Rubber-crumb exposure at midfield and the sidelines, below, of the football field at Count Basie Fields is not indicative of the type of turf failure reported elsewhere, says the borough administrator. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
A three-day investigative exposé by NJ.com earlier this week reported that hundreds of turf fields across the United States were beginning to deteriorate long before the eight-to-ten-year life expectancy touted by the Canadian manufacturer, FieldTurf. The company knew about the failures but hid them as it continued to sell the fields, at prices often exceeding $500,000, the report alleged.
But the fields installed by the company at Count Basie Fields here are holding up well, Sickels told redbankgreen.
During the installation of artificial fields at Count Basie Fields in January, 2013, a spreader, above, dropped rubber pellets, which were then brushed into the field surface, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
NJ.com reported that in as little as one or two years, FieldTurf’s product, branded Duraspine, was breaking down. The green grass-like fibers were splitting and breaking off on players’ shoes and uniforms, leaving swaths of the underlying black crumb rubber exposed.
According to the report, the company installed 1,428 of the fields throughout the United States, including 164 in New Jersey, for an estimated $570 million in revenue.
Red Bank installed a FieldTurf football field at the Count Basie stadium in 2010 as part of a $900,000 million facility upgrade. Two years later, the company’s playing surfaces were added for soccer, baseball and lacrosse at the southeast corner of the property at a cost of $645,000, according to a 2012 redbankgreen article.
Sickels told redbankgreen Wednesday that he and parks and recreation director Charlie Hoffmann had checked with the most frequent users of the Basie football field and “all confirm we have not experienced any of the problems” cited by NJ.com.
He sent this prepared statement:
“The Borough of Red Bank first became aware of the situation when alerted by the articles that appeared on NJ.COM and we are looking into this issue further.
The Borough installed artificial turf fields at Count Basie Park in Two separate projects. In 2010 artificial turf manufactured by Field Turf, specifically “Prestige XM46”, was installed on the football field. In 2012, “Revolution 2.0” artificial turf, also manufactured by Field Turf, was installed on Fields 1 and 2 which include the soccer field.
Our turf fields are maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and industry standards. We have not seen any of the deterioration, other characteristics, or safety concerns as described by other turf field owners in the recent press reports. Any safety concerns or turf issues we have had in the past, such as rips or tears, were addressed and repaired immediately by the manufacturer’s authorized representatives.
It should be noted that we take the safety of our athletes and park-goers seriously. We will continue to monitor this situation closely on behalf of the Borough.”
In a follow-up response to questions about exposed black rubber crumbs on the home sideline, at midfield and in one end zone, Sickels said the fill rises to the top when the area is actively used, but routine “combing with a grooming machine restores the surface.”
Noting that the bulk of the complaints discussed in the NJ.com report concerned the green turf fibers deteriorating, lying flat and coming loose, Sickels said, “we have not experienced that.”
redbankgreen saw no evidence of exposed crumbs on the newer soccer and baseball fields.
Red Bank collects $80,000 per year from Red Bank Catholic High School for use of Count Basie Fields for football, track and other sports. RBC also kicked in $150,000 toward the initial cost of the fields, and will pay an additional $50,000 a year through 2021 toward capital costs, under a 2012 agreement.
The borough budget passed earlier this year included a $700,000 line item for anticipated capital expense identified as “turf replacement at Count Basie Field,” but Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, who chairs the finance committee, said that is simply part of an effort to look ahead.
“Capital planning has omitted some significant items in the past, and we’re looking to get better at taking the long view, instead of the ‘we’ll be fine for this year’ approach,” she said in an email to redbankgreen.
Because the fields are warrantied for eight years, and expected to have a useful life of 10 to 12 years, “at some point we will be replacing the turf surface, and want to plan for that,” Sickels said.
On Wednesday, NJ.com reported that the New Jersey School Boards Association would organize legal action on behalf of districts where turf purchased from the company was failing.