[No. 94] UMass Lowell Turi’s Organic Management of Natural Grass Recreational Fields.Forest Park, Springfield, Massachusetts - Athletic Fields – a video presentation from Andrada Productions - firstname.lastname@example.org - November 2016. The Toxics Use reduction Institute at University of Massachusetts at Lowell (UMass Lowell) (www.Turi.org) awarded a grant to the City of Springfield in 2015 that helped the city transition to organic lawn care in parks and on playing fields. See the amazing results in this presentation at https://vimeo.com/192691148 .
[No. 93] Johnstown, New York - Let it grow, let it grow! In August 2016, we posted an item describing the epic battle of a couple in East Kilbride, Scotland, whose synthetic turf suddenly started sprouting real live vegetation (see Item No. 86 below). In a similar vein as Wendell Berry’s reminder that Nature has a long memory and a sterner sense of justice than ours, according to a news item in the Leader Herald (29 October 2016), “The Greater Johnstown School District is trying to figure out what to do about grass growing through Knox Field’s synthetic turf.” Source: Michael Anich, “Grass in Knox turf a concern: Johnstown grapples with solution,” in the Leader Herald, 29 October 2016, at http://www.leaderherald.com/page/content.detail/id/608988.html .
[No. 90] Los Angeles, California – In the middle of water shortages Department of Public Works waters artificial grass! According to a investigative report on KCBS (CBS – Los Angeles) (15 September 2016), “[t]he Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is trying to set an example on how to reduce water use amid California’s fifth consecutive year of severe drought. The DWP has, for example, installed drought-tolerant plants and fake grass at its substations…. But a CBS2 investigation found the water has not stopped flowing outside DWP buildings. Rather, the DWP has installed sprinklers to soak its fake grass for minutes at a time…. On a recent Thursday morning, CBS2’s David Goldstein witnessed sprinklers running for six minutes, soaking fake grass outside the South LA substation. Even an area completely devoid of grass — real or fake — was inundated by water from sprinklers. The excess water ran down the sidewalk and toward the street in an apparent violation of city code stating, ‘No customer of the Department shall use water in a manner that causes or allows excess or continuous water flow or runoff onto an adjoining sidewalk, driveway, street, gutter or ditch.’ Such runoff is prohibited even for recycled ‘gray’ water. Substations in StudioCity and Los Feliz were also found to be outfitted with sprinklers set in artificial turf. So, why is the DWP letting so much water go seemingly to waste? ‘We’re rinsing the grass to make it more sanitary,’ said Richard Harasick, director of water operations at the DWP. The department said it waters fake grass at 10 locations for a few minutes a week, water use it said is allowed under current water-use ordinances. Harasick said leaving the turf unwashed leaves a foul smell in the air. ‘We’re really just trying to wash out the dog pee,’ he said.” Source: “CBS2 Investigation: Amid Drought, LADWP Caught Watering Artificial Turf At Substations,” on KCBS (CBS - Los Angeles), September 15, 2016, at http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2016/09/15/cbs2-investigation-amid-drought-ladwp-caught-watering-artificial-turf-at-substations/
[No. 89] Los Angeles, California -No more cash for fake grass? According to an editorial in The Los Angeles Times (9 September 2016), “[t]he Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has revised the rules for its wildly popular turf removal rebate program, and the utility’s decision could mark a dramatic shift in the way the city’s drought-tolerant landscapes look and function. The biggest change? No more cash for fake grass. Last month [August 2016] the Board of Water and Power Commissioners voted to eliminate the rebate for artificial turf installation as part of an overhaul of the program to focus not just on saving water, but being smarter about using it. That means capturing rainwater and letting it soak into the ground rather than shunting stormwater into the gutters, where it ferries trash and pollutants to the ocean. That means incorporating more plants that provide habitat for bees, birds and other wildlife. And it means discouraging plastic grass that retains heat and doesn’t hold water like healthy soil does. This is especially important, given researchers’ warnings that climate change could double or even triple the number of extreme heat days in some Los Angeles communities. Homeowners can still install artificial turf in place of sod; they just can’t get reimbursed for it under the Cash in Your Lawn program. Besides removing artificial turf from the $1.75-per-square-foot rebates, the program now requires that property owners cover 50% of the converted area with drought-tolerant plants (up from 40%) and limit gravel and rock to no more than 25% of the area (down from 60%). And the yard would have to be designed to capture rain — that can be as sophisticated as installing an underground tank to hold rainwater or as low-tech as digging trenches around plants to let rain soak into the roots and the soil. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said that half of the city’s water should come from local sources by 2035, and retaining water on site and letting it soak into the ground helps replenish the region’s natural underground aquifers. The changes reflect a welcome evolution in how Los Angeles leaders and the public are thinking about water. Los Angeles residential and commercial property owners have removed 46 million square feet of grass since the rebate program was started in 2009. Going forward, if ratepayers are going to subsidize landscaping (and we still think they should), then they should get the maximum benefit. That means transforming yards into landscapes that are more than just drought-tolerant, but can also help boost the region’s water supply, provide wildlife habitat and help cool an increasingly hot city.” Source: Editorial, “No more cash for fake grass, in The Los Angeles Times, 9 September 2016, at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-dwp-turf-removal-20160909-snap-story.html
[No. 88] San Diego, California - A shrinking artificial turf! You cannot make this stuff up! According to a news report on KNSD (NBC 7 – San Diego) (9 August 2016), a “Serra Mesa family called NBC 7 Responds after they say their turf lawn was shrinking before their eyes. “I loved it for years and after about two years it started shrinking on me,’ John Willard said, describing the artificial turf in his front yard. Looking at Willard’s lawn, you could see clear gaps between the turf and the sidewalk, some an inch wide. Willard said he has been spending lots of energy trying to get the people who installed his lawn, Home Turf in San Diego, to call him back. Willard said the warranty on the installation was for two years but the lawn is guaranteed for ten….Cale Abramson, a Home Turf employee, said, …. the gaps in John’s front yard aren’t caused by shrinking turf but instead by expanding soil from this season’s El Nino rains …. Since the warranty on the installation had passed, Willard paid for the labor but didn’t have to pay for the new turf.” Source: Tom Jones and Consumer Bob, “Serra Mesa Man says his Turf Lawn is Shrinking,” on KNSD (San Diego NBC 7), 9 August 2016, at http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/turf-lawn-shrinking-389537681.html .
[No. 87] British environmentalists warn against installing artificial turf. According to an article in The Guardia (4 July 2016), “[the] [g]rowing trend to lay fake lawns instead of real grass causes loss of habitat for wildlife and creates waste that will never biodegrade.” “Environmentalists have warned that a growing trend to lay artificial lawns instead of real grass threatens the loss of wildlife and habitat across Britain. From local authorities who purchase in bulk for use in street scaping, to primary schools for children’s play areas and in the gardens of ordinary suburban family homes, the sight of pristine, green artificial grass is becoming a familiar sight. One company has registered a 220% year-on-year increase in trade of the lawns. But as families, councils and schools take to turfing over their open spaces with a product which is most often made from a mix of plastics – polypropylene, polyurethane and polyethylene – there is growing alarm amongst conservationists and green groups. They say the easy fix of a fake lawn is threatening the habitat of wildlife, including butterflies, bees and garden birds as well as creating waste which will never biodegrade. Mathew Frith, director of conservation at the London Wildlife Trust, said: ‘You are using fossil fuels to make it, so there is a carbon impact there, you have to remove a significant amount of soil to lay it so you are reducing the direct and indirect porosity of the soil, you are removing habitat which a wide range of species are dependent on and at the end of its life this is a non-biodegradable product which ultimately goes back into landfill. So yes we are concerned at its proliferation.’ But the demand for the flawless vibrant green carpet, which needs little or no maintenance and does not need cutting, is growing. Some landscape gardeners are dropping their traditional gardening work in favour of spending 100% of their time excavating soil, laying hardcore and installing fake lawns. Paul Wackett, a landscape gardener from Cobham in Surrey, said: ‘It has gone absolutely crazy this year. Ninety nine percent of it is domestic homes – from small houses up to large houses with big gardens who use it as a feature around their hot tubs…. Research in 2011 revealed that 3,000 hectares (12 sq miles) of garden vegetation had been lost over eight years in the UK – which amounts to more than two Hyde Parks a year. Much, if not all, of this loss was down to decking, concreting over gardens, and the use of artificial grass … Paul de Zylva, senior nature campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: ‘I think the negative impacts of artificial grass are substantial. For the sake of convenience and not wanting the children to get muddy, what is it we are losing here? You will find bees burrowing into lawns which are a mix of grass seeds, other insects will be in there too, and worms – which are incredibly important in terms of the ability of the soil to absorb nutrients and keep soil structured, so that when you have heavy rain or drought you have a soil system which can cope. By using artificial grass, you lose all this. You are creating a ‘Don’t come here sign,’ for wildlife.’ Even those who have benefited from the boom in fake grass are finding that high demand does not always mean an easy life. Robert Redcliffe, managing director of Nam grass, which has been in the UK for six years, said the demand was now so great that his high-quality European-made product was increasingly being undercut by cheaper imports from the far east. It is becoming, as everything does, a very, very competitive market; we can use all our unique selling points but at the end of the day it’s the price that talks. Every day there are boatloads of low-quality, cheaper products being shipped over from China. That is our greatest problem at the moment.’” Source: Sandra Laville, “Growth in artificial lawns poses threat to British wildlife, conservationists warn,” in The Guardian, 4 July 2016), at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/04/growth-in-artificial-lawns-poses-threat-to-british-wildlife-conservationists-warn
[No. 86] East Kilbride, Scotland - Hey Wilkie, how green does your synturf grow? Very nicely, thank you! I’ve got the pictures to prove it! You cannot make up this stuff. Many years ago we reported on folks walking around artificial turf fields spraying herbicide on them, as the damp and warm environment of the crumb rubber and plastic carpet provides an ideal condition for growth of watermelon and sunflower seeds, not to mention stuff blowing around in the wind from here and there – maple seeds, weeds, etc.
According to a news account in Daily Record (17 July 2016),“Paraplegic Dougie Wilkie says gardening firm have let him down as the former Dundee United player wanted weed-free artificial lawn…. Wilkie’s artificial lawn was supposed to save him maintenance... instead it has weeds started to appear within weeks of the £2113 turf being laid and now they are spreading like wildfire. [He] asked installers Scotgreens to fix the problems but they will not return his calls…. ‘We were told there would be no weeds but they are coming thick and fast…. The lawn looked fine after it was finished. But we soon started to notice weeds coming through in various places. At first we just pulled them out thinking perhaps there was a bedding-in process for the new grass – and of course they died in the winter anyway… The weeds are everywhere – all over the lawn, from the middle to the edges. It’s ridiculous as Scotgreens told us weeds had no chance of penetrating the grass as it has a strong latex backing.It meant moles and rabbits couldn’t burrow through the surface either. They had even laid a weed suppressant membrane as a precaution as the backing has thousands of drainage holes.’” “Artificial grass is plastic. Weeds cannot take root in it directly but rather in debris that may build up on the surface. It is not a no-maintenance option. No reputable contractor would ever claim as such. Regular brushing is advised as is reapplication of the silica sand. Any small growth is better dealt with by applying weedkiller.” Source: “The Judge wades into turf war over artificial grass as garden is overrun with weeds,” inDaily Record, 17 July 2016, at http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/authors/the-judge/judge-wades-turf-war-over-8433822#mgrgY5PWgGzBEMZ3.97
[No. 85] Detroit, Michigan: Lear Corporation pulls support from Detroit Police Athletic League over concerns tied to the old Tiger Stadium artificial turf project. Lear Corporation, headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, is a Fortune 500 company that manufactures automotive seating and electrical distribution systems. This ballpark opened in 1912 in the same year as the iconic Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, the home of the Boston Red Sox]. According to Wkipedia, “[t]he last Detroit Tigers game at the stadium was held in September 1999. In the decade after the Tigers baseball team vacated the stadium, several rejected redevelopment and preservation efforts finally gave way to demolition. The stadium’s demolition was completed on September 21, 2009, though the stadium's actual playing field remains at the corner where the stadium once stood. Since the spring of 2010, a volunteer group known as the Navin Field Grounds Crew (composed of Tiger Stadium fans, preservationists, and Corktown residents) has restored and maintained the field."
According to a news story on Crain’s Detroit (10 February 2016), “Detroit Police Athletic League has lost financial support from Lear Corp. over its plan to use artificial turf on the ballfield it’s reincarnating at the former Tiger Stadium site. Lear has pulled its $25,000 annual sponsorship of PAL’s Paul W. Smith Golf Classic — an event it’s supported since 2009 — citing concerns over the historic preservation of the site and safety concerns about the use of artificial turf, said Chief Advancement Officer Russ Russell….Matt Simoncini, president and CEO at Southfield-based Lear, said what’s happening on the historic site doesn’t follow the spirit of the $3 million in federal funds secured for the preservation of the site seven years ago. ‘There was $3 million earmarked for the preservation of that site, not the building of condos and a rec center, and certainly not for artificial turf,’ Simoncini said. “The only way we can voice our concerns is to vote with our dollars, and that’s what we decided to do.’ In a letter to Detroit City Council, Simoncini also said the artificial surface is unsafe for kids.” Source: Dustin Walsh and Sherri Welch, “Lear pulls support from Detroit PAL over concerns tied to Tiger Stadium project,” on Crain’s Detroit, 10 February 2016, at http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20160210/NEWS/160219977/lear-pulls-support-from-detroit-pal-over-concerns-tied-to-tiger . For another view of the story, see Craig Calcaterra , “Tiger Stadium redevelopment group loses $50K because of its preference for artificial turf,” on NBCSports.com, 10 February 2016, at http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2016/02/10/tiger-stadium-redevelopment-group-loses-50k-because-its-preference-for-artificial-turf/ .
[No. 84] Will the California Turf Study Be Fair? In January 2016 we published a piece entitled “Synthetic Turf Scientific Advisory Panel member biographies,” http://www.synturf.org/miscellanea.html (Item No. 82 - see below). This group has been assembled by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in order to provide advice on the design and implementation of OEHHA’s synthetic turf study. The question is “Will California Play Fair with Synthetic Turf?” This issue is the subject of an expose' about the people, the politics, and other information about the California turf study - http://qwrt4c.weebly.com .
[No. 83] Maybe it’s time for the FTC to step in. SynTurf.org, Newton, Massachusetts, 1 January 2016. In the last half of December 2015 two agencies of the Federal Government finally got around to replying to Congressional inquiries about their stands on crumb rubber-infilled synthetic turf. Predictably, the replies by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency once again pointed to the bigger question as to why the taxpayers subsidize these bureaucracies that do not do their jobs by making all sorts of excuses for inaction — from ‘some state agency is looking into the matter’ to ‘we do not have the budget for it.’ Meanwhile the public is bombarded by the synthetic turf and synthetic mulch industry with all sorts of claims of safety of their products.
On 23 October 2015 the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Fred Upton had written to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy asking the agency to respond by 6 November to ten specific but simple questions about the EPA’s knowledge about hazards of artificial turf and crumb rubber infill. Seehttp://www.synturf.org/epa.html (Item No. 20) for text of Upton's letter. On 18 December 2015, Upton got an answer in the form of an anemic reply authored by Deputy Assistant Administrator and EPA Science Advisor Thomas A. Burke, Ph.D., MPH. The letter simply repeated the industry’s claim that a number of studies do not show an elevated health risk from playing on fields with synthetic turf containing tire crumb. While admitting to the limitations of these studies, Burke claimed that the EPA had been working to better understand potential exposures and fill in some of the data gaps. This is a half-truth at best. The EPA itself is not doing a thing to fill in some of the date gap. EPA simply is ”engaged,” as Burke put it, “with the State of California as it conducts a “comprehensive” evaluation of tire crumb.” The of forms of obfuscation, away from the public’s eye, Burke wrote “we would like to offer an in-person briefing to explain the sate of the scientific studies, [blah, blah, blah].” Seehere for the text of EPA letter. Go here for the biographies of the people comprising California’s synthetic turf panel (or see Item 82 below).
On 4 November 2015, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal Bill Nelson had asked the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to immediately conduct an independent, comprehensive investigation to determine the true health risks of exposure to crumb rubber. Seehttp://www.synturf.org/cpsc.html (Item No. 11). Coincidentally (wink, wink), on the same day as the EPA response to Upton--18 December 2015--the Chairman Elliot F. Kaye replied with a four-page answer to all six questions poised by the senators. Kaye offered the California study as one reason why his commission was not going to do anything of its own. He also sidestepped issue of exposure to harmful substances in crumb tire by focusing solely on lead—and why not? It seems that CPSC thinks the only substance of concern in artificial turf fields is lead! Of course any independent work by CPSC on hazards of potential exposure to the substances of concern would require appropriations that CPSC does not have, and grant of additional legal authority (not clear what Kaye meant by this latter). As Kaye wrote, “CPSC is not in apposition to contribute significant resources to any federal effort without a commensurate increase in appropriation. While that might not be what the Congress wishes to hear in this budget environment, it would be disingenuous of me to pretend otherwise.” Seehere for the text of Kaye’s letter.
So far the following U.S. agencies have had something to say about synthetic turf and/or crumb rubber: EPA (environment and environmental health), CPSC (product safety), and CDC (health). Absent from the discussion have been National Institutes of Health (which also provides research grants), U.S. Academy of Sciences (also provides grant for research), OSHA (workplace heath and safety), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
One of the FTC’s missions is to protect consumers. The FTC https://www.ftc.gov/ investigates complaints https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1 in response to reports from consumers and the media and congressional inquiries. One of the issues it investigates is false advertising. If the results of the investigation reveal misrepresentations and other unlawful conduct, the FTC can seek voluntary compliance by the offender through a consent order, file an administrative complaint, or initiate federal litigation. The task of consumer protection is in the purview of FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which focuses on protecting consumers against unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices.
The FTC enforces the “Truth in Advertising” laws. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/truth-advertising . An advertisement or marketing literature in any form and made anywhere must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence. In light of the CPCS “correcting” its prior view about the safe nature of crumb rubber-infill and the EPA’s own admission that scientific studies that show no risk of harm from playing on crumb rubber-infilled synthetic turf, any claim by the industry that these fields are safe ought to be brought to the attention of the FTC for investigation.
[No. 82] California EPA/OEHHA Synthetic Turf Scientific Advisory Panel member biographies. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency has convened the Synthetic Turf Scientific Advisory Panel to provide advice on the design and implementation of OEHHA’s synthetic turf study. According to the OEHHA (go here), “the study aims to characterize the exposures and health risks from playing on synthetic turf and playground mats made from recycled tire materials. Members of the Panel were selected for their expertise in the following areas of specialization: exposure science, laboratory science and analytical chemistry, environmental monitoring, biostatistics, medicine, public health, and children's health. The Panel will meet during the study to advise OEHHA on study plans, study progress, and reporting study results. All Panel meetings are open to the public.” Go http://www.oehha.ca.gov/risk/SyntheticTurfStudies/pdf/SyntheticTurfPanelBios2015.pdfor here. According to our best information at SynTurf.org, the Panel will take two years to collect information and 1 year to analyze it. Here are the biographies of the Panel members --
Edward Avol is a Professor of Clinical Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, and has expertise in exposure assessment and acute/chronic respiratory and cardiovascular effects of airborne pollutants in populations at risk including children, athletes, and subjects with compromised lung function. He was the Deputy Director of the Children's Health Study and is a key investigator in multiple ongoing investigations of the effects of environmental exposures on human health. He is the co-Director of the Exposure Assessment and Geographical Information Sciences Facility Core in the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)-supported Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, co-Director of the Exposure Assessment and Modeling Core in the NIEHS/US Environmental Protection Agency-supported Children's Environmental Health Center, and is the principal investigator on several National Institutes of Health and regionally funded studies to assess the association of air pollution with children’s respiratory and cardiovascular health. Professor Avol is also actively involved in the centers’ community outreach efforts, particularly with regard to the health and air quality impacts of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Port expansions. Professor Avol received his M.S. from the California Institute of Technology.
John Balmes is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and the Chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the San Francisco General Hospital and the Director of the Human Exposure Laboratory. He is also a Professor of Environmental Health Science at the University of California, Berkeley and the Director of the Northern California Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and the Center for Environmental Public Health Tracking. His research focuses on the adverse respiratory and cardiovascular effects of air pollutants including ozone, tobacco smoke and particulate matter. He received his M.D. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital and a fellowship in Pulmonary Medicine at Yale University.
Deborah Bennett is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Her research is focused on the fate, transport, and exposure of chemicals. She uses field and modeling studies to assess and predict exposure to particulate matter and organic compounds in indoor and outdoor environments. Dr. Bennett received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
Sandy Eckel is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biostatistics, at the Keck School Medicine, University of Southern California. Her research is on statistical methods and applications in environmental epidemiology, exhaled breath biomarkers, and clinical trials for pediatric brain tumors. She completed her Ph.D. in the Department of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Amy Kyle is on the faculty in Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. Her recent research focuses on cumulative impacts, chemicals policies, persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals, children’s environmental health, biomonitoring, and air pollution standards. Dr. Kyle serves as a leader of the Research Translation Core of the Berkeley Superfund Research Program funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. She previously served as an Associate Director of the Berkeley Institute for the Environment. She has served in senior positions in environmental protection in the State of Alaska working on a wide range of environmental, health, and natural resources issues. She has served on a variety of advisory groups focused on children’s health and environmental disparity, including for the US Environmental Protection Agency, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Academy of Sciences. Her M.P.H. and Ph.D. in environmental health sciences and policy are from the University of California, Berkeley and B.A. in environmental sciences is from Harvard College.
Thomas McKone is an international expert on exposure science and risk analysis. He retired from the position of senior staff scientist and Division Deputy for Research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and as a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, but continues to work at both institutions. Dr. McKone’s research interests are in the development, use, and evaluation of models and data for human-health and ecological risk assessments and in the health and environmental impacts of energy, industrial, and agricultural systems. He has authored 160 journal papers, has served on the US Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, worked with several World Health Organization committees, served on many California state advisory panels, and been a member fifteen US National Academy of Sciences committees. He is a fellow of the Society for Risk Analysis and a former president of the International Society of Exposure Science. Dr. McKone earned a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Linda Sheldon is an international expert in exposure assessment. She retired from the position of Associate Director for Human Health in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Exposure Research Laboratory. Her research focuses on measuring and modeling how chemicals move through the environment and how people, particularly children, come in contact with these chemicals in their everyday lives, as well as the associated health hazards. She has served on advisory committees for international and national research centers and on workgroups for the World Health Organization in the area of exposure assessment. She earned her Ph.D. in environmental chemistry from the University of Michigan.
[No. 81] St. Louis, Missouri: Artificial turf at Edward Jones Dome catches fire, delays start of game. According to a post (with pictures) in the Washington Post (27 September 2015), the start of the football game on Sunday, 27 September 2015, was due to the “pregame pyrotechnics [that] set the artificial turf on fire [near the end zone]…. The […] Rams put out the fire and then addressed concerns that the foam and water would make for a slippery surface. Out came the Shop-Vacs and soon enough the game was underway. Source: Cindy Boren, “Steelers-Rams game delayed as pregame show’s foul sorcery sets field turf ablaze,” in Washington Post, 27 September 2015, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2015/09/27/steelers-rams-game-delayed-as-pregame-fire-shows-foul-sorcery-sets-field-turf-ablaze/ . Artificial turf is made of petrochemicals and because of its flammability fields usually are treated with flame/fire retardants or the substance is actually applied to the fibers at the factory. Crumb rubber that often comprises the infill for artificial turf fields too is flammable. See the various posts on the site at http://www.synturf.org/vandalism.html
[No. 80] San Diego, California: Covering a drought stricken land with eco-desert synthetic turf!? “In the midst of California’s drought, many San Diegans are replacing their lawns with artificial turf. While turf saves water and can be cost-effective, some are concerned that getting rid of the grass may have a negative effect on local wildlife and family pets." Go to http://www.cbs8.com/story/29244980/artificial-turf-troubles -- Dominic Garcia, “Artificial turf: Good for the drought but bad for the environment?,” on KFMB (CBS affiliate in San Diego, California), 4 June 2015.
[No. 79] Artificial lawns are HUGE threat to Britain’s wildlife, experts warn. According to a report in the Daily Express (15 May 2015), on 14 May 2104 experts warned that “[t]he growing trend of homeowners replacing natural lawns with artificial grass is threatening to turf out Britain’s wildlife.” “The new manufactured lawns provide gardeners with an instant immaculate-looking plot that requires no mowing, watering or fertilizing….But if the trend increases the pretend version will pose a threat to the country’s wildlife that relies on gardens as a valuable food source. Artificial grass provides no benefit to wildlife experts say the popularity will only increase the decline in bird, isect and mammal populations across the country. Tim Rumball, editor of Amateur Gardening magazine, said the trend could even affect the atmosphere, as plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and a lack of natural grassland could affect the carbon levels in the atmosphere….Birds get absolutely nothing from artificial grass, they can’t dig for worms or anything like that.” Source: “Artificial lawns are HUGE threat to Britain's wildlife, experts warn,” in the Daily Express, 15 May 2015, at http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/garden/577455/Artificial-lawns-huge-threat-Britain-s-wildlife
[No. 78] Light pollution messes with avian sex hormones. Bright lighting—either stationery high above the fields or mobile—is a common feature at many playing fields—be they artificial turf or grass venues.In a riveting story by Jane Kay – “Loss of night: Artificial light disrupts sex hormones of birds,” in Environmental Health News (4 September 2014), athttp://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/aug/wingedwarnings6lossofnight-- we meet the bird-watcher Dominik Mosur who, on his nocturnal excursion in the Persidio, was regaled by theNuttall’s white crowned sparrow throbbing away with its distinctive zu-zee trill. Except that at that time of night this bird was supposed to be asleep in its nest until dawn. “Mosur wonder[ed] whether the bright street lamps, 50 feet from the songbird's territory, caused its odd nocturnal behavior, which usually is limited to moonlit nights along this part of the coast. [He] puzzled over the toll that the nighttime singing was taking on the songbird: Would it have the energy in the morning to defend its territory, attract a mate and raise its young?” “Around the world,” Kay continues, “scientists seeking to answer that question have gathered mounting evidence that city lights are altering the basic physiology of urban birds, suppressing their estrogen and testosterone and changing their singing, mating and feeding behaviors. One lab experiment showed that male blackbirds did not develop reproductive organs during the second year of exposure to continuous light at night…. In the wild, light pollution causes hatchling sea turtles to lose their way from beach to the ocean, and disorients Monarch butterflies searching for migration routes. In field experiments, Atlantic salmon swim at odd times, and frogs stop mating under skies glowing from stadium lights at football games. Millions of birds die from collisions with brightly lit communication towers, and migratory flocks are confused by signals gone awry.” For more details, please go to http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/aug/wingedwarnings6lossofnight.
[No. 77] Gaithersburg, Maryland: Praying for it to rain on the plastic turf! According to news item on Montgomery County Media (19 September 2014), “[t]he organic turf field being built at Lakelands Park in Gaithersburg is nearly done, but now Gaithersburg Project Manager Sean Stevens said the synthetic grass could use a little rain. ‘We need rain to settle in the infill,’ he said.” “The city doesn’t have a sprinkler system on the field and handwatering would be too time consuming, Stevens said.” Source: Krista Brick, “Fake Grass at Lakelands Park Looking for Rain,” on Montgomery County Media, 19 September 2014, athttp://www.mymcmedia.org/fake-grass-at-lakelands-park-looking-for-rain/.
[No. 76] Greensboro, Vermont: Hey Bunny, what lines your basket?! And what is an April edition of SynTurf.org without a casual reference to the Bunny’s preferred lining for Easter baskets! One of our readers in California shared this item – under the subject “Even the Easter Bully prefers natural grass” and we thought in the spirit of the season to share it with you. The item is entitled “Organic Easter Basket Grass Company Expands National Availability” with the subtle of “Tim's Real Easter Basket Grass offers customers more in-store and online buying options” – on PRWEB (16 April 2014) at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11763593.htm .
“'Offering more opportunities for families to reduce plastic waste by using Tim’s Real Easter Basket Grass has been our company’s main goal,' said Tim's Real Easter Basket Grass founder Hilary Hoffman. 'In realizing the pollution problems and chemical hazards that plastic causes, it is important to us that we offer a way for consumers to avoid these issues, while also adding natural beauty.'”
“Tim’s Real Easter Basket Grass is a natural hay product made from Timothy hay that is organically grown on The Baum Farm in Greensboro, VT. As many holidays are infamous for producing large amounts of plastic waste that lingers on the planet indefinitely, Tim's Real Easter Basket Grass is 100% biodegradable and can be used after Easter for composting or lining pet cages. Even the classically illustrated box is fully recyclable.”
For Tim’s progressive literature (a nicely composed requiem to plastics) click here.
[No. 75] Petition to support natural grass field over artificial turf. Please petition the Sports Field Management Association to stop promoting synthetic turf fields! The petition calls for STMA to stop accepting and distributing information about synthetic turf from industry promoters and get back to focusing on cutting edge information about high traffic grass fields. “We need you to commit your support to calling on STMA to STOP supporting synthetic turf before the synthetic turf industry convinces the sports world to convert every field,” urges http://growinggreengrass.net/ . The petition is at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/call-to-action-stma-acceptance-of-synthetic-turf/ .
[No. 74] Tyler, Texas: Old turf dumped on private property. According to a news report on KLTV (20 December 2012), when Tyler ISD replaced Rose Stadium’s turf in June, they contracted a company that then contracted someone else to haul the old turf to the landfill. “Piles and piles of old turf as well as several loads of gravel were [illegally] dumped on John Lam’s property.” So, he is “fighting to get pieces of old football turf removed from his property.” “’It’s going to be a good, lengthy process to clean this mess up,’” said Lam. Source: Melanie Torre, “Property owner finds pieces of ETX football field dumped on his land,” on KLTV (Ch. 7 ABC affiliate), 20 December 2012, at http://www.kltv.com/story/20397900/property-owner-finds-pieces-of-etx-football-field-dumped-on-his-land .
[No. 73]Scientific journal soliciting review paper on artificial turf. David Carpenter, M.D., is Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, in Rensselaer, New York, and newly-appointed Co-Editor in Chief of Reviews on Environmental Health. To Dr. Carpenter’s knowledge, this journal is the only peer-reviewed journal that specifically publishes only review articles, not original research. The journal solicits papers on important contemporary environmental health issues. We are circulating this news to our readership with the hope that persons on our listserv with scientific stature take this opportunity and submit a review paper that presents all of the concerns about artificial turf. This journal is a very appropriate place for such an undertaking, according to Dr. Carpenter. For the journal’s call for papers click here. Dr. Carpenter may be reached at -
David O. Carpenter, M.D.
Director, Institute for Health and the EnvironmentUniversity at Albany
[No. 72] Staten Island, New York: Hurricane Sandy claims artificial turf field. In 2008, the Borough President secured $2 million of taxpayers’ money to fund the construction an artificial turf field New Dorp Lane. Named in honor of a prominent Staten Islander, John M. D’Amato, ground was broken in 2010. The D’Amato Field, a regulation-size artificial-turf field for football and soccer, would overlook the beach. On 29-30 October 2012, the beach overtook the one-year old field as Hurricane Sandy slammed into Staten Island. The surge “ripped it up, flung it around, and left it in ruin.” Source: Jason Schreiber, “GraniteState volunteers bring supplies, relief to Staten Island,” in Union Leader, 13 November 2012, available at http://www.unionleader.com/article/20121113/NEWS11/121119738&template=mobileart .
To quote Wendell berry, “Weather we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
[No. 71] Australia: Natural lawn adds to property value. According to a report in The Daily telegraph (13 February 2012), “The grass actually is greener - adding up to $83,600 to the sale price of your home.” [1 Australian dollar = 1.07 US]. “Concrete slabs, pavers and synthetic lawns are out and buffalo is back after a new survey revealed home buyers will pay up to 19 per cent more for a house with a lawn.” “After years of lawns being considered as water guzzlers, with hose pipe bans and a rise in drought tolerant grasses, lawn mower sales are booming again as people plant grass everywhere from a tiny patch of yard to across their roof.” “The survey of 114 real estate agents found that 73 per cent of buyers want the green stuff for a safe children’s play area, while a third want it to relax and beautify the property.” “Families in [New South Wales] were prepared to pay the most for a lawn - up to $83,600 on a $440,000 home - followed by Victorians who would pay $79,800 on a $420,000 home, and Queenslanders who would pay $48,600 on a $405,000 home, agents said.” “Former Backyard Blitz gardener Jody Rigby said real grass was winning over pavers, synthetic grass, decking and concrete. ‘It’s the Australian way of life to grow up running around in the backyard, and it's not as hard as many think to keep a lawn looking beautiful and green, despite the kids’ wear and tear,’ she said.” “It’s not just homeowners who want a nice lawn. Commercial offices, hotels and even Parliament House in Canberra want one too - on the roof. Green roofs allow for a considerable temperature drop.” Source: Vikki Campion, “How much does a bit of grass add to your house value? $83,600,” in The Daily Telepgraph, 13 February 2012, available at http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-nsw/how-much-does-a-bit-of-grass-add-to-your-house-value-83600/story-e6freuzi-1226269187847 .
SynTurf.org Note: If natural lawn adds to property values, does it mean that synthetic turf – besides being a turn off – takes away value? What about a home located near a heat island like an artificial turf playing field? Is the home worth more? Is the view of an artificial filed aesthetically pleasing and soothing? Do lights for nighttime play, fenced-in areas, security cameras, parking woes and noise and debris associated with sporting events detract from one’s quality of life and property value?
[No. 70] Brazil’s Elimination at Pan-Am Games is blamed on artificial turf. According to a news item in Terra Sports (25 October 2011), “The performance of the U-20 Brazilian national team in the Pan-Am Games was disappointing. In three games, it did not win once, leading to an elimination in the group stage. For Ronaldo, the grass was an important factor. The legend even excused the fans and coaches. ‘It was an underwhelming performance, but it was affected by the artificial turf,’ Ronaldo said. ‘You could tell on the television, the bounce of the ball was different. We are not used to playing like that.’” Source: “Ronaldo Blames Brazilian Soccer Team's Elimination at Pan-Am Games on Artificial Turf,” in Terra Sports, 25 October 2011, available at http://www.nesn.com/2011/10/ronaldo-blames-brazilian-soccer-elimination-on-artificial-turf.html .
[No. 69] Humor me! Even tho there’s nothing funny about artificial turf. SynTurf.org,Newton, Mass. April 24, 2011. The following links will connect you to a series of “funnies” involving serious talk about the adverse impact of artificial turf fields.
Journalist Patrick Arden has won an Ippie Award for Best Investigative Story of 2010 for his in-depth examination of how New York City became the world's largest buyer of fake grass, investing more than $300 million to put artificial turf down at hundreds of parks and schools. The story was published in the September issue of City Limits magazine.
Arden found that overuse and chronic neglect has run the turf ragged years ahead of schedule; price comparisons generally favor natural grass, even in the long term; and the health risks of turf – largely dismissed by the city after the destruction of one artificial field for high lead levels in late 2008 – are much broader and deeper than previously reported.
While the story received some attention for its findings about wasteful spending, and the cost advantages of grass over turf, damning information on the health risks – and an apparent cover-up by the city – has been unfortunately ignored.
The city was forced to stop buying turf infill made from recycled shredded tires in 2008 after public outcry raised health numerous health concerns, but the problem material still accounts for the overwhelming majority of existing turf fields. And after having to destroy the one field in East Harlem for high lead, Arden discovered, the city changed its testing methods in an ostensive attempt to dilute lead readings.
According to documents Arden obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, a group of doctors at Mt.SinaiHospital even pleaded with the city's Health Department not to release the "deeply flawed" study exonerating turf, calling the report "superficial and one-sided." The report "does not present a fair and balanced assessment of the issues surrounding the potential health hazards of synthetic turf," the doctors wrote, identifying several "proven and potential" hazards of synthetic turf made from recycled tires: "excessive heat," with field temperatures reaching as high as 172 degrees; MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant staph infection that can be acquired through "turf burns"; and chemical exposures. "Several credible studies" had found the crumb rubber contains "known human carcinogens" and "neurotoxic chemicals," as well as lead, chromium and arsenic.
The report, a $ 100,000 internet literature review, was prepared for New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The study titled, "A Review of the Potential Health and Safety Risks From Synthetic Turf Fields,” received a $100,000 grant from the New York Community Trust and was routinely dismissed as not credible. However this has not prevented the city from frequently promoting the report's "findings" to community boards and elected officials when questioned about artificial turf safety.
In his previous work as the senior City Hall reporter for Metro New York, Arden had exposed an orchestrated campaign by the Bloomberg administration to discredit other health professionals who raised red flags. City officials used the report discredited by doctors to insist the recycled-tire turf is "perfectly safe," a phrase Arden's City Limits story finds repeated by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "I would never endanger a child," he said.
Since the story's publication, the city began replacing a field in Chelsea Park and is in the process of replacing a field in J.J. Walker Park in West Greenwich Village. Both were found to have elevated lead levels. Unfortunately the City continues to misrepresent this public health and safety information.
Also at the March 3 ceremony: Ithaca College's Park Center for Independent Media awarded an Izzy Award (named after the legendary maverick journalist I.F. Stone) to City Limits for 2010. The Izzy judges said the magazine's work last year provided “a model of in-depth urban journalism that examines systemic problems, challenges assumptions and points toward solutions.”
[No. 67] ESPN The Magazine: FieldTurf v. AstroTurf – the nastiest rivalry is sports. According to a news story in ESPN The Magazine (December 13, 2010, pages 110-111), “The nastiest rivalry in sports is playing out in court, as AstroTurf and FieldTurf slug it out over patent infringement. And in a $500 million industry built on making the perfect field, there is plenty of green as stake.” This is the latest in the longstading feud between the two brands. In spring 2010, Oregon State University “awarded AstroTurf a $1 million contract to carpet two fields.” On June 23, 2010, FieldTurf filed suit against AstroTurf in U.S. District Court for Michigan (Eastern District) – Case 2:10-cv-12492-SJM-MJH, alleging patent infringement by AstroTurf over the “right mix of synthetic grass and crumb rubber for optimal speed and playability.” AstroTurf “is firing back, accusing FieldTurf of sabotage ‘on a consistent and continuous basis’ and claiming that a FieldTurf rep contacted school officials in Albemarle County, Va., to bad-mouth a nearby AstroTurf field, saying it has ‘significant failures’ that could injure kids. The alleged tactic didn’t work; Albemarle chose AstroTurf for its new field.” Source: Shaun Assael, “Artificial Turf Wars,” ESPN The Magazine, December 13, 2010, pp. 110-111).
[No. 66] ARS says better ballfields start below the surface; advances are made in constructed-soil research. TheNovember/December 2010 issue of theAgricultural Research magazine carried an article by Don Comis entitled “Better Ballfields and Rain Gardens Start Below the Surface.” The article is available at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov10/gardens1110.htm (November 9, 2010) or click here.Some of the highlights of the article are reporoduced below:
The Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is “doing the research in cooperation with the National Turfgrass Research Initiative, Inc., a joint turfgrass industry/ARS program created in 2007. The initiative partners the expertise of ARS and universities. The turfgrass industry has set a high priority on improving degraded soils by constructing soils that include readily available rural, urban, and industrial byproducts that can be mixed with local soils.”
“From their past research, ARS scientists know that certain soils are unusable for ballparks and rain gardens because they tie up phosphorus, making it unavailable to plants. Therefore, ARS is working with the West Virginia Natural Resources Council and NRCS to develop a computer model that will help users choose which local soils are best for ballparks, soccer fields, rain gardens, and other uses. It will use the NRCS soil survey data, the first such use of this data.” Specifically, in relation to the “natural grass versus artificial turf” debate, “Natural turf can get a bad name from overuse of poorly constructed fields,” [Kevin Morris, executive director of the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program] says, “but it is an inexpensive alternative to artificial turf. It can compete well when everything works. Natural turf has all the resiliency of artificial turf.”
According to ARS lead scientist Rich Zobel, “Over the long term [there will be] new turfgrass varieties, possibly perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, that will penetrate compacted soil and renovate fields without the need to till the compacted soil. ‘We have a lot of information from previous research on roots, soils, and microbes that we can draw on for the constructed-soil project,’ Zobel says.” “This research should one day help provide specifications for improved turfgrass fields that even the smallest of parks and schools can afford.
[No. 65] Who says fake grass does not support life? But is it the kind of life that one wish it could support. According to a blurb in the Whittlesea Leader (Septemebr 28, 2010), the YAN Yean Tennis Club in Whittlesea (Melbourne, Australia, may just fold if something is not done about the condition of the court surfaces. They are “are so dangerous and run down.”“Club president and life member Isabel Northrope said it was a matter of time before gaping cracks on hard courts and slippery moss-covered synthetic grass courts in the council-owned T.H. Hurry Reserve caused serious injury.” Source: Cheryl Balfour, “Trouble on the courts for players,” in Whittlesea Leader, Septemebr 28, 2010, available at http://whittlesea-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/trouble-on-the-courts-for-players/
[No. 63] New Jersey: Artificial turf kills July 4th fireworks in several communities. According to a news report in the Belleville Times, June 17, 2010, “The annual Fourth of July fireworks held at Belleville Municipal Stadium have been canceled for this year. The rationale for cancellation is two-fold, says Township Manager Victor Canning, citing financial hardship and, ‘most importantly,’ potential fire damage to Municipal Stadium's new artificial football turf. The turf was installed earlier this year, and with a final price of more than $2 million, an investment the township takes seriously.”
“Pyrotechnicians from Belleville's firework company could not guarantee that the municipality's turf would not burn as a result of firework embers, Canning said. Those technicians thus emphasized the importance of purchasing a fire-retardant tarp which could cover the turf.” “Nearby Montclair has also suspended its fireworks due to budget woes. Bloomfield may cancel as well, confirmed a municipal employee, more so due to field problems not finances.” Source: Maria Kardis, “Cutbacks spell no fireworks, new police cars,” in Belleville Times, June 17, 2010, available athttp://www.northjersey.com/news/96537459_Cutbacks_spell_no_fireworks__new_police_cars_this_year.html
SynTurf.org Note:Here is a good one - $2 million or so were spent on this Belleville athletic complex, but the Township Manager Victor Canning is citing fiscal woes as one reason to cancel the fireworks. According to the same news report, “According to Canning, the township received $55,000 estimates for such a tarp, and accordingly, canceled this year's fireworks.” “Fiscally, we are in dire straights here and just can’t afford all these things,” he said.
[No. 62] Toronto, Canada: Artificial turf on fire on rooftop. As the various items posted on vandalism,miscellanea and warning pages of SynTurf.org can testify, artificial or synthetic playing surfaces are prone to conflagration. Here is another news story in that vein. According to TheToronto Star (April 30, 2010), “The artificial turf that covered three-quarters of the roof of a Queens Quay [West] condo tower helped spread the blaze that sent smoke billowing out over the city, the fire department says. A propane or natural gas appliance on the roof may have set the turf ablaze Thursday afternoon [April 29, 2010], said District Chief Stephan Powell. The blaze could also have been sparked by a cigarette or an overheated mechanical structure, he said.” For more of this story, please go to Alexandra Posadzki, “Investigators hunt for cause of fire at Queens Quay condo: Artificial turf on roof helped spread blaze,” The Star, April 30, 2010, available at http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/803135--investigators-hunt-for-cause-of-fire-at-queens-quay-condo .
Workers install a new grass playing field and new seating at the north end at BMO Field in preparation for soccer home opener on April 15. (March 29, 2010) – David Cooper/Toronto Star
[No. 61] Toronto, Canada: BMO Field’s high-tech field; natural grass replaces artificial turf. According to a news story in The Toronto Star (March 29, 2010), “After three seasons of grumbling from Toronto FC fans, players and management, crews are expected to finish laying the new grass at BMO Field on Tuesday [March 30]. That gives it a little more than two weeks to attach, firm up and green before the team holds its home opener [on April 15].” “The city-owned stadium, which opened in 2007 when TFC entered the league, has undergone an off-season transformation even more dramatic than the team itself. The much-maligned artificial Field Turf has been converted to Kentucky bluegrass in a $3.5 million operation that includes a state-of-the-art heating and irrigation system as well as a series of sensors that use satellite technology to monitor the turf's conditions.” Source: Daniel Girard, “New grass for Toronto FC pays quick dividends,” in The Toronto Star, March 30, 2010, available at http://www.thestar.com/sports/soccer/mls/torontofc/article/787289--new-grass-for-toronto-fc-pays-quick-dividends .
[No. 60] Good-riddance to turf, the Red Bull will graze on grass. No more crumb rubber and sand, no more plastic. No more football lines marring the landscape. The Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bull just inaugurated their arena of dreams in Harrison, New Jersey. The pitch – you guesses it, natural grass. The inaugural game: versus Santos FC (Brazil). Result: Red Bull 3 – Santos 1. For a write up of the new stadium, go to Ken Belson, “The Red Bulls Are Finally Ready to Open the Arena of Their Dreams,” in the New York Times, March 16, 2010, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/sports/soccer/17redbulls.html .
[No. 59] Markus Wesie rips artificial turf field at Dhyan Chand National Stadium. Markus Weise is a former German men’s field hockey player, an Olypian. Presently he coaches the German national men’s field hockey team. Named after the Indian hockey player Major Dhyan Chand, the Dhyan Chand National Stadium is a field hockey stadium in New Delhi, India. On March 3, 2010, Germany played Canada during their World Cup 2010 match at Dhyan Chand Stadium, defeating the Canadians 6 to 0. According to a news story on TopNews.in, after the match Weise was “not happy with the artificial turf laid at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium due to unevenness in the bounce. German coach said that their performance in the match was very good but he is not satisfied with the behavior of the field during the match. He added that these new turfs have created problems for players all across the world due to uneven bounce and it is very difficult for our players to play on this kind of track. Argentina’s Martin Lucas Rey also expressed his concern over the field saying that ball was bouncing unevenly and it was difficult for the stoppers to stop the ball as most of the times they got unexpected bounce.” Source: Bhuvan Kala, “Players concerned about new artificial turf,”on TopNews.in available at http://www.topnews.in/players-concerned-about-new-artificial-turf-2255316
[No. 58] Not a laughing matter: Dilbert and others take on artificial turf. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. January 30, 2010. You do not have to be a Bliss fan or a Dilbert fan or a person with a sense of humor to see the silliness in what life sometimes throws one’s way. The politicians, who bend over backwards for the voters tend to bend over forward for the vendors. Either way the public interest gets screwed. Our good friends athttp://sites.google.com/site/sfparks/home have compiled pages of funnies that lampoon the self-styled stewards of our parks and fields. A sampling of these is offered athttp://sites.google.com/site/sfparks/cartoonscomments2 and a Dilbert series “How San Francisco is Wrecking their Parks” begins at http://sites.google.com/site/sfparks/comic1 . Enjoy.
[No. 57] Swaziland: Ghana would not play on Somhlolo’s$ 5-million artificial turf. According to a news report on Ghana Soccer Net, January 3, 2010, “Swaziland football authorities will have to swallow the bitter pill that the US$5m worth artificial turf at the Somhlolo Stadium is not preferred internationally as the Ghanaian national team has put it clearly that they prefer to use a natural turf for their pre-AFCON match against Malawi on Tuesday [January 5, 2010].” For the rest of the story, see “Ghana reject astro turf for Malawi friendly,” on Ghana Soccer Net, January 3, 2010, available at http://www.ghanasoccernet.com/content/view/4703/32/ .
[No. 56]Sacramento, California: Abel Maldonado is Schwarzenegger’s pick for Lieutenant Governor. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. January 2, 2010. The California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has picked Senator Abel Maldonado as his choice for the position of Lieutenant Governor that was rendered vacant when the incumbent was elected to Congress this past November. Under the constitution, lawmakers have 90 days to act on Maldonado’s appointment - Feb. 22, 2010. If either the Assembly or the Senate rejects him on a majority vote, he will remain in the Senate and the governor would have the option of finding a new nominee or leaving the job vacant. If the two houses approve Maldonado on a majority vote – or fail to act within 90 days – he would fulfill the final year of his predecessor’s term.
Sen. Abel Maldonado is the architect of Senate Bill 277 “An act relating to synthetic turf.” Its single article asked that by September 1, 2010, a study comparing the effects of synthetic turf and natural turf on the environment and the public health be issued by theIntegrated Waste Management Board, in consultation with the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the State Department of Public Health.”
In connection with the bill, Sen. Maldonado had asked the California Attorney General, Jerry Brown, to look into whether artificial turf fields should have a Proposition 65 warning. The Attorney General investigated and subsequently brought actions against a number of manufacturers and sellers of artificial turf.
With Sen. Maldonado as the next Lt. Governor and in light of rumors that Jerry Brown may run for governor, one can be hopeful that the concerns raised by this site and others will not fall on deaf ears. In January 2009, Sen. Maldonado said that playing on turf is a like playing on “a giant used Band-Aid.”
For previous postings on this site about Sen. Maldonado and his efforts in better understanding the risks of artificial turf fields to health and the environment, see
[No. 55] Wilton, Connecticut: No dogs allowed on artificial turf fields. There is nothing new in this item – as readers know already – from the signs that are usually posted at entrance to artificial turf venue - dogs and turf do not mix. We bring this story only to highlight the insanity of it all, especially when it comes form the mouth of a public official.
According to a news story in The Hour (December 8, 2009), “At Monday [Decemebr 7, 2009] night’s Board of Selectman meeting, Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Christine Finklestein proposed an amendment to a town ordinance that would ban dogs at sports fields in town.” Finklestein cited maintenance and safety issues as the rationale for the measure. Finklestein said that dogs on playing fields also makes the department's staff to cleaning up after them. “You would be surprised, shocked, at the number of times that our staff had to remove dog feces around the fields,” said Finklestein. “This is really a problem that is not necessary and can be easily fixed.”
“Wilton First Selectman Bill Brennan agreed that dogs should not be running around on synthetic turfs and the Parks and Rec. Department shouldn't be cleaning up after them.
‘It’s common knowledge that we shouldn't have dogs defecating on synthetic turf,’ said Brennan. "However, we have to amend the town ordinance before we can change anything.” “Brennan asked the Parks and Rec. Department to organize a specific list of sports fields and spectator areas where dogs should not be allowed. According to Brennan the Board of Selectman plan to discuss this issue at a future meeting.”
SynTurf.org Note: It is a good thing that the town even has a leash law! How’s about enacting a poop-scoop and then fining the transgressors? Seriously though, why is the Park & Rec cleaning up after the dogs, should it not not be the job of the sanitation department or the department of public works? What about the Boosters’ auxiliary – after all weren’t the artificial turf fields installed for their benefit and at their urging?
Here is a question for the town officials – when you clean up the dog do and urine, will you then also make sure that you clean after the athletes to throw up and bleed and leave their biologics on the field? I swear, none of this was ever a problem when we had grass on our fields.
[No. 54] Jason Davis on Soccer on Artificial Turf. Match Fit USA is a soccer blog. In a post entitled “MLS Cup Terribly Artificial,” November 23, 2009, Jason Davis took to task that the MLS Cup Final between Real Salt Lake and Galaxy was played on the artificial turf field in Seattle’s Qwest Stadium. Here is an excerpt from http://www.matchfitusa.com/2009/11/mls-cup-final-terribly-artificial.html :
“Soccer players are conditioned to play on grass. The majority of their time playing, never mind all of those years of devlopment [sic] that allowed them to become professionals, is on grass. Passes made on artificial turf that would be good, or good enough, on grass, turn into mistakes, turnovers, and fifty/fifty balls. Good first touches turn into mediocre ones, and mediocre touches into poor ones. For the average MLS player, control is not always easy; they need all the help they can get, and when strange bounces or funny spin affects the way the ball moves, they're unable to cope. What results is exactly what we saw last night, during Major League Soccer's culminating game; players unaccustomed and unable to deal with a surface on which the game was not meant to be played.
Soccer should never happen, if it’s at all avoidable, in the absence of photosynthesis, and absolutely not when a championship is at stake in a league where the players need all the help they can get.”
“It seems simple to me. The MLS Cup Final had too many injuries, both those directly caused by the turf and those that might not have happened had it not been for a turf-affected bounce, too many loose balls, too many errant passes, and too many moments of poor control. The average skill level of MLS isn't great, not by any stretch; but it's better than what we saw last night, and would have been if the grass was just a little naturally greener, not so chemically-created, and a lot more alive. MLS, you did a lot right last night. I was impressed by most of what took place in Seattle, and I commend you on a major league production. It felt like a final, if that makes sense, and I can find little to complain about save this one tiny little thing. Grass is good, especially for your biggest match of the year. Please remember this. We don’t need another artificial final.”
[No. 53] Home field advantage goes to turf! According to a report in Mansfield Today (November 17, 2009), “Home field will always be an advantage in the world of sports and never more so than in post-season play. But in the case of the BostonCollege women’s soccer team, the artificial turf on their home field is so unique that opponents more often than not have trouble adjusting to the footing. And this faux turf factor no doubt contributed to UConn’s 2-0 loss to the Eagles Sunday [Nov. 15] in an NCAA Tournament second-round game, finishing the season at 11-8-2. While Connecticut coach Len Tsantiris blamed the loss on his team’s inability to maintain ball possession in the striking zone, he did say the field turf played a role, as well. ‘They [BostonCollege] have more of a home field advantage than most teams because of their turf; it’s hard to play on because you’re not used to it,’ he said.” Source: Vito J. Leo (HTNP Sports), “Eagles feel right at home in their own nest, oust UConn from NCAA Tournament 2-0,” November 17, 2009, available at http://mansfield.htnp.com/?p=7752 .
[No. 52] Artificial turf field ignites during Patriots-Colts showdown. According to a report on TotalProsSports.com, during the first quarter of the Patriots-Colts game on Sunday night [November 15, 2009], “the Colts lined up for a 3rd-and-11 play at the Patriots’ 15-yard line, Manning hit running back Joseph Addai on a screen pass for the touchdown, giving Indy the early 7-0 lead and setting off the fireworks within the indoor stadium.” “Before Matt Stover could attempt the extra point, someone from the Colts' sideline was forced to run onto the field with a bottle of water and put out one of the several mini-blazes that were sparked.Another fire further down the field continued to burn as the kick went through the uprights.” Source: “The Dangers Of Indoor Fireworks – Patriots vs. Colts,” on TotalProsSports.com, available at http://www.totalprosports.com/blog/index.php/2009/11/the-dangers-of-indoor-fireworks-patriots-vs-colts/. The url has a link to a clip on YouTube where one can see the fire.
Lunch Hour - by Km
[No. 51] A picture’s worth a thousand words! This cartoon was sent in to SynTurf.org by a mother whose daughter came home one day with a note from school that said the school is about to institute a “Waste Free Lunch Day” every Thursday as a part of its “ongoing environmental awareness campaign.” The note urged the students to reduce waste by pack stainless-steel utensils instead of using disposable plastics, pack a reusable drink container instead of disposable bottles, avoid using plastic wraps and plastic bags, and pack lunches in a lunch box or backpack instead of relying on paper or plastic bags! The school has an artificial turf field, more than an acre of plastic with 400 tons of rubber for infill.
We are a little more than two weeks before racing's biggest weekend the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, hosted by Santa Anita in California for the 2nd consecutive year.
For those of you that don't know, Santa Anita uses a synthetic surface rather than a conventional dirt surface. When it was first installed, the synthetic turf was hailed as the savior for the sport of kings. But over the last 3 years, we have seen some chinks in the armor when it comes to the surface at Santa Anita.
Recently the track hosting the upcoming Breeders' Cup hosted their equivalent to Champions Day for Cal-Bred horses and what happened in their showcase race raises concerns as we head into the Breeders' Cup.
Three horses broke down in the Cal Cup Classic, and two were euthanized. The big names of the sport are not running on the showcase day for racing. Rachel Alexandra and Sea The Stars are the ones not offered up to risk injury. This is why the fans suffer on what is supposed to be the best of the best.
We who follow and cover this great sport have known it to be a foregone conclusion that Rachel Alexandra wasn’t ever going to set foot in California. The question you have to ask is simply this. Do you blame Jess Jackson who owns Rachel Alexandra for not running?
There are 2 ways to look at it. We flashback to 2008 when we had this same debate regarding the great Curlin. Surely you remember the agonizing sleepless nights that their connections had until they reluctantly committed to running in last year's Classic. The result wasn't pretty as Curlin ran like a mid-level claimer and not the superstar we had grown to love. He finished 4th but you might as well say he ran poorly as his earlier results dictate much better.
Do you blame it on that surface? Jackson, who also owned Curlin, sure did; he was adamant about never running on the synthetic surface if given the chance.
The 2nd way is to look at the welfare of the horse. Jackson is simply protecting his prized. Does Rachel Alexandra really need to run? Think about it - she has had an unprecedented season winning all 9 starts including 3 against the boys. Find me a filly that had the year that Rachel had, and I will sell you some land on the bayou. When the 2010 Eclipse Awards are handed out, Rachel Alexandra will definitely be horse of the year.
Now for the other big name that has decided to pass on this year's Breeders' Cup. That would be the sensational European Sea The Stars, who has amassed 6 Group-1 victories this year and has all of Europe abuzz. His most recent effort in which he dominated the Arc De Triomphe in France set him up perfectly for the Breeders' Cup. But his connections have abruptly decided to retire him.
My line of thinking is that Sea The Stars has never run on a synthetic surface and with how meticulous the European conditioners are I would be willing to bet they saw the recent Cal Cup race that I mentioned earlier in this piece. I believe they are protecting the welfare of their star, but again the fans lose out.
All in all we look to have a solid group of horses that will encompass this year's festivities, but I am eagerly looking forward to 2010 when the Breeders' Cup goes back to basics and runs on a conventional dirt surface.
Does that mean that this year is awash? Not necessarily, but I am not quite as enthused considering the 2 big guns that aren’t going to be in California.
I will have divisional breakdowns coming soon to I try to help you have success on Breeders' Cup weekend. Also, the Fair Grounds 138th season begins on Friday, November 6 which coincidentally is also the 1st day of the 2 day Breeders' Cup thoroughbred championships. I will have an extensive preview of the upcoming season, so stay tuned.
[No. 49] Chicago, Ill.:Real sports prefer grass. According to a news report on WBBM (Chicago, September 23, 2009), “Field Turf, or artificial turf, may be spreading its unnatural roots across a wider expanse of the world, but it hasn’t really been a serious consideration for Soldier Field, says Luca Serra, who’s with SMG, the company that runs Soldier Field. For one thing, Serra says, the Bears like to play on the real thing. “As well as, this being (Chicago) park district-owned facility, we have to keep in mind the other events that take place here as well. Namely, international soccer games.And to date, FIFA, the international governing body, hasn't approved anything other than natural grass.So that would preclude us from being able to host any kind of international soccer games here.” Source: Steve Miller, “Complaints over Soldier Field playing surface,” on WBBM, September 23, 2009, available at http://www.wbbm780.com/Complaints-over-Soldier-Field-playing-surface/5281764 .
[No. 48] University of Queensland (Australia):Smell of freshly cut grass reduces stress. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. September 27, 2009. We have occasionally reported on the artificial turf debate/controversy here in Newton, Mass. See, for example, [No. 19] Newton, Mass. Aldermen resolve for “eco-friendly” artificial turf fields, at http://www.synturf.org/process.html (January 2009). Even though the City government has approved the building of two turf fields at Newton South High School and they are mostly completed at this writing, the controversy has not subsided. And of late, some rogue elements have taken to stealing the Aldermanic election campaign sign of a particular person whose anti-artificial turf sentiments are well know in the community. The vitriol has been fanned by the local paper that “outed” the residents who are a part of an appeal to the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection seeking two things: (1) the removal of the crumb rubber and its replacement with alternative infill, and (2) studies that can show the total load of toxins/pollutants and water volume that will be added to the South Meadow Brook in the course of a year from the drainage of fields into the culverted brook at Newton South High School.
We digress. In the course of the great turf debates in Newton, in 2008, Alderman Salvucci was heard repeatedly voting against the turf project for the high school, saying, “What can I say, I love the smell of fresh cut grass.” We would think that most people do. Now comes a scientific study that sheds light on why we so like the smell of freshly cut grass.Mowing the lawn can help you beat stress, pure and simple.
According to researchers at the University of Queensland, “The smell of freshly cut grass reduces stress and protects nerve cells from the damage that stress can cause.” The chill-out fragrance has been isolated and bottled. The study found that a chemical released by freshly mowed grass can help people relax and make them cheerful, thus slowing down the decline in mental ability with age. The scent released from the grass works directly on the brain, specially affecting the emotional and memory parts called the amygdala and the hippocampus.
[No. 47] Penfield, NY: Winning at all cost! SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. September 27, 2009. We know already that playing on artificial turf does influence the roster in major league baseball. We have reported on it before. See [No. 43] Artificial turf becomes a factor in rotations and rests for Major League Baseball players, at http://www.synturf.org/miscellanea.html (August 2, 2009). We have also had an inkling that teams will soon use their artificial turf field as a way to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents who are not used to playing on artificial turf. Now we have a report from Penfield, NY, where the coach of Penfield High School soccer team chose not to play on his own PHS Stadium’s artificial turf field and instead played the game against the opposing team on the school’s natural grass field. Why? Because the other team, Fairpoint High School, is faster than Penfield on artificial grass. “Because of the Red Raiders speed, [Penfield coach, John] Butterworth, elected to play the game on his natural grass field rather than the new stadium’s artificial turf field. Fairport installed an artificial field last year so the Raiders have more experience on it as the Patriots are still adjusting to it,” reported Craig Potter, “Undefeated Penfield registers fourth shutout,” in Penfield Post, September 23, 2009, available at http://www.mpnnow.com/sports/x2024001139/Undefeated-Penfield-registers-fourth-shutout .
[No. 46] IFA: Professional soccer must be played on natural grass. The IFA is Indian Football Association; it is the organization that administers association soccer (football) in the state of West Bengal, India. It is a storied franchise. According to a news story on the India edition of Goal.com (September 8, 2009), the artificial turf field at Salt lake Stadium in Calcutta is stirring up anxiety among the players. “Whether it’s good for the game or a negative sign is debatable as there are multifarious views on this subject. However, most players are a little sceptical on having to play on these surfaces as they feel whatever the condition of the ground be, natural grass is way better than the synthetic ones,” according to the story.Gouramangi Singh, a defenseman with Churchill Brothers SC, stated: “We are not used to playing on these surfaces and hence, we have to struggle to get adjusted. When you kick the ball, it takes much more effort than what you have to do in normal grass fields.” “The Indian international further states that the risk of injuries on an artificial turf is way higher than the grass surfaces. He believes that professional football mustn’t be played on such plastic grounds.” “At a professional level, you play to win and a player thinks about his career and injuries. The injury risk is high on artificial pitches. In grass you get a footing while kicking the ball and hence there is some shock-absorbed. There’s always a fear of a knee injury on artificial turfs as there’s no shock absorbed,” Singh said. Source: Rahul Bali “IFA Shield: Professional Football Must Be Played On Natural Grass Surfaces,” on Goal.com, September 8, 2009, available at
[No. 45] Artificial turf is antisocial, turns away would-be users. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. This next story belongs appropriately in the “Heat” section of this website. But then how many more “heat” stories do we need to tell us the truth about the heating effect of artificial turf fields? Been there, done that. We have also highlighted at times the rather pernicious way in which public land becomes sequestered, dogs banished from the realm, and all manner of sporting activity driven away from the once open-to-all natural grass fields – all for the sake of guarding the turf for the use of the privileged few. Some of these stories with pictures of forbidding signs are available have been posted occasionally at http://www.synturf.org/forbiddenfields.html . While reading the following item, look past the tantalizing heat issue and look for signs that artificial turf alienates people:
Think it's hot running on a 90-degree day? Try running on a 150-degree track.
That's what joggers at the new Macombs Dam Park have to contend with on the interim running track painted on the still-unfinished artificial turf field.
During last week's sweltering temps, the turf reached temperatures in excess of 150 degrees, according to an infrared thermometer wielded by Geoff Croft, head of NYC Park Advocates and a longtime critic of the city's efforts to replace the parkland given to the Yankees for their new stadium.
For comparison, Croft measured the temperature of a patch of natural grass near the park on the same day and found it to be only 84 degrees.
Temperatures don't have to get into the 90s for the turf to overheat. Croft recorded similar readings of higher than 147 degrees on cloudy days when the air temperature never got higher than the low 80s.
"We understand that this is the one drawback of these turf fields," said city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, "and we're doing all we can to address it."
The city spent an extra $160,000 to use a green-colored crumb rubber fill, which stays cooler than cheaper fill made of recycled tires. The new park will also feature three misting devices designed to cool parkgoers at the push of a button.
Local residents who were used to running in the old Macombs Dam Park surrounded by tall shade trees can feel the difference.
"It feels really hot on my feet," said Enrique Martinez, 16, who runs every day on the interim track.
"The worst part," Enrique said, "is that when you want to rest, you can't lie down in the grass or you'll overheat."
When the park is complete next April, however, it will feature several natural grass berms around the field and 166 shade trees planted around the park.
Two boys practicing soccer at one end of the unfinished field agreed with Enrique.
"It's burning hot," said Joseph Cardozo, taking a break to rest in the limited shade of a construction fence. "I can feel the heat on my legs."
"You get easily dehydrated," said Eduardo Yanez, 15. "You have to stop more often and get some shade."
They fondly recalled playing on the real-grass field of their old park, dug up for the Yankees' new $1.5 billion stadium nearby.
"The old park was cooler," said Jospeh, "and more crowded, too. There were more people to play with."
The final design includes a large shade structure over a grandstand, as well as a new Olympic-quality running track wrapping around the soccer field.
[No. 44] Soccer and Real Grass – a Natural Combination. Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. August 9, 2009. On Friday night, August 7, 2009, I came upon the soccer match between Real Madrid and Toronto FC being played at BMO field. Usually BMO is covered with plastic grass and crumb rubber. But for this match, the surface was natural grass (sod). It showed in the quality of the game, especially on the part of Real Madrid. The artistry and pace of the game allowed for some magnificent footwork, and for some reason the savage play that often passes for MLS-style soccer was absent. Cool surface, cooler heads, I thought, as Toronto lost decisively.
The foregoing is meant as an introduction to a recent piece by Andrea Canales, Chief Editor of Goal.com North America, entitled “Just Not Good Enough For Grass.” In it, Canales “ponders what to make of the fact that grass is brought in for teams on tour, but not yet planned as the surface for Major League Soccer’s championship.” “The recent friendly games in the U.S. with visiting foreign teams present something of a sham to fans who come out for matches, and that's the shame that Major League Soccer has decided to ignore. It’s not just that fans will see, even though the touring squads are in preseason, a higher level of soccer. It’s also that the game will be presented on the proper stage - on grass. Yes, for these meaningless exhibition matches, MLS has ponied up the money to replace the artificial fields at Qwest Stadium in Seattle and BMO Field in Toronto. However, did the league bother to make such an effort for MLS in last year's All-Star Game in Toronto? Oh, no.”“Barcelona and Real Madrid used their clout early on to assure that the favored feet of their stars would never touch a synthetic surface, getting assurances from MLS management that sod would be placed especially for their matches on tour … After all, with Cristiano Ronaldo’ss legs insured for $80 million each, Real Madrid isn't going to take chances on them suffering the pounding that all professional players who perform on turf complain about. As for Barcelona and their own superstar Leo Messi - well, they're not about to make their little Messiah inhale crumb rubber if he takes a tumble during a match.” For on this by Canales, go to “Canales Daily: Just Not Good Enough For Grass,” on Goal.com, August 5, 2009, available at http://goal.com/en-us/news/1110/major-league-soccer/2009/08/05/1423826/canales-daily-just-not-good-enough-for-grass .
[No. 43] Artificial turf becomes a factor in rotations and rests for Major League Baseball players. According to a news report in MLB.com (July 29, 2009), “Playing on turf also raises concerns for the coaching staff on how to deal with certain players’ injuries and if the turf may exacerbate them.” The Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim coach Mike Sciosca “knows what a beast it can be to play on artificial turf.” “While Scioscia has seen artificial surface become closer and closer to grass, he still believes a synthetic field is a tough surface to play on. You definitely have to work harder to run on it because it has a sponge to it and while I think guys that play on it every day get used to it, when your not, you are going to feel some muscles that you never knew you had.” On the eve of a 3-game series at the Metrodome against the Minnesota Twins, Scioscia limited the outfielder Juan Rivera to one game due to his hamstring injury. “That is a concern when you are on that turf as to where guys with injuries to their backs and legs and how it affects them. It is a different animal playing on turf, and it is certainly something we are looking at closely.” Scioscia also decided to rest shortstop Erick Aybar in a recent game against the Indians “in preparation for the turf, believing a day off would help lessen the blow of playing on such a hard surface. Taking no chances when he does go to Minnesota, Scioscia will also make sure pregame workouts are not too strenuous and that players are careful when warming up.” According to Scioscia, “You really just want to get used to the field to get a feel for it, and turf is the extreme. We don’t play much on it.” Source: Quinn Roberts, Scioscia will be cautious on artificial turf, on MLB.com, July 29, 2009, available at http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090729&content_id=6128262&vkey=news_ana&fext=.jsp&c_id=ana .
[No. 42] Chicago White Sox’s dismal record on artificial turf. According to a piece ob Bleacher Reports, July 29, 2009, the baseball team Chicago White Sox keep loisng balls games at venues that have artificial turf fields. The pattern has emerged from the examination of the stats and their win-loss record at the Minnesota Twins’ Metrodome, the Rogers Centre in Toronto, and Tropicana Field in the last three years. “What do all three of these places have in common?,” the reporter inquired, “The artificial turf. The White Sox just don't know how to adjust to the turf. They lose the ability to hit and play defense.” For details and analysis, see Daniel Abbas, “The Achilles Heel Of the Chicago White Sox: Artificial Turf,” on Bleacher Report, July 29, 2009, available at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/226221-the-achilles-heel-of-the-chicago-white-sox-artificial-turf .
[No. 41] Moosica, Penn.: Grass attracts, plastic fields repel: It’s that simple. According to a news story in The New York Times (July 18, 2009), in order to attract the Class AAA affiliates of the New York Yankees to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area’s PNC Field, “Lackawanna County, which owns the ballpark, rolled out the welcome mat by installing a grass field over artificial turf.” Source: Chris Hine, “A Sodden Field Is Fixed as a Quagmire Remains,” in The New York Times, July 18, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/sports/baseball/19scranton.html?_r=1 .
[No. 40] Never mind the players - Turf fields are bad for soccer. A recent round of CONCACAF Gold Cup at the FloridaInternationalUniversity in July has re-ignited talk about getting FIU field to become a soccer-specific venue for International and MLS and USL play. The problem with that venue is its artificial turf surface, which is anathema to soccer players. In a recent posting on MLS Talk (July 11, 2009, we came across this commentary by an observer of the Gold Cup tournament at FIU:
But one major problem still exists for FIU Stadium: Artificial Turf. Canadian manager Stephen Hart was rightly borderline obsessive about the turf in his post match remarks choosing to focus on the affect it had on the match rather than to comment on the match itself. Canada’s tentative play early he attributed to the turf.
Hart is right. Several times last night, I saw unnatural bounces and players get their feet trapped in the junk surface not able to cut properly or react with the normal sharpness. In the US-Grenada match last weekend I observed some of the same issue on the turf in Seattle.
I’ll be honest: As much as I try and watch MLS or USL, turf pitches bother me so much that often times I skip matches on turf or simply watch them more passively. It’s one thing for MLS, still trying to find adequate ground to play in or USL whose clubs often fight for survival financially each and every year. But for international football the junk needs to be banned.
But FIFA has another attitude. In Peru, the U-20 Championship of 2005 were largely played on turf. But most South American clubs and players hate the stuff so gradually after that tournament the turf was abandoned. Same for Canada in 2007, where the majority of games were played on turf, but now Canadian coaches and players like Stephen Hart don’t want to get near the stuff.
Bob Bradley made his views on turf clear before the US traveled to Costa Rica in June. At the same time, the USA has a handful of players who flat out to refuse to play on the junk unless it is absolutely vital for their team or nation.
Florida has not had a stadium for football, or the real kind or American variety (what we call throw ball on this site) that hosts a professional team that has used turf since the 1970s. Three NFL franchises, three NASL, two MLS and several USL teams have played on natural grass.
[No. 39] Shrinkage and other turf woes at Estadio Morera Soto, Costa Rica. According to a news story in Ovacion (Ovation) (July 2, 2009), the Morera Soto soccer stadium’s playing surface has lost 661.5 square meters in area. The culprit is the conversion of the natural grass field to artificial turf. Prior to the conversion, the grass playing surface at Morera was 105 meters long by 74.3 meters wide. It is now 105 meters long and 68 meters wide, which translates to 3 meters narrower on each side. FIFA provides a range of 100 to 110 meters long and 64 to 75 meters wide for international matches, but strongly recommends that new stadiums have a pitch of 105 meters by 68 meters. The shrinkage doesn’t seem like much, but the players realize that it is a significant reduction and puts them at a competitive disadvantage, unless they change their team to adapt to the surface, according to Carlos Castro Mora, who plays for LD Alajuelense in the Primera Division. The changeover at Morera seems to be inspired by the installation of a turf field at Estadio Saprissa about four years ago, which has allowed the management there to host concerts as well as games. Source: Antonio Alfaro, “Se encogió el Morera - La Liga dice que ir contra la recomendación de FIFA es como ir contra la Biblia, in Ovacion, July 2, 2009, no longer available at http://www.aldia.cr/hoy/ovacion2014070.html but available in pdf here and Google translation here. SynTurf.org thanks Frank Dell’Apa for bringing this story to our attention and providing the translation of the piece. SynTurf.org Note: According to Frank Dall’Apa, a sports writer for The Boston Globe, “the fact the ball moves faster on artificial turf effectively makes the field even smaller.” The turf vs. grass debate has been a controversial one for USA Soccer recently. The US lost to Costa Rica 3-1 in June in World Cup qualifier in a game that was played on artificial turf in Saprissa Stadium in Costa Rica. “Two days after the loss, American coach Bob Bradley called on the sport's governing body, FIFA, to ban artificial turf. “The field is terrible, and FIFA should not allow artificial surfaces,” Bradley said. “They should have some courage. They should stop it. It’s no good for the players, and somehow I hope the players have the ability around the world to stand up and say we’re not playing on this, plain and simple.” Kevin Van Valkenburg, “For soccer, turf on takeout: Natural sod brought to M&T for Chelsea-AC Milan game,” in The Baltimore Sun, July 2, 2009, available at http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bal-sp.sod02jul02,0,4343633.story . Also see http://www.synturf.org/playersview.html (Item No. 29).
[No. 38] How do they do it for those high end soccer games? A glance at turning artificial turf fields into a natural grass surface. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. July 5, 2009. From time to time, we come across a story or news item about an artificial turf field being converted into a grass field for a particular soccer match. It is true, the game is supposed to be played on natural grass and every now and then we hear or read about players and coaches saying the same thing, with regularity. It is ironic though, the one sport that has managed to wreak havoc with natural grass playing fields has been the explosion of soccer in the United States. Some years ago, we heard from one of the premier naturalists in Massachusetts that we should ban soccer for the sake of the environment! Even we will not go that far. Soccer is a great game, a beautiful sport- but of course, not the kind of ugly foul-ridden and savagely physical version of it that has come to dominate the collegiate and professional ranks. How do they then turn an artificial turf field into a natural grass playing surface for those, oh, so very special games? In a news story surrounding the upcoming game between Chelsea and AC Milan (July 24, 2009) at the M&T Bank (Ravens) Stadium in Baltimore, Kevin Van Valkenburg reported in The Baltimore Sun (July 2, 2009) the following observations about the conversion process: “The Ravens just have to ship the natural grass in from Virginia and install it before the two teams arrive…. [S]occer at the highest level is almost always played on natural grass. So as part of the agreement to host the game, the Ravens have arranged to install temporary sod on top of their own turf for the July 24 game.” According to the promoters of the event, “the teams wanted to play on natural turf.” This will not be “unlike what several other venues will be doing during the [six-city] tour.” The move will be fairly costly, but it is not a “deal-breaker,” considering the $20 million in revenue the event might generate for the region. “To make the move to natural grass, the Ravens have hired Duraturf Service Corp., a Richmond, Va., company that regularly provided similar services for RFK Stadium.The sod will be trucked from the company's farm in Virginia and then fitted together atop plastic sheets to protect the Ravens' regular turf. “It will take about 30 truckloads of sod,” said Ravens groundskeeper Don Follett. "It will be about 80,000 square feet in total, and it will take about two or three days to get it in and make sure all the seams fit together. It all goes relatively smoothly and is not that uncommon.” After the game is played, Follett said, the sod gets rolled up and shipped back to Virginia, where it's replanted for future use. It takes a 15-man crew a couple of days to dismantle the field, which weighs about 200 pounds per square foot.” The turf vs. grass debate has been a controversial one for USA Soccer recently. The US lost to Costa Rica, 3-1, in June in World Cup qualifying game that was played on artificial turf in Saprissa Stadium in Costa Rica. “Two days after the loss, American coach Bob Bradley called on the sport's governing body, FIFA, to ban artificial turf. “The field is terrible, and FIFA should not allow artificial surfaces,” Bradley said. “They should have some courage. They should stop it. It’s no good for the players, and somehow I hope the players have the ability around the world to stand up and say we’re not playing on this, plain and simple.” Kevin Van Valkenburg, “For soccer, turf on takeout: Natural sod brought to M&T for Chelsea-AC Milan game,” in The Baltimore Sun, July 2, 2009, available at http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bal-sp.sod02jul02,0,4343633.story .
[No. 36] Economic downturn is a blessing, of sorts. According to an item in The Oregonian (May 14, 2009), “The decade-long trend of high schools installing artificial turf fields has slowed, and the economic downturn is cited as the reason. Many bigger schools already have made the conversion to the fields, but for some that still play on grass, efforts to raise money for artificial turf have all but ground to a halt.” For more of the story, seeJerry Ulmer, “Turf plans grounded,” in The Oregonian, May 14, 2009, available at http://highschoolsports.oregonlive.com/news/article/-6803684017242866351/turf-plans-grounded/ .
[No. 35] Science too is a field of dreams. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. May 15, 2009. Of late, the Synthetic Turf Council has gotten the clever idea of sponsoring essay-writing contests among students around – wait for it – one’s field of dreams. Any guesses as to what essay will win the prize?!
Here is a story that warms my heart. Recently, a third-grader named Claire Dworsky of San Francisco won the Kids' Science Challenge competition. Her prize: The chance to investigate her own questions about water quality under the auspices of Aidan Payton, a marine scientist at University of California at Santa Cruz.
According to the press release http://www.ucsc.edu/news_events/press_releases/text.asp?pid=2956(May 15, 2009 - Contact: Tim Stephens (831) 459-2495; email@example.com ): An avid soccer player, Dworsky was curious about the differences between grass fields and artificial turf with respect to pollutants in the water that runs off the fields. Paytan said it was easy to pick her entry as a winner. “Her idea stemmed from genuine curiosity and observation,” said Paytan, an associate research scientist in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UCSC. In an interview, Dworsky explained how she got interested in the runoff from soccer fields. “I look down and I see that the turf water compared with the grass water looks different, so that's why I'm trying to figure out what's going on..., if turf fields pollute more than grass fields,” she said.
After Dworsky's entry was chosen as a winner in March, Paytan discussed the project with her and sent her a package with supplies and instructions for collecting water samples. Dworsky collected 110 samples from 10 soccer fields in San Francisco, half with grass and half with artificial turf. She has made several trips to Paytan's lab at UCSC, where the samples will be analyzed, and will spend more time there over the summer. Paytan said the results of the study should be available by August.
After meeting Dworsky and starting to work on the project with her, Paytan said she continues to be impressed by her 8-year-old collaborator. “Obviously, her science background is not like a college student's, but she observes and asks good questions,” Paytan said. “She's a smart kid, and she wants to take it to the next step. Beyond the science question, she's also interested in the decision-making process when communities decide to replace grass fields with artificial turf.”
The issue has been controversial in some communities. According to Paytan, there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of fields. Dworsky's investigation of runoff from grass and artificial turf won't resolve all the controversies, but it will address an issue that has not been well studied. Paytan said a search of the scientific literature did not turn up any prior studies like the one they are doing now. “I couldn't find anything in the peer-reviewed journals that's comparable. No one has done an extensive comparison study of fields in the same city to look at what's coming off in the runoff,” she said. “It just shows that a little girl can do something that's useful for everybody.”
[No. 34] San Francisco: CBS5-TV investigates artificial turf. Entitled “CA Lawmakers Question Safety of Artificial Turf,” environmental reporter Jeffrey Schaub looks at the political response to the proliferation of artificial turf fields in the sate and outlines the concerns about lead, heat and other issues with synthetic playing fields. The video (KPIX5, May 7-8, 2009) is available here: http://firstname.lastname@example.org. The text of the story (“Turf Wars: Are Kids Playing it Safe?,” May 7, 2009) is available at http://cbs5.com/environment/artificial.turf.fields.2.1004289.html .
[No. 33] What is wrong with this picture? The picture on the right was passed along to SynTurf.org by a reader. It speaks volumes about two things: either a knowing parent does not mind a child wallowing in crumb rubber, or the parent is clueless about the potential harm that may come her baby. While the picture is worth a thousand words, here is the note that accompanied the picture as sent to us: “This picture was sent to us today. Look at this small child playing in the tons of ground-up used rubber tires --- in a playground. Wait until this playground gets hot -- and smell of rubber will be overpowering. There was also a picture of a toddler eating a cracker - showing that what gets on their hands from the rubber tires also gets in their mouths. What are we doing to our littlest children - and how do we get it to stop.”
[No. 32] Saginaw Bay, Mich.: Ducks get it! A recent news report in The Bay City Times (March 27, 2009) highlighted the exploits of the members of the Saginaw Bay Chapter of Delta Waterfowl, who install hen houses for mallards in marsh areas. The hen houses are cylinder in shape, 3-foot long by 2-foot high. They are usually placed on a pole, about 2.5 feet off the water. The hen house program sites can be considered mallard factories. Similar in concept to wood duck boxes, hen houses are nesting structures designed to provide mallards with a safe place to nest. “The hens fly in and lay their eggs and then they hatch,” said Bob Majdecki. According to another member, Scott Berg, “the initial mallard nesting structures experimented with artificial turf,” but “What we found is that they weren’t as effective as natural materials … “In South Carolina, it’s more like a sweet grass hay… “In Michigan, if we can get into some leafy, field hay, that works.” Source: Mike Spencer, “SaginawBay waterfowl chapter puts out nesting places for ducks,” in The Bay City Times, March 27, 2009, available at http://www.mlive.com/living/bay-city/index.ssf/2009/03/saginaw_bay_waterfowl_chapter.html .
[No. 30] Giant Stadium to go grass for CONCACAF tourney finals. In the summer of 2009, the Gold Cup of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) will be played in 13 venues across the United States. According to the story in MLS.net, “Each venue will host a doubleheader, with the exception of Giants Stadium, home for the July 26 final. It is the second time Giants Stadium has staged the final and first since 2005. Grass will be laid over the artificial turf.” Source: Dylan Butler, “2009 Gold Cup to be played in 13 US cities,” in MLSnet.com, March 9, 2009, available at http://web.mlsnet.com/news/mls_news.jsp?ymd=20090309&content_id=222792&vkey=news_mls&fext=.jsp
[No. 29] Flammability of rubber mulch. Just recently a reader sent this in about the flammability of rubber mulch that is used in gardening. The item is slightly dated (2004), but it goes to show that even then rubber mulch had its problems. According to an item in The Ohio State University Extension website, “Mulch ignition is becoming more and more of a concern as commercial and public facilities ban smoking inside buildings, said Larry Steward, assistant professor of horticulture at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (Ohio State ATI). Cigarettes, matches and other smoking materials are often tossed on the ground before people enter a building. That can be a safety hazard with the wrong kind of mulch.” A variety mulch materials was tested: “All of the materials tested were different in their ease of ignition. Some, like cocoa hulls, never ignited under any of the circumstances, while others, like ground rubber, had flames within a minute and were a struggle to extinguish.” “Overall, cocoa shells, the medium pine bark nuggets and hardwood bark are the three organic mulches that I would recommend for most locations,” Steward said, “especially where there is a real chance of someone flicking a cigarette.” “It’s rare that you would have a fire in mulch that is immediate,” Steward said. “Most creep along under the mulch and then ignite, with rubber as an exception: it spreads fast and can’t be contained. What’s scary is that rubber’s commonly used in playgrounds.” For more of the story, please go to Melissa Brewer, “Mulch Ignition is a Hot Landscape Topic,” in Ohio State University Extension, April 6, 2004, available at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/story.php?id=2865 .
SynTurf.org Note: Crumb rubber is made of the same material as rubber mulch; it is smaller in size. Now you know why cigarettes and other smoking material are usually banned from artificial turf facilities.
[No. 27] Milone & MacBroom Report: A Critique. Milone & MacBroom is in the business of landscape architecture, engineering and environmental science. In November 2007, the firm’s project manager and senior vice president testified on behalf of Fairfield Country Day School’s application to build an artificial turf field in an area that was under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission. His testimony did not sway the commission, as it voted down to allow the turf installation. Like a bad penny that keeps turning up, last month, Milone & MacBroom was back in the news – this time being peddling a glossy product, entitled “Evaluation of the Environmental Effects of Synthetic Turf Athletic Fields.” Issued on December 1, 2008, the report contained the typical industry-inspiring conclusions. Considering that this organization recommends artificial turf installations, the result of its tests and conclusions cannot be taken very seriously by anyone in the serious business of science, public health and environmental impact.
The temperature data presented by Milone & MacBroom generally matches the data SynTurf.org has obtained from fields in the Boston area in 2007 and 2008. But, there is a major, egregious error in the presentation of the data, however. The authors ascribe the surface temperature rise to the plastic grass-simulating fibers and claim that the crumb rubber remains relatively cool. It is actually the surface of the crumb rubber which absorbs the solar energy and heats up. The authors correctly show that the temperature of the crumb rubber drops rapidly with depth but apparently do not understand the thermal physics involved which allows the surface to reach extreme temperatures while the bulk of the material remains cool.
Since the health issues resulting from extremely hot field surfaces remain the same, no matter which component actually heats up, this could be regarded as an academic difference. However, the implications of their erroneous statement are profound. If Milone & MacBroom were correct, the solution to the extreme turf temperature problem would be to simply eliminate the cosmetic “grass” and construct artificial turf fields with only mats of crumb rubber, which is the functional element in any case. But in fact measurements on a number of fields, including a number of areas with very sparse plastic “grass,” indicate that the sparse areas heat up more than the thickly covered sections. It is the black crumb rubber that is the primary heat absorber, and the “grass” actually acts to shade the heat absorbing surface somewhat. The “grass” may also act as a heat radiator, since the thin filaments have a structure similar to cooling fins in artificial systems. Since the crumb rubber is the most fundamental component of the artificial turf system, no solution to the problem is readily apparent.
Another disappointing element of the study involves the cooling effect of water, which could be a useful addition to the state of knowledge. Unfortunately, although the authors prove the intuitively obvious point that water cools off the hot surface, they present data for only twenty minutes. Watering these fields is often suggested as a solution for the hot surface problem, but watering every twenty minutes is clearly impractical. Other authors have suggested that the effectiveness of watering in fact only lasts about twenty minutes. That cannot be confirmed or disputed by the Milone & MacBroom data, since they present no data beyond that interval.
Finally, conspicuous by its absence was the lack of any context for interpretation of the high surface temperatures presented. The New York City Board of Health, for example, has cited 115 degrees as the point beyond which there is a potential for injury, making the measured temperatures in the 150’s clearly dangerous. Yet there was no mention of any standards as there was for the gaseous and fluid contaminants in the succeeding sections.
The report also contained inadequacies in the testing of leachates from artificial turf fields. It is curious that all but one of the drainage samples were taken in cooler months, one in midwinter. Generally chemical reactions speed up at higher temperatures. And in fact, considering the results for zinc, there is an obvious correlation between zinc readings and time of year when samples were taken. The sample taken in July showed the highest reading at about half the water quality standard limit, while the one taken in February showed the lowest. Spring and fall samples showed intermediate results. Zinc is toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Winter readings are of academic interest, while summer levels can impact organisms when they are active. This study needs to be repeated with many more samples taken during summer months.
The authors stated that the samples were taken at the discharge outfall, but they do not state whether the samples are diluted by surrounding runoff or groundwater. This was the case in another study where the discharge outfall was submerged in a ponding area which collected water from other sources, but that fact was not mentioned by the author of that study. If these samples were in fact undiluted drainage from the field surface it needed to be stated.
In Table 1 of the Milone & MacBroom study, the sensitivity of the metals testing seemed to vary from sample to sample. Zinc, for example, was listed as <0.020 in one instance and <0.002 in another. Even more curiously, and unacceptable, was listing selenium as <0.010 in one case, <0.005 in another, and <0.002 in the remainder. Since the water quality standard is 0.005 for selenium, the first result meant that it could actually be as much as twice the standard and the second might just barely meet the standard. Yet the narrative claimed that “selenium...(was) not present in the drainage water.” This conclusion cannot be drawn from the data.
Also in Table 1 of the Milone & MacBroom study, the maximum concentration of zinc appears on 10/1/2008 at 0.031, yet the narrative claimed “Zinc was determined to be present on three of the five sampling dates at a maximum concentration of 0.022 mg/L.” This is incorrect and indicates sloppiness on the part of the authors. It is also significant that the worst result, taken in a cool month, was nearly half the water quality standard. This is not a comfortable margin under the standard.
The sensitivity of the lead testing was set at just barely under the water quality standard limit. Yet the narrative claimed that lead was “not detected.” Given that many health authorities believe that no level of lead is safe, this is an aggressive statement.
In Table 4 of the Milone & MacBroom study, it is worrisome that positive results were obtained for lead in two instances at levels that were a significant fraction of the standard, and all other results used a test sensitivity approximately equal to the standard. Again, many health authorities believe no level of lead is safe. In addition, it may be significant that these positive results were obtained from samples of the crumb rubber rather than of the plastic “grass” strands, since many previously published results show that it is the plastic strands that are the source of lead on many of these fields. It is very possible, even likely, that the tests are measuring secondary contamination of the crumb by the plastic strands, which may contain a much higher level of lead. Direct testing of the plastic strands is certainly warranted by these results.
Again in Table 4 of the Milone & MacBroom study, the variation in zinc concentrations with time were potentially highly significant. Zinc is the one metal which is indisputably present in all artificial turf fields, since its use is inherent in the vulcanization process for rubber. The fact that the results for Field F showed a steady increase with age, to a level after one year that was half the standard limit, supports the hypothesis that leachates from these fields increase with aging and weathering, and begs the question of how much worse they will get after several years.
Again, in Table 4, of the Milone & MacBroom study, test sensitivities varied and were largely at or just under the standard limit. This was very poor practice for a scientific investigation.
On January 28, 2009, the nonprofit Environment and Human Health, Inc. disseminated a 12-point critique of the Milone & MacBroom report:
1. Milone and MacBroom has completed a study on Synthetic Turf Fields with crumb rubber infill. Their published conclusions found the fields “of no concern with regards to the safety of synthetic turf fields.”
2. Milone and MacBroom paid for the tests -- however -- they install - and have already installed -- many of these fields. Therefore Milone and MacBroom have a lot at stake in finding these fields to be safe.
3. Their testing methods must be addressed - particularly because Connecticut will be embarking on their own tests and we all want to be sure that Connecticut gets accurate results.
4. Something worrisome - and needs to be explained - their statement in their preface that “We did consult, however, with representatives of the Connecticut Department of Public Healthregarding testing protocols to be sure that our methodologies and the results of our efforts would beuseful to the regulatory community.”
5. If the above statement in number 4 is true - then it is critically important that Connecticut not repeat Milone and MacBroom’s same mistakes when they conduct their tests - as the CT Department of Public Health is part of the Connecticut testing protocol.
6. Milone and MacBroom used air samplers that take in 75 and 120 liters per hour. Humans breathe approximately 1000 liters of air an hour. This means the air samplers were too small to get any results that had any meaning.
7. There were 5 placements of air samplers. Four (4) of them were off the fields being tested.
8. They looked for only two chemicals - Benzothiazole, 4-(tert-octyl) Phenol and Volatile Nitrosamines.However, there are DOZENS of harmful chemicals in rubber tires.
9. We know from other laboratory tests that some of those chemicals are: Butylated hydroxyanisole, n-hexadecane, 4-(t-octyl) phenol, Zinc, Benzene, PAHs, Latex-- to name just a few.
10. As for their results on the temperature of the fields - their numbers do not correlate with previous findings from other tests conducted by other people. That might be do to the fact that they placed most of their temperature monitors at one (1)foot, 4 feet and 5 feet above the field.
11. Good science is always subjected to peer review - this study does not seem to have been peer reviewed.
12. The reason for analyzing this study - is to make sure that we in Connecticut do not repeat these same methods - because if we do - we could end up with the same results.What one looks for - and how one looks for it --- is the KEY to getting accurate results.
Given the above comments, SynTurf.org believes that Milone & MacBroom conclusion in the summary, that no problems were found, needs extensive qualification and suggestions for future research. Even by its own findings, this study is far from being a clean bill of health for the turf industry.
[No. 26] Synthetic race tracks: They kill horses, don’t they? According to a news article in The Whittier Daily News (January 24, 2009), The California Horse Racing Board, “which in 2006 mandated major California racetracks replace dirt surfaces with synthetics as a safety measure, is now coordinating a study on the relationship between equine injuries and turf type.” A synthetic track was supposed to withstand all weather conditions as part of a broader effort to cut down on racehorse injuries. However, the experience at Santa Anita Park since 2007 has been but. “The original synthetic track installed in 2007 had drainage problems, which caused flooding and event cancellations, officials said. The park spent millions of dollars on overhauls that resulted in the current surface.” In the last weeks of January 2009, “It became more pressing after five horses suffered breakdowns in five days of racing early this season. Three of them were euthanized as a result.” The study is an “effort is to try to get some scientific information as to what constitutes the safest surface for horses.” The veterinarian Mary Scollay is spearheading efforts to create a national racehorse injury tracking system. For more, see Bethania Palma Markus, “State plans study of synthetic Santa Anita track,” in The Whittier Daily News, January 24, 2009, available at http://www.whittierdailynews.com/news/ci_11547169 . SynTurf.org Note: Maybe the time has come for leagues and schools, too, to start keeping records of injuries in reference to artificial turf fields. In a sports-crazed world with all of it love of stats, why this one has escaped scrutiny for this long?
[No. 25] Andrea Canales: For soccer only natural grass must do. “I’ve long despised artificial surfaces in the professional game. If anything says, this is the game at a high level,, it should be a beautiful carpet of the stuff the game has historically been played on. Nothing manufactured replicates the bounce of real grass, the cushion for the player’s legs, the give during a slide tackle … It’s something of a sad travesty that some of the league's best teams play in the worst venues, surface-wise. The New England Revolution, for example…. Players simply prefer grass. Fans do too. About the only people I can think of besides management who prefer artificial turf are those who also like nothing better than mocking MLS for its various shortcomings. A game on turf with football lines and unpredictable bounces that can make even skilled players look silly is comedy gold for them…. So while New York leaves the toughened plastic turf of Giants Stadium behind next year, with Seattle and perhaps Miami entering the league, players will still have to deal with as much manufactured grass as ever. If MLS really wants to prove it is the real thing in soccer, it needs to be sure it plays on that.” Andrea Canales, “One Step Forward, Another Back,” on Goal.com, December 8, 2008, available at http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/1110/major-league-soccer/2008/12/08/1002379/canales-daily-one-step-foward-another-back .
[No. 24] Lynn, Mass.: Sports editor prefers mud bowl to turf!SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. December 7, 2008. Rich Tenorio is a sports copy editor at The Daily Item in Lynn, Massachusetts. On November 28, 2008, he posted an item that came as a breath of fresh air at a time when our natural grass playing fields are disappearing at an alarming rate. Here is in part what he wrote:
After the Peabody-Malden Catholic high school football game on Thanksgiving Day, Coley Lee Field looked like Coley Lee Swamp. The ground felt like quicksand, players' footprints covered the field surface, and as the postgame handshakes revealed, quite a few members of both teams got a complimentary mud bath during the game.
In other words, this was football at its finest.
Throughout its history, football has captured fans' hearts because the sport presents itself as a test of endurance. It is no surprise that football became popular in rough, tough industrial cities like Green Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. It is no surprise that the players who flourished did so through a hard-nosed style, overcoming hits from 300-pound defensive linemen. And part of flourishing in football involves overcoming the elements.
Unfortunately, this is something that well-meaning designers are taking away by installing synthetic surfaces on playing fields.
[No. 23] MLS 2008: How did New England Revolution do on turf vs. grass fields? Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. December 7, 2008. Back in June of this year, SynTurf.org published its review of New England Revolution’s win-loss performance as it might have related to the playing surface – artificial turf or natural grass. Naturally, many factors go into winning and losing a game, including dumb luck. With everything else being presumed equal, at the midseason mark, it looked like natural grass favored the Rev more than artificial turf. Of the 12 MLS games played through June 6, 2008, Rev played 6 games on artificial turf and 6 games on natural grass. On artificial turf, the Rev posted 2 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws. On natural grass, the Rev posted 5 wins and 1 loss. See http://www.synturf.org/factsheets.html (Item No. 06).
For the entire MLS 2008 regular season, Rev played 30 games, 15 at home and 15 away, and posted a record of 12 wins, 11 losses and 6 ties. 13 games were played on natural grass, 17 games were played on artificial turf. Of the 12 wins, 7 games were played on natural grass and 5 were played on artificial turf. Of the 11 losses, 5 games were played on natural grass and 6 games were played on artificial turf. Of the 7 draws, 1 game was played on natural turf and 6 games were played on artificial turf. Overall, therefore, Rev did worse than win on artificial turf. For Rev 2008 MLS Season record click here.
In 2008 MLS season, Rev played 14 home and 3 away games on artificial turf. On the artificial turf field at Gillette Stadium (home), Rev posted 5 wins, 5 losses and 3 ties (one game was played on natural grass). In the 3 games played away on artificial turf fields (New York Red Bulls, Real Salt and Toronto FC), Rev posted 2 ties and 1 loss.
In 2008 MLS season, Rev played 13 games on natural grass, of which one was played at Gillette Stadium (home) against Dallas (pitch was converted to natural grass for an international friendly). In the 12 away games that were played on natural grass, Rev posted 6 wins, 5 losses and 1 tie.
[No. 22] SynTurf.org on the road: Field trip of October 13, 2008.By Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. October 17, 2008. On Monday, October 13, 2008 (Columbus Day), SynTurf.org embarked on yet another excursion to some of the many fake grass fields around eastern Massachusetts. As if to remind ourselves why we do what we do, we began by a short visit to Cohasset High School, where the perfectly bucolic and pristine grass field may well be on its last legs, as the town soon will be voting on a proposal to turn the surface into a plastic. Next we stopped at the Scituate High School, a non-event.
Next on the itinerary was Turco Field at Walpole High School, the home of the Rebels and the girls’ field hockey team that is known affectionately as “the Porkers.” We learned that the name came about when many years ago a group of girls from the high school went to a field hockey camp on Cape Cod, where teams were given cute names – the Walpole contingent was designated as “Porkers.” They won the intramural tournament against good odds and so, upin return to the high school, the team decided to keep the name for good luck! Every year, according to one parent, the issue comes up to change the moniker to a politically-correct name.
The Turco field at Walpole is one of the most colorful artificial turf fields visited by SynTurf.org. The multi-sport field supports lines in the colors white (football), yellow (soccer), baby blue (girls lacrosse), dark blue (boys lacrosse), red (field hockey) and orange trim of the Big "W" in midfield. SynTurf.org spoke with one elderly spectator who dutifully watched the field hockey game in progress from behind the short fence, as only players and coaches were allowed in the field and track areas. “This field is a better field to play on,” he said, “but I like watching the games when they are played on the grass field up there (point to the hill in front of us) because I can get closer to the action.”
The various prohibitions that govern the conduct of players and spectators seems to have been relaxed enough to provide for a swarm of bees a feast consisting of crackers and a kind of sweet beverage that had spilled in front of a bench on the sidelines.
Next stop: The Beaver Pond Recreation Complex at ChilsonBeach in Franklin. Here, SynTurf.org realized the futility of the 100-feet distance that the law requires between wetlands and any geographical disturbance due to development. When crumb rubber and plastic fibers from turf fields are capable of traveling longer distances that 100 feet (by wind, water or human agency), then perhaps a better measure for the protection of wetlands and other water resources from pollution should consider the mobility of the pollutant and its “effect.” We documented a few turf fibers in distances of 102 and 142 feet away from the field, in the direction of the beach. We also documented a large concentration of crumb rubber some 100 feet away from the field.
Next stop: Franklin High School, where we encountered a mishmash of practices that did not make much sense. On the one hand, the spectators kept strictly to the bleachers behind the short chain link fence. This is supposed to protect the field from excessive wear and tear. On the other hand, we also saw two massive Gatorade-like containers on a golf cart ready for delivery to the thirsty players. This stuff, if truly a sugary or sweetened beverage is not supposed to be consumed anywhere on or near the field. We also documented a concentration of crumb rubber some 40 yards away from the edge of the field in the direction of the grassy baseball fields behind the end zone.
[No. 21] Laurel, Montana: Turf is unpatriotic! According to an October 8, 2008, news story in The Laurel Outlook, last July 4thmay have been the last of fireworks for ThomsonPark. The football field in ThomsonPark “will be replaced with an artificial turf and the synthetic grass could be damaged by igniting fireworks there.” The problem for the city is confounded by the fact that alternative sites may pose safety issues because of distances that are required to ensure safety of the public and buildings. According to the Chief of Laurel Volunteer Fire Department, “it is not just the issue of hot embers falling from the sky, but there are minimum distances they must maintain from structures and trees that could pose fire hazards.” We must follow federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) regulations that pertain to the use of explosives and we must follow safety regulations in the City Codes. Other vacant space areas around town won't work for us,” he said. “We don't want to stop this tradition,” he said of fireworks at the ThomsonPark, “but we might not have a choice.” Source: “Last year for fireworks,” in The laurel Outlook (Billings, Montana), October 8, 2008, available at http://www.laureloutlook.com/articles/2008/10/09/news/big_story/01big.txt .
[No. 20] Bubble & Turf: Beware of the Trojan Horse. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. September 26, 2008. There are domed venues where the roof is retractable and allows sunshine to get in for the benefit of the natural grass playing field but, generally speaking, the playing surface in a domed stadium is artificial turf. The association is both historical (AstroTuf, as in the Houston’s Astro Dome) and by biological/botanical necessity. Now, consider for a moment, where the growing season is so short that one might as well be living under a dome of clouds for most of the year. Typically, such a climate is also wet and cold, making the outdoor natural grass fields unusable for the most part. So, in comes Mr. Sportsman with a brilliant idea: “Why don’t we take the field that sits idle for most of the year and put a bubble on it so that it can be used in the autumn and winter months -- and for the late spring and summer months we can make it go topless” he says to great applause. Soon enough, the seemingly genius idea becomes a Trojan horse for artificial turf because natural grass does not do well under a bubble. “Let’s make the playing field out of artificial turf so that way we can use all year around,” says Ms. Sportsman.
A while back SynTurf.org reported on one such scenario unfolding in Toronto, Canada (see http://www.synturf.org/grassrootsnotes.html (Item No. 39). The story was close to repeating its jsust recently in Port Angeles, Washington State. According to a news story in Peninsula Daily News (September 20, 2008),on September 18, 2008, the Port Angeles Parks Commission, which advises the City Council, decided by a vote of 4 to 3 that Erickson Park was not a suitable place for the inflatable sports structure, the "Bubble," a 296-foot-long, 118-foot-wide, 40-foot tall structure kept aloft by air pressure. The commission saw the Bubble as being disruptive to the park and surrounding community. There will be public meeting in March 2009 to decide where the Bubble, along with its stadium structure and turf field, will end up. For more on this story, see Tom Callis, “Park commission says no to Erickson Park site for Bubble building,” in Peninsula Daily News, September 20, 2008, available at http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20080921/NEWS/809210307 .
[No. 19] Speedway, Ind.: Turf flies at speedway.Speedway, Indiana, is the home of – you guessed it – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Known mostly for motor car racing, Indianapolis 500, in particular, the venue also hosts motorcycle racing. The infield of the race course is – you guessed right again is – artificial turf. Now, why would any part of race course that has seen its share of fiery ends be in plastic is anyone’s guess. That is not the thrust of this note, however. Recently, the course hosted the Grand Prix of motor cycle racing (known as Indianapolis MotoGP), which came to an end eight laps before the end of the race due to wind and wind-strew garbage. According to a report by AutoSport.com, “The race was halted on lap 21 as increasing wind and rain made conditions too dangerous to continue.” The declared winner, Valentino Rossi, is quoted as telling Italia 1 television, “The problem then was the wind, it was incredible, inconsistent, with gusts. You couldn't go over the front straight, with beer cans, paper cups, plastic bags going over the track. It was a mess, the artificial grass was coming off.” Source: Michele Lostia and Matt Beer, “Rossi glad race was stopped,” in AutoSport.com, September 14, 2008, available athttp://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/70648 .
No. 18] SynTurf.org on the road: Field trip of September 7, 2008. By Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. September 7, 2008. Early morning, September 7, 2008, SynTurf.org headed down to South Boston to check on the replacement of the 5-ear old turf field at Saunders Stadium (Joseph Moakley Park), a project funded apparently by a Federal and local partnership. With the exception of a few fast-walkers and several seagulls basking in the early morning sun, there was no other activity at the turf field. The 2”-3” rainfall of the previous day had drained off the field, but also managed to provide the force necessary for the migration of carpet fiber and crumb rubber from the field and past the containment area.
We collected some loose blades for testing. With exception of an excessive amount of crumb rubber, nothing unusual was observed; a non-event, really.
SynTurf.org had visited this site back in June 2008 (see Item No. 08 below). The subsequent testing of the yellow carpet fiber collected from the old turf by California Environmental Health, in Oakland, showed lead level readings of 7,997 parts per million. Seehttp://www.synturf.org/lead.html at Item No. 09. This is 20 times higher than what id allowed under EPA for lead in bare soil for children’s play areas, and 6.5 times more what is allowable by EPA in residential yard. In Mass., the landfill soil is allowed to have up to 2,000 ppm lead in lined landfills, and 1,000 ppm in unlined land fills.
Next, the SynTurf.org team drove to Charlestown to see how the 1-year old turf was holding up at the high school, next to the community center. League soccer club teams were warming up on the multisport turf field and a walking tour of the facility yielded a generous sampling of artificial turf blades; a sample of the material was collected from the periphery of the field. Next door is an artificial turf baseball field, the first that the team has visited in the Boston area. The sloping of the fields altogether tilt toward the bay, but no drain pipes were observed for conducting the water away from the turf fields. Here. Too, crumb rubber had migrated well past the containment frame and in one instance the pellets could be seen mixed with the dirt that bordered the community garden.
From Charlestown, the team drove to Arlington to investigate the fate of an area that last summer looked like it was being prepared for turf installation. The telltale sign at the time was the compacted gravel sub-base, perforated pipes and other markers that are often seen at turf installations. To the team’s surprise, the field has turned out to be a two-field baseball complex, covered in natural grass.
Next, the team drove to Concord-CarlisleRegionalHigh School in Concord. This venue is in the neighborhood of the famous Walden Woods, where the school district tore down acres upon acres of woodland in order to establish four athletic fields -- two multisport artificial turf fields and two natural grass venues. The football team, we found out, practices and plays on the grass fields. The turf fields are for everyone else and league and club games, including Pop Warner. We hovered around the multisport fields and learned the following: In order to guard against the puncturing of the turf, table legs are inserted into tennis balls. We also saw the first “mist shower,” a water pipe some six feet off the ground that emanates mist at the press of a button, so players and fans can cool off. We were told that, while no games have been canceled on account of the heat, the fields – in the words of Pop Warner parent-coach walking his dog (!), “get very, very hot.” We also noticed there is only one “mist shower” per field and it is located along only one sideline (probably the home team’s sideline – no fair). A few pieces of grooming equipment were in plain view and a sample of carpet fiber was collected from the brush attachment of one of the machines. We also spoke to a person who referees soccer games. He said -- for a referee that typically walks and runs up and down the field, the turf is an improvement over lousy grass fields, but the turf does get hot and so sometimes he pours cold water in his foot-ware to cool down. He told us, he learned the trick from the players on the Breakers, a women’s team that used to play at BostonUniversity’s turf field.
The Breakers, the ref told us, would complain about their feet burning when playing on the hot turf; some also complained about the heat from the field melted the glue that held their cleats in place. For a sideline judge, he aid, turf is not a good surface, because a side judge tends to move up and own the field laterally, by shuffling sideways. This puts pressure on the outer joints of the knees. “Every time that I came off a turf field as a line judge, I would be in pain,” he told us. “I would go home, put some ice on it and then go back next week and do the same thing,” he said. What struck us most was the family atmosphere around the sidelines, with toddlers wallowing on the plastic and crumb rubber surface, oblivious or indifferent, as if frolicking in the splendorous natural grass.
On the way out of the area, we asked a Pop Warner mom if she has a problem with the crumb rubber that junior drags into the house. She said, “We have a rule that none of that gets in the house.” We asked if she could ballpark how much crumb rubber ends up in the boys cleats after a game. She cupped her right hand and said, “This much, and it also gets in the socks.” We asked how she gets rid of the crumb. “I throw out it with the trash,” she said. As she and her son peeled off from us, we could not help but to ask ourselves, “How is it that we have come to a point where an item that none of us can put out with our regular garbage should be changed to crumb rubber and go out in woman’s trash?”
From Concord, the team headed to Lincoln-Sudbury High School, one of first public schools in Massachusetts to get artificial turf fields. The three-year old fields are worn and not much crumb rubber seems to garnish the fields. One reason perhaps is because much crumb rubber has left the field and by the looks of it lies outside the containment border, ready to be scooped up by the handful. After colleting some fiber samples for testing, the team proceeded to inspect the swale that is supposed to catch the run off and discharge from the turf fields, all so close to a protected waterway and wetlands. The recent rains had not been enough to distress the swale, however. It was not clear if the water from the fields actually drained into the swale, although crumb rubber was observed migrating close to the edge of the swale.
Swale at Wayland High's turf field
The team’s last stop was WaylandHigh School, the site of the state’s only required procedure to monitor the leachate from the turf fields. The swale that was constructed for the purpose looked stagnant, as if the little water in it was all because of the rain falling in it, not necessarily by the runoff or discharge from the field. The swale at Wayland High raises a question as to where does all the water from the field go then? If the discharge, along with its leachate of metals and other substances, is not going in the swale, then the chances are that it goes into the ground and toward the town drinking water wells that lie beyond the width of the field: the swale and the field are within the draining zone of the water that recharges the wells.
Where did all the rain go?
In view of the ref's disclosures, one ought to ask if after having worried all this time about the effect of turf on players and the environment that one should also start thinking about the occupational hazards of being a ref or line-judge on artificial turf. Naturally, there are others whose health and safety is also put at risk in connection with turf fields – one specifically recalls the workers who were installing crumb rubber and silica sand, in a windy day, without wearing a mask.
[No. 17] Toronto, Canada: Theabominable BMO Field. In a news story about the eventual coming of the Canadian Football to Toronto’s BMO field, The Globe and Mailreported, “BMO Field doesn't have it [natural grass]. As a condition of provincial funding when the stadium was built, artificial Field Turf was chosen over natural grass. The players hate it. Canada's men's national team is very reluctant to play on it, fearing injury and a poor run of the ball. Useful [soccer] pros like Darren Huckaby have turned down the chance to play for TFC [Toronto FC], purely because of the turf. There is a rising hope among the fans that, one day, real grass may yet be laid at BMO.” Source: Ben Knight, “The battle of MBO Field,” in The Globe and Mail, August 15, 2008, available at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080815.WBsoccerblog20080815113052/WBStory/WBsoccerblog .
[No. 16] Aad de Mos slams artificial turf field. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. August 24, 2008. The Dutch-born soccer coach Aad De Mos has managed more than half dozen soccer teams around the world, including Ajax and Vitesse Arnhem. His teams have won numerous domestic cups and championships; in 1988 his KV Mechelen won the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. According to a recent news report by UK’s Sportinglife.com, De Mos has turned down an offer to coach the Berner Sport Club Young Boys (Berne, Switzerland) because of their artificial turf field. “During Euro 2008 they (Young Boys) had a perfect pitch,” De Mos said in De Telegraaf. “I don't want to work for a club which trades in such a perfect pitch for artificial grass.” Source: “De Mos turns down coaching offers,” in SportinglLife.com, August 8, 2008, available at http://www.sportinglife.com/football/overseas/holland/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=international_feed/08/08/20/SOCCER_Ned-De_Mos.html . For the Swiss soccer players’ view of artificial turf fields (2006), see http://www.synturf.org/playersview.html (Item No. 03).
[No. 15] Turf is the bane of old-school field hockey. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. August 11, 2008. A few years back, the tennis greats Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe called for tennis to go back to wooden rackets, each intoning that advances in racket technology is destroying the game of tennis. See Nick Schulz, “What’s that Racket?,” in Slate.com, July 1, 2004, available at http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:xEBY8dZwNlwJ:www.slate.com/id/2103263/+martina+navratilova+changing+game+of+tennis+racket&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=us . The changes in a game also come along with changes in philosophy and physiology. Back in the day, soccer was a game of finesse and it was beautiful. Some still play it that way. Bu, by and large, soccer too has changed when the Eastern Europeans introduced brute physicality on the pitch. Players of diminutive size no loner can compete in competitive or pro soccer.
This story however is about how artificial turf is destroying field hockey, an Olympic sport. It was first played at the London Olympics in 1908 and became a regular medal sport 20 years later at the Amsterdam Games. From 1928 through 1956 India won six consecutive titles, followed by two more gold medals in 1964 and 1980, and a silver and two bronze medals. This year, the once powerhouse India will not be at Beijing. According to a news story in the Guardian, “India's decline coincided with the game's switch to artificial turf with the emphasis shifting to power, speed and accuracy rather than deft stickwork.” Source: Sanjay Rajan, “Australia missing India as try to retain gold,” in The Guardian, August 5, 2008, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/feedarticle/7701659 .
[No. 14] How different is the game of soccer on turf vs. grass? Recently the international governing body for soccer (FIFA) sponsored a study to determine if playing on artificial turf changes the game. The study analyzed 100 matches in the Uefa Champions League, Uefa Cup, the Dutch Premier League and the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Canada. Here are the salient results of the study: There are no significant differences in using artificial turf versus top-quality natural grass. Also, players are more likely to perform ground tackles on grass surfaces. The number of fouls and yellow cards awarded were greater in games played on artificial turf. This seems to suggest that players are hesitant to go in low, hard and cleanly on the artificial surfaces and this is resulting in a slightly higher number of fouls. Source: “South Africa: Artificial Turf Study Findings Revealed,” in AllAfrica.com, July 29, 2008, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200807290350.html. SynTurf.org believes the player’s reluctance to tackle on artificial turf is likely because she/her is subconsciously guarding against getting turf burn.
[No. 13] Mequon, Wisconsin: Deer seen on Concordia campus munching on turf. A recent news story in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the St. Louis Rams camping at ConcordiaUniversity in MequonWisconsin. Describing the bucolic surroundings, the reporter wrote: Concordia left its downtown Milwaukee location in 1983 for Mequon, which back then was more rural than suburban. Even now, it’s not unusually to see deer munching on grass or flowers on campus early in the morning or at night.” Ken Gasck, vice president of enrollment services at Concordia, is quoted as saying, “I was here about 10 p.m. late last week and there was a buck standing in the flower bed, just staring at me in front of the administration building.” According to the news story, “But the two ProGrass artificial turf fields on campus – one for the football team and one for the soccer squad – have caused some confusion to the animals. According to one campus employee, it tales the deer a while to figure out that the fake grass isn’t edible.” Source:Jim Thomas, “Good Neighbor Policy,” in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 27, 2008, available at http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/sports/rams/story/6f8056218901a28286257492001adfaa?OpenDocument .
[No. 12] In the corner of Southwest Ohio, some still like the grass. According to a news story in The Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio), “Not every high school [in Southwestern Ohio] is switching from grass to synthetic turf. Six of the nine high schools in WarrenCounty will have turf fields by the start of the coming school year. But only three of the 13 in ButlerCounty have made the switch.” Installation of artificial turf is around $750,000, which “is only partially off-set by the savings made by not having to maintain grass fields which, depending on the school, can range from $15,000 to $30,000 a year.” “There are other potential drawbacks to a turf field. ‘There might be some unknowns. It's not been around very long,’ said Scott Stemple, athletic director at MasonHigh School [WarrenCounty], which is installing turf this summer in its football stadium. ‘No one really knows the life of these things. They say 10 to 12 years, but we're not sure of the true life’” “The Motz Group in Cincinnati, which installed the turf at Kings and Monroe and is installing fields at Lebanon, Little Miami and Mason, guarantees a nine-year performance for its turf.”
“[I]f the trend to turf fields continue, old-fashioned grass could become the novelty, and therefore desired, playing surface. ‘It will be a privilege to play on grass, just like it used to be to play on turf 10 years ago,’ Kings football coach Andy Olds said. ‘It will take a couple more years, but wait and see. People who have the grass will be hidden treasures.’” Source: Scott Hayes, “Artificial turf grows popular, but some stick to grass,” in The Journal News, July 31, 2008, available athttp://www.journal-news.com/s/content/oh/story/sports/high-schools/2008/07/30/pjw073108noturf.html .
[No. 11] Steve Davis on condition of MLS fields.“1. Sad sod stories. Just before World Cup '94, FIFA spin doctors attempted to assuage concerns over playing indoors at Detroit's Silverdome (where the field was ultimately adjudged tip-top). A FIFA press officer observed that "Americans could grow grass on my hand if I paid them enough money." Probably true. They just can't grow it at the HomeDepotCenter, apparently. And in Houston. And elsewhere. Perhaps it's just growing pains of a league still in its pimply teenage years, but the state of the professional pitch isn't progressing as needed. The field is seriously struggling in Houston. It's closed down for now in Dallas (to be replanted). The grass perpetually gasps for life at Home Depot. Of course, those are all better options than Giants, Gillette and Rice-Eccles stadiums, where teams labor sadly on artificial turf. (We'll give Toronto's BMO Field a pass for now, since it's the lesser violator among the fake-turf scoundrels.) Many of the grass woes can be blamed on turf-killing events beyond soccer. The joke has gone around MLS circles: We should just call these places "concert-specific stadiums" (where they also play soccer).” Steve Davis, “Ten things to note from MLS Week 16,” on ESPN’s SoccerNet, July 14, 2008, available at http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story?id=555134&sec=mls&root=mls&&&cc=5901 .
[No. 10] Rev’s home field advantage ( x 3 ). SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. July 17, 2008. ‘tis the season for SuperLigua contest among eight teams: four from Mexico and four from MLS. On July 13, 2008, Santos Laguna and New England Revolution faced off at Rev’s home turf, Gillette stadium. The Rev won by a score of 1-0. for much of the match, Santos Laguna played with one man short. After the game, the Santos coach, Daniel Guzman, said: “Playing with 10 men, we played well, tactically. But it’s different, playing 11 vs. 10, especially on this [turf] field and with these conditions; we’re not used to playing on a field like this.”
SynTurf.org Editor’s Norte: Considering that the Rev played on turf, in front of a home crowd, with one man up – Santos (at a triple disadvantage) acquitted itself well.
[No. 09] Nostalgia over 12-year old turf field. The turf field at Withington Stadium in Jackson, Michigan has lasted 12 years. Perhaps its age was due to the fact that the turf was an old generation turf, and as people in Michigan ought to now better than anyone else, they do not make them like they used to. On July 1, 2008, the crew began ripping out the old turf. As a blog on Jackson Citizen Patriot reported, the old turf was sent to a landfill for disposal. The replacement turf, which will cost $500,000 , is due to be complete by late August. “Residents and groups, including the Southwest Little League and the AlbionCollege baseball teams, were allowed to come to the stadium over the weekend and take their own pieces of the 12-year-old turf,” reported the blog.
For others, the memories of the good old days are embedded in the scars they receives playing on the old turf. The blog reported
Sitting on a bench watching the demolition Tuesday was Kendall Brown, a sophomore with hopes of playing linebacker for JacksonHigh School's varsity football team. "It was fun playing in front of all your friends, but that turf burned," Brown said. "It was like our glory scars. That's when we knew we were doing right."
Brown, who has played on other fields with the softer artificial turf that is being installed at Withington, said it still burns but has much more bounce to it.
The new turf has more give because it is filled in with small pieces of rubber. It's akin to material used on artificial fields at the Detroit Lions' Ford Field and the University of Michigan.
"It felt better because when you hit the ground it wasn't as bad," Brown said. "I just hope it's done by the time we play."
[No. 08] Saunders Stadium in South Boston, Mass.:Notes & Pictures.On Sunday morning, June 29, 2008, SynTurf.org, in the company of its public health consultant, visited the Saunders Stadium at Moakley Park in South Boston. It is a magnificent site, across the road from a public beach.
In the early morning's misty light, we came upon a bleak scene, surrounded by a gray construction fence, circling the outside of the Stadium’s own black wire fence. The carpet was no longer on the field, leaving the grey gravel exposed to the air to dry from the week’s torrential rains. The remnants of some equipment on the sidelines suggested that the day before or Friday crews were busy siphoning the rain water that had pooled on the field, as seen in the picture that appeared in the June 28th edition of the Boston Herald.
We intended to survey the site, specifically to ascertain if some of the old carpet was still around so we could take a sample and send it out for testing. We also intended to document the migration of the crumb rubber due to the rains. At first blush, we could not locate any of the carpet until we drew closer to the fence and spotted a pierce the size of a very large doormat, rising in a humplike formation on the desolate landscape near the sideline by the track. Spotting the crumb rubber was easy; it was all over the place, in waves, as if washed ashore to the edges of the field by the hydrology of the recent rains. In spots, particularly close to the western end-zone, disintegrated poly-blades from the turf (fibers) had moved by the water onto a curvy outline, just like seaweed that washes ashore.
The concentration of the crumb rubber near the construction gate was intense, but it tapered off toward the parking lot. As we followed the crumb rubber trail, we arrived at an area where we saw a four-foot tall heaping of crumb rubber, rolls of artificial turf carpet and two storage containers. In the print version of Boston Herald story, these rolls of carpet were identified as “fresh rolls” ready to be unrolled. That is not so. In its current condition, the field is nowhere near being ready to take the new carpet. The gravel would have to be leveled and graded, then tamped. There may be a layer of geotextile that will cover the gravel. Then will come a few inches of sand and crumb rubber mix, followed by the carpet. It is not very good industry practice to leave rolls of fresh carpet in plain air, with rain and humidity to encourage mildew and mold. Besides, fresh rolls of carpet are usually wrapped in plastic rolls, much like rolls of hay. They are opened prior to installation. The rolls that we examined at Saunders Stadium appeared to be rolls of the carpet that had been removed form the field. The question now is when and how will the used crumb rubber and carpet be disposed and at what cost and by whom?
[No. 07] Gillette Stadium gets sod cover for international soccer encounter. June 3, 2008. The Boston Globe reported today that on June 2, 2008, Gillette Stadium’s artificial turf surface was being replaced with sod in advance of international exhibition play on Friday, June 6, 2008 between Brazil and Venezuela national (selection) teams. Frank Dell’Apa, “Soccer Notes,” The Boston Globe, Juene 3, 2008, Sports section, page D8, available at http://www.boston.com/sports/articles/2008/06/03/tragedy_hits_home_for_nyassi_mansally/.
[No. 06] Palm Beach, Florida:Turf is in trouble on Palm Beach. According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, on Monday, May 12, 2008, the Palm Beach town council took up an amendment to the town code that will ban artificial turf from all island property. The issue came up as the result of a resident to installed artificial turf in his yard without proper permits from the town. The resident believed turf would solve his problem with muck, fungus, poor drainage and shade that had dogged his multimillion-dollar property. “All of those factors are fixable, responded town Architectural Commission Chairman Morgan Dix Wheelock, a landscape architect,” reports the Post.The commission is charged with upholding the town's aesthetic standards. The town council members “want answers to questions of safety in fire or flood, bacteria-harboring potential and the environmental impact of [fake] grass,” according to the Post. “The question isn't will it disintegrate," Wheelock said. "It won't. The question is will it change color. Then where will this mat join the great sea of plastic products?" Antigone Barton, "Plastic grass presents problem in Palm Beach," in Palm Beach Post, May 12, 2008, available at http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2008/05/12/0512palmbeachturf.html.
[No. 05]Turf is incompatible with natural settings and wetlands. Dah! SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass.April 12, 2008. On Monday 14, 2008, Gale Associates submitted to the City a voluminous report on what was supposed to be a geotechnical evaluation of drainage and hydrology of an area that once was wetlands and now is a five-acre expanse of natural grass playing fields. The “consultant” did one better, it produced schematic rendition of an ideal use scenario for the area that would be equivalent of 7.5 natural grass multi-sport playing fields. You guessed it: If one cannot have 7.5 natural grass playing fields, then one can optimize the use of four fields by having three of them made of artificial turf! Brilliant.
The Public Facilities Committee of the Board of Aldermen heard the consultant’s presentation on Wednesday, April 9, 2008, with only two days to digest the contents of the study. One of the items addressed at the presentation was the sampling of the soil. It was stated that borings were made of a few feet of the soil and sent out to an “independent” lab for testing and analysis, to see what it was made of. Surprise! The sample showed that it was a mixture of various types of dirt that had been compacted overtime and therefore would not drain properly. The “independence” of the lab is not relevant to what if concluded, because it was given sample that could only result in that kind of a conclusion.
The soil testing obviously did not penetrate deep enough to reveal that this area is wetlands, the substrata being compressible peat. If that determination were to be made, then the project would have to go through a variety of procedural and administrative hoops that the proponents of the turf fields would not want.
Here is a story from Jackson Township (Ocean County) in New Jersey about an artificial turf project that proceeded without regard to the environmental and geographical regulations at its own peril.
The four-field artificial turf complex located off West Veterans Highway sits in the Pinelands, a million-acre reserve where development is regulated by the state Pinelands Commission, reports Asbury Park Press. The town did not have approval from the commission to install the fields, so now the officials are working to deal with the violation by seeking retroactive approval for the project, commission spokesman Paul Leakan told APP. According to the news report, the town must prove that the fields meet the Pinelands Commission's standards or take action to make the fields meet those standards. The commission does not have the power to impose fines, but it can turn to the state attorney general for help if a municipality refuses to correct a violation.
According to the town engineer, Daniel J. Burke, the town knew it needed Pinelands Commission approval for the artificial turf fields. The design consultants had submitted in May an application to the commission for the complex, but work began before the commission could approve the project. When asked why then the town did not wait to obtain the approval, Burke replied, "You are going to have to ask the mayor." The Mayor, Mark A. Seda, told APP(on Wednesday, April 9) that he did not "know enough about" the violations to comment. Apparently this sort of thing, ignoring the commission, has happened before, according to APP.
According to Burke, the artificial turf was installed only in areas that previously held natural athletic fields, which the commission had previously approved, and no additional trees being cut or additional land being disturbed as the result of this project. The commission’s problem with issuing a retroactive permit is related to the incompatibility of the turf fields with Jackson's stormwater management plan for the area. “The commission considers artificial turf to be an impervious surface, or one that does not allow water to pass through, and Jackson is trying to prove that artificial turf is pervious,” reports APP.
Richard Bizub, director of water programs at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance environmental group, stated that the alliance if “miffed” about the town’s action in this case. "Typically you don't see a town that has a few violations like this in such a short period of time; we're not quite sure what to make of that," he told APP.
[No. 04] Revolution: A bunch of crybabies!Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. March 18, 2008. Now, we have heard it all from this lot of ingrate and spoiled brats that populate the New England Revolution. I am talking about the squad’s captain, one Steve Ralston, who has blamed the team’s poor performance last Sunday (March 16) against the Honduran national champion CD Marathon on – get this – a field that was too narrow, bumpy and "harder than artificial turf," which limited the team’s passing game and usual fast speed. Not only that -- the team also had to battle bad food at the hotel (!) and a lack of drinking water, which forced the team to drink tap water! See, Frank Dell’Apa, “They stood together on pitch,” in The Boston Globe, March 18, 2008, Sports section, page D5, available athttp://www.boston.com/sports/articles/2008/03/18/they_stood_together_on_pitch.
Are you kidding me? We have people dying in the streets of Iraq and hills of Afghanistan or coming home with all sorts of pains, injuries and head and money issues and these guys are complaining about the tap water in New Orleans?!
Of course, the team’s 0-0 result with the worthy Central American adversary had nothing to do with the fact that the key Revolution players, Taylor Twellman and Sharlie Joseph, sat out the game in order to avoid getting injured on the lousy field!
The field in question is the Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. of A. The stadium seats about 45,000 and was completely renovated after Hurricane Katrina. By the tone of the Revolution prima donnas one would think that they were forced to play in a sand pitch in Aberdeen, outside of Freetown, Sierra Leone, or a on dirt field in Rio, or on an asphalt surface anywhere in the world.
The Revolution are not the only crybabies when it comes to field conditions. The problem is that FIFA, which is the international organizing authority for this sport worldwide, also constantly seeks to turn soccer into a parlor game, as if soccer was meant to be played on a Persian silk carpet. A few days ago, the UK’s Sporting Life reported that there is “a very real possibility of some matches at the 2010 World Cup being played on artificial pitches.” Why? Because, “the surfaces in Republic of South Africa may not be up to scratch in time for the tournament.” See http://www.sportinglife.com/football/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=soccer/08/03/09/manual_130427.html. That no doubt is for the benefit of the ninnies that play on Western European teams and US (if we get that far). Anyone who has played this game from the dusty streets of India and China to the dirt pitches of Iran and Russia, on the velvet green fields of Switzerland and grass playing fields in the United States knows the same truth as any kid who grows up playing soccer – in order for this to remain a game about overcoming adversity, it means not to pretend that making the surface fast or lush helps the game. It does not. What would be left of downhill racing if suddenly it was decreed that it is nicer or safer to have the event held on a course as flat as a bunny hill or to take out the ridges and ice patches from the run? When fields are more or less in a natural condition – that means grass or semi-grass or all dirt – most teams can play the game at equals. When the rich clubs or countries decide to make multi-million dollar investments in artificial turf, the game suddenly assumes an economic dimension, as between haves and have-nots. The game changes, the rhythm changes, the tempo changes.
Many years ago I coached a youth soccer squad in my town. As the practice fields were not numerous and demand was high, I determined that my team could get the full benefit of a 2-hour practice session every Thursday if we met at an off-the-beaten-track place near the school where most of my players lived.The field was not in the best of conditions – some patches of grass, but mostly dirt and stone and with dips and holes. To limit us even more, we had to share it with a team of adult players; so our full-field practices were really half-field. As a part of the warm up, we began every practice by walking the field in a grid pattern, picking up the stones and filling the obnoxious holes in the ground with the dirt we lifted from the periphery of the park. The smaller field meant that the players learned instinctively to develop quick passing abilities, which meant they developed also an ability to see the whole field as they moved the ball around. The dips and other interferences with the bounce or movement of the ball proved to be very frustrating at first, but in time the team learned better ball control and instinctively developed a very nice air game, passing the ball in a beautifully delivered arched passes, which required gaining possession of the ball at the other end by trapping the ball with one's chest, foot or sometimes with rear-end, which was my trademark maneuver from the years of playing the game as a high school varsity player (statrter all three years) and then as the co-captain of Georgetown University's junior varsity team in 1971-72. When it rained, the team did not have to worry about mud or ripping the non-exiting grass out of place. They had a ball, instead.Come game day, in the posh setting of a pristine and gorgeous grass field in a part of town where everything was always greener, my players would show up more than ready to play a game, but ready to face all of the ups and downs of the field, indedd, of life.
[No. 03] Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho: Don’t Make My Green Fields Blue! SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 24, 2008.
Everything about the Boise State University is blue, in all shades, including the school logo, a bronco, a blue bronco. That’s is not all. The artificial turf that carpets the Bronco Stadium, too, is all blue – hence the moniker “Smurf Turf.” In a recent piece, Pete Iorizz of Times Union wrote about how the turf turned blue.
When the time came in 1986 to replace the turf at a whopping cost of $750,000 (in 1986 dollars), the athletic director decided if the school was about to spend that kind of money then it might as well have something that will stand out, to show for the money. Nobody would have noticed it if the replacement turf were the same old color as before, green.
Sure enough, the blue surface got a lot of press. Lore has it that soon the birds and ducks began slamming into to the blue lagoon, mistaking it for a body of water.
[No. 02] Keep it dry! Indoor turf is also vulnerable to the elements. In a comical display of nature’s sense of humor, on Sunday night (Decemebr 16, 2007) winds ripped a large portion of the fabric roof off Nova Scotia’s Provincial Exhibition (Agridome). The opening above let in snow and rain in the building. According to an eyewitness, on Monday morning, workers removed the 30,000-square-foot artifcial turf floor in order to prevent it from "getting waterlogged.” Moreover, workers also proceeded to “put anti-freeze in the heating system to make sure the in-floor heating system did not freeze.” Source: Mary Ellen MacIntyre, “Storm leaves Agridome in flap,” in The Chronicle Herald (Nova Scotiua), December 18, 2007, available at http://thechronicleherald.ca/NovaScotia/998882.html.
[No. 01] Mexico blames grass for soccerloss! Septemebr 13, 2007 – According to the rules of the game promulgated by the international soccer federation (FIFA) -- http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/federation/laws%5fof%5fthe%5fgame%5f0708%5f10565.pdf -- soccer “matches may be played on natural or artificial surfaces, according to the rules of the competition.” It is not exactly clear why the surface at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, had to be converted from artificial turf to natural grass for last night’s World Cup qualifying game between Brazil and Mexico. Brazil won 3-1. According to a report in The Boston Globe “Mexico coach Hugo Sanchez blamed the grass field, which had been installed Monday over FiledTurf, for contributing to the go-ahead goal, leading to Marquez’s misreading of the bounce.” Source:http://www.boston.com/sports/articles/2007/09/13/brazil_makes_itself_at_home/