Two parks in Long Beach are set to receive new field turf soccer fields replacing the natural grass surfaces currently there. Stock Photo
The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to approve construction of two artificial turf fields at Admiral Kidd and Seaside parks at its regular meeting Tuesday night.
The Admiral Kidd Turf Field Project has authorized funding of up to $1,559,949 and the Seaside Turf Field Project is authorized up to $850,435, according to city documents. The allocation was part of an original project that included a third turf field project at El Dorado Park with an original budget of $3.5 million.
In choosing to install artificial turf fields, the City stated that growing grass at both parks has been difficult, due to high salinity in the soil, among other factors. Additionally, with the state’s water conservation mandates, the grass fields cannot be properly maintained with reduced water allocations.
The turf fields will use a cork/sand combination for the infill instead of the more common rubber crumb material used on other turf surfaces. According to officials, this will have numerous benefits over other kinds of artificial turf including the avoidance of certain health concerns like certain types of cancer, that some studies have been linked to the rubber infill.
Resilience, renewable material, lower initial cost, savings on maintenance cost and superior heat dispensation properties are some of the benefits listed in a city staff report.
The vote also allotted $800,000 for athletic field improvements at El Dorado Park West, which was originally included in the $3.6 million turf field projects.
Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo explained that although the leftover sum will not cover the cost of the improvements slated for the El Dorado site, partnership opportunities with community groups could bring in the estimated $100,000 needed to shore up the cost differential. If not, the project might have to be scaled down.
The projects were put on hold due to debate by city officials and the public after concerns were raised regarding the potential health issues associated with artificial turf.
In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency redacted a 2009 report saying that the rubber crumbs in turf posed a low level health threat. In its retraction statement, the agency said its original analysis was based on a small sample size.
In reaction, the Long Beach Parks and Recreation Commission recommended the city to use organic material, rather than rubber. Due to the increased cost associated with the cork/sand infill, the budget could no longer include an artificial turf installation at El Dorado West Park.
Last night’s vote was met with some concerns and outcries from the public, mainly regarding the cost of the project, the potential health risk and the perceived increased risk of injury from the artificial turf.
Ann Cantrell, a community activist, said that if field construction projects at El Dorado Park West can be completed for $800,000, then there’s no reason to install the turf fields at Seaside and Admiral Kidd.
She added that the $1.5 million being spent to install the turf at Admiral Kidd could be better used to fight issues such as homelessness.
One resident of the Fifth District, who represented the Long Beach chapter of the American Youth Soccer Organization, brought up potential health issues related to turf fields.
“This is a new surface that no one’s ever tried before, and we’re now rolling it out in full blast,” he said. “To me it doesn’t make a lot of sense, there’s three times as many injuries on artificial turf as their is on grass.”
However, studies have shown that the risk of injury on turf fields and natural grass fields is the same.
As part of the City’s agreement with the project's’ contractor, Los Angeles Engineering Inc., is responsible for maintenance of the fields, which includes aerating, raking, brushing and sweeping of the artificial turf surfaces.
The turf fields at Admiral Kidd and Seaside parks are expected to last eight to 12 years before needing refurbishment. Both projects are expected to be completed by September 2017.