The greenest of grass

  • Jana Hill<br>Mill Creek Enterprise editor
  • Friday, February 22, 2008 11:48am

City leaders will choose between the new and the newest in artificial turf, spending about half what they expected to spend to carpet new sports fields near the Town Center in a project that will be under construction soon.

The park, referred to as “Trillium Park” but not yet officially named (see related story), is expected to be complete by August.

The options available in turf have not even been in place for as long as their 8-year guarantees, but their benefits still tip the scales away from real grass.

“It is softer than a grass field that over time, the soil hardens as people run over it and play on it,” said Doug Jacobson, Mill Creek director of Public Works.

The benefit of faux grass over real grass, Jacobson said, is that the city will not have to spend as much on maintenance. The turf has to be brushed occasionally and leaves and other organic material blown off of it, but it doesn’t require regular mowing or watering. Also, the turf “doesn’t pond” when it rains, he said.

The lack of water pooling is due to engineering of the product. The top layer is porous, and underneath is a subsurface drainage system, Jacobson said.

“As soon as it quits raining, you can play on it,” he said.

Then there are the other problems with grass. Baseball and soccer players who use Mill Creek’s newest park won’t have grass stains to complain about. Allergy sufferers will have to find something else to sneeze at.

Jacobson said the city received six different bids for a variety of turf options for the city’s new park.

As for the turf, “we haven’t chosen anything yet, but we’re probably going to recommend to the council that we award the contract to Astroplay,” Jacobson said.

Of the six options considered by the city, Astroplay and FieldTurf were the two that drew the most interest from staff and council members. Those two offered the lowest cost bids for the park.

Astroplay is a synthetic, grasslike product made from plastic fibers and in filled with a mixture of sand and rubber to produce a field that has the texture and playing conditions of natural grass, Jacobson said.

The bid from SRI Sports for Astroplay brand synthetic turf was $202,702, which includes the turf and its installation. That was well below the $260,321 for FieldTurf. Other bids ranged from $262,912 to $463,914. Bids from most of the vendors came in well below the $400,000 the city expected to spend.

The subsurface drainage system needed underneath the turf will be an additional cost that is included in the contract for park construction. That contract was secured with a unanimous vote by the Council April 8 for approval of a $1,535,750 construction bid from Premium Construction. Premium Construction’s bid covers a drainage base for synthetic turf, the skate park, baseball backstop, fences, parking lot, concession and restroom building and site landscaping.

The 5-acre lot, located next to Town Center near Trillium Blvd., will include separate soccer and baseball fields and parking for 33 cars.

The park also has an area where play equipment could be added, Jacobson said, but, he added “we’re not going there yet until after (the park is) opened and we see how it is used.”

For the turf contract, FieldTurf is one that offered more prestige of the two because it was used on Husky and Seahawks stadiums. Astroplay is preferred by city staff because its bid was lower.

Astroplay comes with an eight-year guarantee, like other turf options the city considered. “But none of the products currently installed have been in use for that long. So nobody knows exactly how it will (wear),” Jacobson said.

The new line of turf is different from the commonly recognized synthetic product, Astroturf, in that the fibers are longer, and the product is more like grass.

Shortage of fields has been a big issue for local teams, so construction of the park is welcome news to those who work with local youth.

Dave Charleson, Mill Creek Little League president, said “our league has been one of the most successful leagues in the state. We’ve had to do that in spite of not having any fields of our own. We basically have gotten by having school fields.”

He said Little League teams have used fields at Mill Creek and Woodside elementary schools, Heatherwood Middle School, and fields at McCollum and Chopper parks.

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