Does Vail need turf fields at Ford Park?
Some say there’s no need to replace existing grass fields
Chris Chantler is a rugby player and soccer dad. He prefers playing on grass fields.
Chantler spoke to the Vail Town Council at that board’s Oct. 5 meeting to oppose an idea that would replace the grass at the Ford Park athletic field with artificial turf.
The idea was discussed by the council at its Sept. 21 meeting. At that time, turf was presented as an advantage in lengthening playing seasons and, perhaps, allowing special events in the winter. Turf also doesn’t require water and fertilizer, although it isn’t maintenance free.
The $1.5 million budget item is currently in the town’s 2022 budget as a “placeholder,” meaning the idea needs further research and public comment.
Chantler didn’t wait for that process to tell council members he thinks artificial turf is a bad idea, and a bad idea for Vail.
Fields now are ‘pristine’
In a subsequent phone interview, Chantler noted that several years after the fields were redone, they remain in “pristine” condition.
“We have a natural, pristine environment in Vail,” Chantler said. “Swaths of … plastic and rubber does not fit the mission of the town.”
Chantler also noted that turf fields can lead to more injuries, particularly among soccer, lacrosse and rugby players.
After the Vail Daily first published news of the possible conversion of the fields, reader Kevin Ives emailed a link to a study about the incidence of injuries on turf fields.
That study examined college football statistics through the 2004-05 and 2013-14 seasons. That study found nearly triple the rate of posterior cruciate ligament knee injuries on turf versus grass fields.
Anecdotally, Chantler said that he’s seen more injuries on turf fields as a player and coach.
Mountain Recreation Director Janet Bartnik doesn’t have a role in this decision, but she has a lot of experience managing both turf and grass fields. Bartnik said she hasn’t seen any anecdotal evidence of more injuries on the turf fields run by Mountain Recreation.
Turf gets hot
Bartnik said turf fields allow longer seasons, but, she added, there are also disadvantages to turf. The main one is that modern field turf gets really hot in the summer.
Chantler said turf fields need to be watered to keep the heat under control. That watering, along with rain and snow could also contribute to runoff with plastic and rubber from those fields. In Vail, that runoff would have to be managed before it flows into Gore Creek.
Saving water… “shouldn’t be the reason we put (turf) on what’s already a beautiful playing field at Ford Park,” Chantler said.
Vail Town Council member Jenn Bruno’s two sons have spent a lot of time playing soccer in Vail and elsewhere.
Bruno, along with fellow Council member Brian Stockmar, asked for more information about the proposed turf project before final approval of the 2022 budget.
“For $1.5 million, I think we can spend some time on this,” Bruno said. “We need to get as much information, the pros and cons on both sides, so we can make an educated decision.”
Bruno noted the discussion will continue if the project ends up in the 2022 budget.
“A lot more vetting has to happen,” Bruno said. “As a parent, I understand there are certain risks playing on turf versus grass.”
The Vail Town Council will vote Oct. 19 on final approval of the 2022 budget. That budget includes a $1.5 million “placeholder” for possible conversion of the Ford Park athletic fields from grass to artificial turf.