Monday, August 31, 2015

Opinion: Artificial Turf at City Fields by John Milardo

I guess you can get as many pro-artificial turf reports as you can con. Put that aside, and there still is the issue of increased injuries to players as well as maintenance costs. The initial cost of constructing of an artificial turf field will negate any perceived savings related to maintenance. The maintenance cost difference of artificial versus natural turf is between $5-$8 thousand per field/per year. The City already has all the equipment and knowledge for the upkeep of natural fields. What is lacking is proper budget funding and the number of department personnel needed to do a proper job. 
No matter if every field was artificial turf, the current work force would be concentrating all their efforts on the upkeep of athletic fields. Nothing else would receive any attention or funding, as currently occurs. 
Several years ago, the City was sold a bill of goods that all youth soccer needed was to have the taxpayers chip in for the fields at Country Club and Longhill Roads and they would use very few City fields. What happened? 
I don't know if it still is the case, but both soccer and little league did not want to use certain fields on a regular basis because they were too far from the center of town, or in the center of town. We also had game fields and practice fields policy (list), which helped out immensely for improvement to all game fields...for a while. Then both leagues would ignore the policy, and complain about field conditions. 
How can the City pay for an increase in materials and personnel for the Parks Division? Well, our city fathers are bonding everything now a days, so if they leave the extra $10 million dollars in the current bond for natural turf, they could use that money for the Parks Division....only!
You say that is illegal or unethical? Not really. In road bonds the City pays for the Public Works Departments overtime for curbing and backfilling, catch basins, etc., from the bond. So there is precedent to follow.
Here's a novel idea. How about curtailing the number of bodies who play in the leagues, and match them to a schedule which is conducive to the number of fields available. Something has to give. The City doesn't have additional land to build more fields on, and the locations of many of the sites our fields are currently on belong either to the State of Connecticut or Board of Education. 
The only pro-artificial turf comment I agree with is that if it rains, you can play on the field immediately. If that is the only concern, that's a high price the taxpayer is being asked to pay for a few rain dates that are already incorporated into all athletic schedules.
Just a thought!
John Milardo, Middletown

Editor's Note: Mr. Milardo is a retired  Parks Superintendent for the Parks & Recreation Department and employee of the City of Middletown for 42 years. 

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