FieldTurf playing sites under review

KEARNY –

The Kearny High Kardinals football team plays its home games on it.

In Lyndhurst, kids in township recreation programs and scholastic athletes cavort on the same type of surface.

And the Nutley High Raiders compete on the same kind of carpet.

The material is supplied by a Montreal-based company, FieldTurf, which, according to a Star-Ledger series last year, sold allegedly defective artificial playing surfaces to New Jersey schools and municipalities and, in some cases, allegedly refused to replace those surfaces in breach of warranty agreements.

In its defense, FieldTurf denies that its New Jersey fields were defective, that the majority of those fields which relied on a Duraspine fiber are still in use, a decade after they were installed, and that it went to court to go with a new fiber supplier after it became aware that Duraspine “was prone to premature fiber breakdown in certain high UV conditions and in certain fiber colors.”

The company also disputed the validity of fiber-testing results cited by the Star-Ledger story.

Nonetheless, a national class action lawsuit filed last month on behalf of Carteret alleges that FieldTurf violated the state Consumer Fraud Act by selling the borough six sub-standard fields for nearly $4 million between 2006 and 2010 and then allegedly refusing them before warranties expired.

Newark filed a similar lawsuit against the company.

In Kearny, Mark Bruscino, operations director for the Kearny Board of Education, said that FieldTurf was the company that installed the KHS football field “10 or 12” years ago.

Neither Bruscino nor John Millar, newly-retired KHS athletic director, was aware of any deficiencies associated with the field and Millar added that he was unaware of any complaints from players.

But, because of the wear and tear sustained by the field over the past decade or so, Bruscino said, “We’re going to have to replace it,” at a cost he projected at between $500,000 and $700,000.

“We’ve had great use” of the field, Millar said, not only for scholastic football, track and field, soccer and physical education classes, but also for summer recreation leagues. “Our fellows have done a great job maintaining it [and] we’ve certainly gotten our money’s worth. At this point, the surface needs to be replaced and the Board of Education is moving forward to having it replaced in the near future.”

Kearny’s Harvey Field and Franklin School Field were also FieldTurf projects.

Last year, Veteran’s Memorial Field on Belgrove Drive was resurfaced with Shaw Powerblade 2.0 and the Branin Memorial (former Futsol) soccer facility on Passaic Ave. was re-done with Matrix Turf, according to Mayor Alberto Santos.

 

Lyndhurst Parks & Recreation Commissioner Tom DiMaggio reported that “all our fields” – the municipal soccer, baseball and girls’ softball playing surfaces at the foot of Valley Brook Road and the high school field, which was resurfaced in 2010 – were installed by FieldTurf.

“I’ve been reading some stories about some [FieldTurf] fields deteriorating quicker than anticipated,” the commissioner said, but when asked whether that was the case in Lyndhurst, he said, “It’s too early to tell.”

“I’m going to have to sit with the other commissioners and discuss this,” DiMaggio said. “We’ll also see if other towns have been impacted.”

In Nutley, Board of Education President Charles Kucinski confirmed that the high school stadium has the synthetic surface supplied by FieldTurf but, to his knowledge, “we’ve not run into any problems with it.”

If they do, “the warranty is still good,” he added.

And, ultimately, for self-protection, Kucinski said, the board may elect to join in the class action suit with other communities.

In Harrison, Board of Education personnel director James Doran said there’s no indication, based on available data, that the high school field is of FieldTurf extraction.

Nor is the artificial surface laid down at the “Courts” for soccer from that company, he said.

Doran said he’s been led to believe that the state School Development Authority “is not using [FieldTurf] in northern New Jersey that much” due to safety concerns about possible “brittleness” of the surface and health issues stemming from the “rubber pellets that underlie the turf.”

Belleville High School stadium’s surface was done over by FieldTurf, courtesy of the township. Tom Egan, state monitor for the Board of Education, said that when the artificial turf was installed, it “had a 10-year warranty and that warranty is still good.” Egan said that he’s been told that the township is “hiring professionals to evaluate” the field and that any problems that may arise should be made good by the insurance companies hired when the bid bonds were issued. Township Manager Mauro Tucci could not be reached for further enlightenment.

In North Arlington, Board of Education President George McDermott was researching the circumstances related to the 2014 resurfacing of Rip Collins field financed by passage of a referendum.

Bloomfield’s Foley Field, home to the BHS Bengals, was converted to artificial turf a few years ago – thanks also to a successful referendum but FieldTurf was not deployed in the process, according to BOE operations director Wayne Casper.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.