The turf company that has had problems throughout San Diego and the country has another sticky situation on its hands, and has turned to dumping loads of glue on weak fields to make them stronger.

San Diego County schools, along with other schools across the nation, shelled out millions in taxpayer money for new FieldTurf fields, only to have them quickly fall apart. The company then demanded more money to upgrade schools to a better product, called Revolution.

The Revolution turf, which can cost public high schools $400,000 to $900,000 per field, is supposed to be strong enough to withstand the beating from student athletes and is guaranteed under warranty to last eight years. Schools that received defective turf were forced to pay thousands more for supposedly sturdier turf – and now that turf is falling apart too.

In some cases, FieldTurf is replacing weak Revolution fields entirely, and recently did so for free at Torrey Pines High in December. But elsewhere, like at Patrick Henry High School and Serra High School in San Diego, as well as Ponca City High School in Oklahoma, records show FieldTurf is hoping glue will fix the problem.

FieldTurf crews are dumping a thousand gallons of latex glue called Beybond on top of the Revolution fields. During a weeklong process, crews vacuum up all the crumb rubber and sand infill cushioning between the grass blades, pour on the glue, then re-apply the infill in layers.

FieldTurf documents sent to San Diego Unified in October 2015 by turf salesman Tim Coury blamed the issues on a polyurethane “breakdown on the backing” of the turf rolls. The topical glue remedy was described as “non-invasive,” and FieldTurf claims in the documents that testing so far indicated there was “no negative impact on drainage,” often a selling point for the company.


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FieldTurf has often bragged about the strength of its turf backing, too, and guaranteed it would hold up.

“One of the most important elements of an artificial turf field is the ability for the fiber to stay locked in place over its lifetime. After all, who wants a field that sheds its grass-like fibers easily?” FieldTurf marketing materials say. “A FieldTurf field is the safest investment for your organization and without a doubt the most durable synthetic turf product in the marketplace.”

The reality is turning out to be much different for some FieldTurf customers, including school districts in San Diego County.

San Diego Unified School District emails obtained last year through a public records request show both Patrick Henry High School’s 2012 field – purchased for $504,000 – and Serra High School’s 2012 field – purchased for almost $528,000 – had the glue treatment in late 2015 after experiencing problems. Clairemont High School’s field, initially purchased in 2011 for $581,000, may have also had the treatment earlier in 2015, although it’s not entirely clear.

The San Diego Unified School District employee in charge of field maintenance is out on leave. Communications staff declined to comment.

Records show the repair method did catch the attention of maintenance employee Frank Shuman last year, who emailed FieldTurf salesman Coury May 16:

GlueEmail

Coury responded he’d be “happy to discuss” the issues.

FieldTurf officials declined to answer several questions about the glue treatment, but previously said only a “small number” of Revolution fields have been affected by the manufacturing problem. The company also claims the glue is safe.

“There are no safety or health issues related to any FieldTurf fields, or related to any process the Company uses to address a potential issue with any field. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” FieldTurf officials said in a statement.

    This article relates to: Education, Must Reads, News

    Written by Ashly McGlone

    Ashly is an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at ashly.mcglone@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5669.

    3 comments
    barb graham
    barb graham subscriber

    Grass was good enough for us at Clairemont High back in the 60s. What happened to make grass unacceptable?

    Don Atenow
    Don Atenow

    at this rate, San Diego will need to rid itself of 80% more teachers to pay for the maintenance of these plastic fields. maybe time to get rid of some of those pesky, non-athlete students, too!

    John Porter
    John Porter subscriber

    Boy, I'd like to know the back story of how the schools got involved in such an expensive, defective product.  Either complete incompetence or lots of money under the table.  Either way, I wouldn't be surprised...