James City County plans to spend about $3 million to refurbish seven sports fields at Warhill Sports Complex.
Most of the fields slated for replacement are made of a material — Duraspine — that’s caused headaches for the project’s proposed contractor FieldTurf and its customers, some of whom have sued FieldTurf claiming their Duraspine fields are defective.
FieldTurf installed Duraspine, which is named in lawsuits as a defective material due to its rate of deterioration, on six artificial turf fields at Warhill Sports Complex in July 2007, according to a FieldTurf installation reference list.
But while customers, often secondary schools and colleges, across the country have voiced complaints with fields made of Duraspine, James City never had a problem and looks forward to working with FieldTurf for its upcoming replacement project, James City Parks and Recreation Director John Carnifax said.
“We just never had that experience,” Carnifax said. “We’ve been very happy with FieldTurf.”
And despite Duraspine disputes, there aren’t worries about any issues with the county’s upcoming replacement project, which will utilize another material, Carnifax said.
Among the customers who had bad experiences is Lake Tahoe Unified School District in California. The district sued FieldTurf for breach of contract and false advertising among other things in February 2017. The lawsuit alleged deceptive business practices in the marketing and installation of a field at South Tahoe Middle School in August 2007, saying FieldTurf was aware of issues with its Duraspine turf but didn’t inform the district.
A March 2011 lawsuit filed by FieldTurf against Mattex Leisure Industries and its successor TenCate alleges the latter knowingly sold a cheaper and less durable fiber after the parties agreed to a supply contract in 2005. FieldTurf alleges Mattex, which was acquired by TenCate in February 2007 and continued to distribute the fiber, induced FieldTurf into the contact with a superior artificial turf example and switched materials after the ink dried on the contact. TenCate announced it would stop supplying FieldTurf in March 2011, according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, FieldTurf said it had built more than 100 fields with Duraspine and had spent $4 million on repairs and replacements. FieldTurf and TenCate settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount in 2014.
FieldTurf stopped using Duraspine in 2010, and less than 2 percent of Duraspine fields have been replaced under warranty due to issues with the material, a FieldTurf spokesman said.
Carnifax said the county is aware of FieldTurf’s legal troubles and has been for some time, though he couldn’t say for sure when the county learned of the issues plaguing other customers and whether a county employee stumbled across the information or if FieldTurf alerted the county on its on initiative.
“We kept up and followed it,” Carnifax said.
A FieldTurf spokesman declined to comment on whether FieldTurf alerted James City.
In a video posted to the company’s website, FieldTurf president and CEO Eric Daliere disputed accusations in lawsuits that the company didn’t inform customers when it determined it was selling defective materials.
“We were very public about it. We didn’t hide from the fact,” Daliere said in the video, which was uploaded December 2016.
Daliere went on to say that FieldTurf installed 114 fields between 2006 and 2008, and nine out of 10 were still in use by 2016. He said degradation to the turf was cosmetic and the fields were still safe to play on.
The county has gotten 11 years of use out of its fields, which came with an eight-year warranty, and the fields have reached the end of their life cycle. The fields, along with associated lighting, walkways and parking, cost about $7 million to build. The county has artificial turf fields on a 10-year replacement schedule, Carnifax said.
James City issued an intent to award the contract for the new fields to FieldTurf on June 22. FieldTurf was selected out of five companies that responded to the request for proposals, Carnifax said.
Field replacement is expected to begin in November and conclude in March. The Board of Supervisors is expected to consider approval of FieldTurf as the contractor July 10, according to the RFP.
Along with six Duraspine fields, FieldTurf will replace the field at Sanford B. Wanner stadium. The stadium has a field made of a material marketed as Pro-grass, which was installed by another vendor, Carnifax said.
The project is budgeted at $3.1 million and was funded in the county’s fiscal year 2019 budget, which supervisors approved in May.
FieldTurf Classic HD or FieldTurf Classic HD Coolplay will be installed on all seven fields and walkways and will be lined for football, field hockey, lacrosse and soccer, according to the project’s request for proposals.
The new fields come with a 10-year warranty.
The complex is regularly used by youth sports organizations, such as Virginia Legacy Soccer Club, as well as Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools for games, practices and band competitions. An average of 30 tournaments and special events are held at the complex every year, according to the RFP.
Williamsburg Parks and Recreation doesn’t have artificial turf sports fields, Williamsburg Director of Parks and Recreation Robbi Hutton said.
York Public Schools’ Bailey Field is made of artificial turf, but FieldTurf wasn’t the installer, a spokeswoman said. York County Parks and Recreation doesn’t operate any artificial turf sports fields.
The College of William and Mary has two artificial turf varsity sports fields. Neither contain Duraspine. One is made of the FieldTurf product Revolution 360, a college spokeswoman said.
A W-JCC spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.