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Carson Park field's artificial turf outlasting its warranty

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012 11:28 pm

By Chuck Rupnow Leader-Telegram staff Leader-Telegram

The artificial turf installed at Carson Park football stadium in 2004 is surpassing its eight-year guarantee, with another three or four years of use expected before it may need to be replaced.

Phil Fieber, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the lack of use over the winter months has likely helped preserve the field.

"FieldTurf told us that we would get longer use out of it because the field is covered in snow for a good chunk of the year," Fieber said. "The product, when we first got it, hadn't even been out for eight years, so it was like a crapshoot when they guaranteed it. They were confident that eight years was a pretty good ballpark estimate.

"We'll probably get three, maybe four, more seasons out of it, and then we'll have to replace the carpet," he said. "We will not have to redo the drainage underneath, so we should be looking at about half the cost, about $400,000 for just the carpet."

Fieber said FieldTurf is guaranteeing its new line of field carpet for 20 years.

The company annually hires an independent consultant to test the resiliency of the Carson Park field's rubber surface, Fieber said.

"That's part of the service we paid for," he said. "They'll tell us when it's getting close to needing replacement, but we might already know that if coaches tell us about issues or problems and injuries their players might be having. I think we'll know when it's time to be replaced before any machine tells us that."

River Falls is the only high school in the Big Rivers Conference, and only Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member, not to have artificial surfaces at their respective fields.

Coach praises field

"We have had no issues of any kind with the field," said UW-Eau Claire football coach Todd Glaser. "It looks better than some of the fields we see that are the same age."

When asked if he had any reasoning for that, he joked: "I think it's the osprey," referring to one that nests in Carson Park.

"The kids like playing on the Carson Park field, and it's held up really well," Glaser added.

The field was dedicated in the summer of 2004 with a price tag of about $800,000. The cost was covered by donations from the schools, businesses, organizations and contest fee increases, Fieber said, adding that no tax money was used.

"When we have to replace it, we will likely go back to the schools, university and others who helped out before and ask for their help again," he said.

Plenty of use

The field is used by UW-Eau Claire; North, Memorial and Regis high schools; city middle schools; the Eau Claire Crush and Predators; Parks and Recreation and other groups and individuals, according to Parks and Recreation statistics.

The field has been used for marching band practices, flag football, rugby and youth football events in addition to the regular high school and college football games.

The seven major users — three high schools, UW-Eau Claire, Predators, Crush and Parks and Recreation — each have lease agreements with the city, calling for them to each pay $6,000, according to Dawn Comte, superintendent of recreation.

Those leases allow 100 hours of full-time use at the complex, and 40 hours of limited use, which includes only the rest rooms, lights and field, she said.

Individuals and groups may rent the facility for $150 an hour or $1,100 a day.

Records indicate the Crush used the field the most in 2011 at 115 hours, compared with North, which used it for 44½. Between 2007 and 2011, Memorial used the field a total of 513 hours, compared with 235 for North and 234 for Regis.

The field was rented by groups and individuals for 322 hours in 2011. That includes Festival in the Pines and other events that reserve the park. They are billed for the field, even though they don't use it.

The field is also used for soccer and band practices. Metal cleats are not allowed on the field.

"Fire was our worst enemy," Comte said, referring to flaming batons used by a high school band performance. "Small flames had dripped off and melted little patches of the turf."