school for education,” he continued, “That's what we're here for.”
Even in this debate – the public needs to be told that the replacement happens every 10 years for as long as there is a field. The impression that the public pays for the turf once at installation and again for a replacement 10 years later supposes that a field will have useful life of 20 years total. That is not the case in most instances when a playing field, natural or artificial, would be a round for decades after decades.
[No. 15] Maintenance-free, eh?An Expert's checklist. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. March 17, 2008. For some time now, Syn Turf.org has been informing the public about the fallacious notion that artificial turf does not require maintenance. The maintenance-free or low-maintenance cost of turf is often touted as a selling point and the cost-conscious municipal officials tend to fall for this rouse, because in tough economic times the prospect of “savings” is an irresistible lure for the cash-strapped municipality that cannot afford to maintain its grass playing fields. In a recent article, Ron Hall, the editor of Athletic Turf News, discussed the necessity of good maintenance for artificial turf fields. Here are his 13-point recommendations -- the observance of which SynTurf.org assumes could add up to a good chunk of chnage:
1. Acquire a maintenance log from the synthetic turf supplier and/or installer. If one is unavailable from the supplier or installer, fashion your own. This is a working document. Enter every maintenance procedure that you perform on the field into the log and date it.
2. Get the most complete and precise maintenance procedures you can from the synthetic supplier and/or installer. Following these recommendations will lessen the chances for disagreements over warranty issues and major repairs during the warranted life of the field.
3. Acquire, if possible, a list of recommended or suggested maintenance equipment and materials from the synthetic turf supplier or installer.
4. Your most important maintenance tool may be a fence around the field, with gated and locked entrances. Unattended fields invite unsupervised play and lend themselves to vandalism. Yes, these fields can sustain a lot of use, but it should be supervised use.
6. Keep trash or litter containers near the sports fields so that users and spectators can dispose of cans, paper and other materials rather than pitching them onto the ground.
7. Develop a strategy to keep materials such as leaves, twigs, grass clippings or wrappers and other wind-blown debris off the field. You don’t want this material to get crushed or ground into and contaminate the infill. The fence around the field will solve keep some wind-blow material off your fields. Many field managers now use push or pull gasoline-powered blowers to remove litter from their fields. Backpack blowers can do the job, as well, as long as operators are careful not to disturb the infill.
8. Inspect fields regularly for damage or unusual wear. Pay special attention to areas that receive lots of traffic (goal mouths and corner kick areas of soccer pitches, the edges of infields on baseball and softball fields, between the hashmarks on football fields) to maintain adequate levels of infill material.
9. Keep a supply of extra synthetic material, glue and other materials to make minor repairs as needed?
10. If possible, keep on hand some extra infill material (perhaps a 55-gal. barrel) to replace what's lost through normal use.
11. Develop a routine for drag matting or brushing your synthetic field to redistribute/even the infill and restore the “grass” blades to an upright position.
12. Equipment is now available to "pick up", filter and return infill material to the surface of synthetic fields. Look for manufacturers to introduce more units to collect infill material, filter it and redistribute it evenly over the surface of a playing surface.
13. The question of sanitizing synthetic fields in light of concerns over the presence of community-acquired MRSA is a difficult one. There have been statements made that rain cleanses these fields, which seems unlikely, inasmuch as even in areas with regular rain car washes seem to do quite well. Also, it's been claimed that environmental conditions, in particular, sunlight and heat destroy MRSA bacteria, which seems reasonable. But what about spring and fall play when these fields are most used for youth sports, often during cloudy, cooler conditions? While other sports surfaces, including locker rooms, training equipment and wresting mats, to name a few, are more likely to harbor MRSA bacteria, the degree of risk of infection from synthetic sports fields remains a matter of lively debate.
“We hope, however, that these suggestions alert you to the very real need to maintain your synthetic turf fields,” wrote Hall. “Remember, the financial investment in these fields is sizable, and your responsibility to provide safe playing conditions for athletes.”