City officials say they haven’t had real issues with the artificial turf at Golden Eagle Regional Park, despite a class-action lawsuit filed this month in New Jersey that alleges FieldTurf USA withheld knowledge from customers of problems with its product.
The lawsuit filed by the borough of Carteret claims that FieldTurf officials knew the company’s product would start deteriorating within a few years of installation but kept marketing the turf as having a 10-year lifespan.
Sparks’ Golden Eagle Regional Park has 330,000 square feet of turf and is noted as one of the largest single installations of outdoor artificial turf in North America. The City of purchased FieldTurf in 2007 for $1.4 million and completed installation on the 15 fields the following year.
In 2015 when the eight-year FieldTurf warranty with the city was about to expire, the Sparks Tribune conducted a field test. Staff at the newspaper noticed that the fibers broke off from one of the fields but not seem to have the same reaction from the baseball fields. However, city officials did not pursue replacement of the turf, claiming that it is purely an aesthetic issue and does not affect player safety.
“We went out there with the Tribune and at that time we weren’t seeing any issues; everything was functioning just fine,” says Dan Marran, contracts and risk manager for the city. “Safety is paramount to us, but these issues with the turf is more about the aesthetics. No safety concerns have ever been brought to our attention.”
“We have events out there pretty much 365 days a year and so we haven’t wanted to shut the park down to replace something just for looks,” Marran adds.
Sparks Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Domingues agrees that the park receives a lot of use and that it wouldn’t make sense to replace the fields. “There are youth leagues out there every night and tournaments 95 percent on the weekends,” Domingues says. “In 2015, we had 50 events and 1800 teams in the park which equals out to about 5300 games in over 234 days. That’s a lot of use,” she adds.
Domingues says that she couldn’t even begin to speculate how long it would take to replace the turf in the park even if they had pursued taking advantage of its warranty. “Number one, it’s not affecting the entire park and number two, it’s an aesthetic issue, not a safety issue,” she says. Domingues added that to her knowledge, no one has ever complained about the turf since it has been installed.
The lawsuit filed in New Jersey claims municipalities, school districts and colleges relied on FieldTurf’s claims about the turf when public funding was low.
The suit said the borough of Carteret installed six Field Turf fields at a cost of $3.8 million and that the first four, installed in 2006, deteriorated after six years. The suit followed a series of articles by in New Jersey newspapers that accused the company of covering up defects in its artificial turn products while selling 1,500 fields for more than $570 million.
Despite any pending litigation and bad press that FieldTurf has received, Sparks officials says that FieldTurf has been a good partner to the city.
“In my opinion, FieldTurf has stepped up their game- they reconditioned the fields and have held up their warranty,” says Domingues. “The life of the fields has served us well.”