No to Fiscally irresponsible all synthetic field design approach.
We believe that it is fiscally irresponsible to ask our tax payers to fund the conversion of 10.5 acres of natural grass into synthetic turf fields.
According to City of Lake Forest Field Assessment (Sept, 2020), the Deerpath Community Park conversion from natural grass fields to synthetic turf including other upgrades will cost the tax payers a total of $9,687,600 - $11,842,600 (page 46). In contrast upgrading and regrading the fields to better natural grass fields would only cost $1,112,400 - $1,361,800 (page 45). We only have the numbers they have given us in their assessment, and we would like to be able to compare apples to apples but what we do have is that the synthetic turf alone will cost $6,316,200-$7,200,900. This figure does not include the new equipment needed to care for the synthetic turf. It is possible that the drainage and regrading improvement of natural grass fields will cost more than the figures they have provided, but it will still cost less than the installation of synthetic turf alone.
Also, consider that the lifetime of a synthetic turf field is 8-10 years, or less with heavy use. Who will pay for new synthetic fields in 8-10 years? and who will pay for the removal/disposal of the used synthetic turf fields? The proposed project at Deerpath Community Park will be 9.9963 acres of synthetic turf, or 434,000 square feet. Synthetic turf is estimated to cost $6.50 to $7.80 per square foot for disposal and resurfacing or $2,821,000-$3,385,000.
FieldTurf, the company that installed the synthetic turf at LFHS claims that maintenance of synthetic fields costs considerably less than that of natural grass fields and that maintenance of a synthetic field only costs $5,000 per year. The reality is very different. Annual synthetic turf field maintenance cost include water for cooling and cleaning, infill replacement, paint and paint remover, disinfectants and cleaning products, weeding, carpet repairs, chemicals for deep cleaning. In fact, the warranties maybe voided if the turf manager fails to perform regular cleanings.
Michigan State University, for example, spends $22,760 per year to maintain a single synthetic field ($5040 for labor, $6220 for supplies and $8000 for outside vendors for repairs). In Kansas a K-12 school spends $14,720 per year on maintaining one synthetic field. In comparison, an Indiana schools budget for maintaining competitive natural grass fields is between $6540-9880 per year. (These examples are the closest to Lake Forest that we could find specific data for. We will continue search for closer examples and update this page with any new findings).
Another costly problem with synthetic turf fields is when heavy storms destroy the fields — a problem often seen on fields in flood plains (parts of Deerpath Community Park are in a flood plain). Over and over reports of newly installed synthetic turf fields that have been flooded and damaged leave communities and schools with unexpected financial hits due to costly clean up and repairs. Ridgewood, New Jersey is a perfect example. Since installing synthetic fields in 2011, the fields have been flooded and destroyed several times. The fields had just been repaired when on September 2, 2021 they were flooded again by hurricane Ida. The cost of repairing the fields is estimated at just over $150,000, not to mention costly clean-ups and the entire fall season of athletics on the field was cancelled. Repairing 2 grass fields in the same community cost only about $3000-5000.
While we understand that cost for both types of fields can fluctuate depending on the field managers dedication, use pattern and local site conditions, it’s evident that the numbers for a synthetic field over a 10 year period will never make fiscal sense in our community.
Considering all this, it's clear that high quality natural grass fields are the fiscally responsible option.