City Switches To Cork Fields For Homestead Soccer Conversion

Chapel Hill will use pure cork infill with sand base for Homestead Park soccer field conversion, Parks & Rec Director Jim Orr told the Parks, Greenways Recreation Com­mis­sion last month, instead of EPDM rubber (CSN, July 2016).The two youth soccer fields will be converted from natural grass to artificial turf in 2017 to provide more soccer opportunities.

The switch to the new infill product represents an alternative that’s organic, environmentally friendly, non-toxic and “wasn’t that much more expensive,” according to Orr.

He said the cork infill was discovered on an October visit to Gaffney, S.C., where Field­Turf installed a new artificial turf (Revolution 360) high school football/soccer field earlier in fall. He said, “It was like standing on grass… even during a warm afternoon there was no heat felt.”

It’s the only field of its kind in NC/SC, CSN learned, but is more widely used on the West Coast in California, Washington where parents and schools raised health concerns about crumb rubber and other rubber infill products and wanted a safer alternative. The cork is harvested from cork oak trees.

“There are no problems, no health issues and even after 3 inches of rain fell after in­stallation was complete there were no puddles and cork didn’t shift,” Orr added. “It was remarkable, eye-opening.”

“When we walked on it, it was stable… The better you maintain it, the longer it will last. The cork is guaranteed for ten years (two more than tire crumb fields).” Replacing it will be less expensive because only the playing surface is replaced.

Orr said informal estimates from two field suppliers put the cork field cost between $1,075,000 and $1,170,000.

The city approved earlier field conversion plans in June and allocated $1 million. Two private soccer groups (Triangle United and Rainbow Soccer) pledged $800,000 in advance field rental fees and the Town will use $200,000 from voter-approved 2015 parks and rec bonds to pay for the project.

Orr is developing performance agreements (contracts) for the soccer groups, planning soil tests and will prepare bid specs so it can go out for bids early in 2017. Construction is expected to take 120 days. Completion date TBA.

Joel Bulkley