When I first heard that Medway was considering two new lighted FieldTurf playing fields I was pretty excited. My kids play sports. My 9 year old daughter and 7 year old son both play spring and fall town soccer. I can definitely see them trying more and more sports as they get older. I also have a three year old princess at home destined to be the greatest wide receiver in Medway Mustangs boys football history. Sports are a big part of my family. Chances are the same is true for you. We want to live in a community that can facilitate and encourage our love of sports.
Here are the Finance Committee Articles seeking to build two new turf fields in Medway.
ARTICLE 13: (Capital Project: Construct Athletic Fields – CPC Funds) To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate, borrow, or transfer from Community Preservation Funds a sum of money for the purpose of funding the construction of athletic fields at Medway High School (Medway Assessor’s parcel #38-339, 84-R Summer St), and on town land adjacent to Medway High School (Medway Assessor’s parcel #29-020, 0 Adams St) and for the payment of all other costs incidental and related thereto, and to authorize the Board of Selectmen and Town officers to take all related actions necessary or appropriate to carry out this article, or act in any manner relating thereto.
ARTICLE 14: (Capital Project: Construct Athletic Fields/Turf – General Funds) To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate, borrow, or transfer from available funds a sum of money for the purpose of funding the purchase of synthetic turf for athletic fields at Medway High School (Medway Assessor’s parcel #38-339, 84-R Summer St), and on town land adjacent to Medway High School (Medway Assessor’s parcel #29-020, 0 Adams St) and for the payment of all other costs incidental and related thereto, and to authorize the Board of Selectmen and Town officers to take all related actions necessary or appropriate to carry out this article, or act in any manner relating thereto.
There is another Article regarding turf, Article 15. This article is for the upkeep of our existing turf field, Hanlon Field (pictured). I support Article 15 as it seeks to maintain our existing turf field investment.
Articles 13 & 14 have two components baked in…
1. Does Medway need more athletic fields?
2. If we need more fields, is turf right for Medway?
Does Medway need more fields?
This seems to be a no brainer. If you have kids that play(ed) sports in town, then you don’t need me to tell you this. Let’s move on.
Is turf right for Medway?
I am willing to soften my answer to “probably not”. I reserve my final judgment pending a cost/benefit analysis of turf fields versus grass fields in Medway.
Benefits of turf
- Turf is prestigious. It looks nice. People will be impressed with our high quality turf fields. “Medway must be a great town. They have great facilities.”
- Turf is durable. It can withstand far more of our town activities than grass ever could. This is without dispute.
- Turf is less expensive compared to grass in monthly upkeep.
Downside of turf
- Injuries. It has been well documented that knee injuries are far more likely to occur on artificial grass surfaces. I support reducing the risk of our kids tearing an ACL.
- Turf requires a considerable investment to build/install.
- Turf needs to be replaced every 12 years (estimated), incurring considerable financial burdens on towns.
- The “prestigious” argument above is bunk. Outdoor turf fields are irresponsible investments of town taxpayer money that put our athletes at a higher risk for injury.
- Many kids just don’t like it. The balls roll too fast. The ground is too hard. They prefer playing natural grass.
Below are my unofficial numbers for a 15 years analysis.
- Total cost for Medway’s 2 Turf fields is $3,000,000. (it will be higher)
- Cost for each turf field is $800k compared to $350k for grass
- Cost to replace turf in 12 years is $500,000 based on Southborough’s 9/11 field.
- Annual maintenance numbers were baselined from a study in San Diego. Details are below.
- In New England, we do not mow or care for grass fields in the winter. However, I stuck with $50k cost for grass.
- I have seen estimates for turf that are much lower. I reduced the turf annual maintenance cost to $5k.
As you can see above, the longer your time horizon means the wider the financial spread between turf and grass. Grass will not require massive injections of capital every 12 years. Turf does. My numbers above are conservative. It suggests a savings of $500,000 over a 15 year period by choosing grass. I think actual savings might be closer to $1M+.
Look at Southborough
If you aren’t convinced, look at the dilemma in Southborough. Southborough, a fairly affluent town, put in a new turf field in 2002 and now does not have the appetite for the $500,000 needed for routine turf replacement. The field is slated for closure at the end of 2014. Looks like buyer’s remorse to me.
As far as I know, Medway officials have not published the following critical pieces of information…
1. Expected ongoing costs to maintain 2 turf fields
2. Expected capital expense for routine synthetic turf replacement (in roughly 12 years)
3. Cost / benefit comparison of turf fields versus grass fields
So long as turf is called for, I am rejecting Articles 13 and 14. I will keep an open mind if the information above is released. I would, however, support Articles 13 and 14 if they called for grass fields.
For some of you, I will see you at the crowded Oakland fields on Sunday afternoon. For everyone else, the vote is 7pm Monday, May 12 at the Medway High School auditorium. Based on all the emails we have been getting from the sports organizations in town, I don’t think I will be the most popular person in the room. Despite the rhetoric, I support sports in Medway just as much as everyone else. I am suggesting stepping back and taking a more responsible approach. I hope you will stand with me. See you there!
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