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Melting Fields to Be Replaced at Five L.A. Schools

Jason Scott

Five high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are being forced to replace all-weather sports fields due to defective materials.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the turf at the five schools, made up of tiny synthetic pellets, is melting under extreme heat, according to district officials. Each of the fields was installed within the last five years, and were expected to last between eight and 10 years.

According to Shane Cox, the football coach at Fairfax high school, that installed one of the fields in 2012, the melting pellets created a “clay-like solution” that formed a much harder than normal playing surface.

Replacement projects at three of the affected schools have already begun, and the football teams from those schools are playing all home games on the road, or finding alternative venues. Diego Rivera High School is scheduled to begin its replacement project in late September, and Washington Prep is delaying replacing its field until after the season.

LAUSD chief facilities officer Mark Hovatter said that the district would spend between $500,000 and $800,000 to replace the fields, but is seeking reimbursement from its contractors.

According to Hovatter, all five of the fields had materials from the same manufacturer, China-based Changzhou Regalfill Rubber Co.

The synthetic pellets were supposed to withstand temperatures up to 180 degrees, but melted at 140 degrees in tests, according to Hovatter. Synthetic fields absorb heat, making for much higher field temperatures than the surrounding air.

Synthetic turf has become a popular option within the last decade, as they come with cost savings on water and maintenance. More events can take place on synthetic fields, because they stand up to weather and use better than grass fields. Synthetic turf does, however, require some upkeep, including raking, fluffing, and sanitizing. According to Hovatter, LAUSD is looking for partners to share the costs of that upkeep.

Despite the issue with melting, Hovatter said LAUSD will continue to use synthetic options in the future. 

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