Friday, October 7, 2016

Buyer beware: Failing fields leave schools in Kansas and elsewhere in a bind

Football fields shouldn’t leave fake grass stuck to the shoes and clothes of players who have just finished a game.
But as Piper USD 203 in Kansas City, Kan., watched its high school field deteriorate, that is precisely what was happening.
Superintendent Tim Conrad recalled how the green fibers would fall out and stick to one’s skin.
“I could get down on my field and rub my hand on the field,” he said, “and my hand would be covered with this.”
In Kansas and across the country, fields like Piper’s — which cost schools several hundred thousand dollars to install — have degraded earlier than expected.
The product woes have left school districts in a bind as they figure out their best options to replace troubled turf. And though the fields are warrantied, the districts are walking away with very different deals.

Some — like Seaman USD 345 and Geary USD 475 — are paying upward of $300,000, while others have struck much cheaper deals or received free-of-cost replacements. At least one district in Texas collected $275,000 from the manufacturer, FieldTurf, in a settlement in 2013.
At issue is a product sometimes called Duraspine. For several years, FieldTurf purchased the fiber for it from a third party that it eventually sued and blamed for field failures across North America. The parties settled mid-trial for an undisclosed amount.
Now FieldTurf faces legal challenges in multiple states, with some attorneys arguing the company is backing out of its warranties. Moreover, they accuse FieldTurf of knowing the material was flawed by 2009 or earlier yet continuing to install it.
FieldTurf defended itself Friday in a statement to The Topeka Capital-Journal...

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