Permit pending, this summer the district plans on installing all-weather synthetic turf fields at five elementary schools for student and community use. These new fields, located at Enatai, Medina, Phantom Lake, Lake Hills and Somerset elementary schools, will use polyurethane coated rubber infill to eliminate player exposure to rubber. The polyurethane coat encapsulates the rubber and prevents the emission of any toxins, which has been the primary concern raised by Bellevue parents and community members.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the district installing synthetic turf fields?
The synthetic fields help the district provide expanded year-round use of athletic fields for students and community users in the northwest climate.
When did the district start using crumb rubber infill?
For the last fifteen years the district has installed synthetic turf on over 17 athletic fields, utilizing crumb rubber infill. Before crumb rubber infill the district used to install Astro-turf fields.
How wide spread is the use of crumb rubber?
Crumb rubber infill turf products gained popularity starting in the mid-1990s. Today, crumb rubber is used on well over 90% of synthetic fields nationally, numbering well into the thousands.
Is the district worried about the use of crumb rubber?
No. The district is aware that safety concerns about the use of synthetic turf and crumb rubber infill have been raised periodically, but we are not aware of any scientific evidence to support the concerns.
If the district is not worried about the use of crumb rubber, why change to a coated rubber infill?
Current research is insufficient to draw solid conclusions about any health effects and better studies are currently underway. As the district continues to monitor the research, we also want to be responsive to community concerns. After investigating several options it was decided that the district would start using coated rubber infill to address concerns about player contact with rubber on our fields.
How is coated rubber different from the crumb rubber the district has used in the past?
The difference between these two products is that coated rubber infill has been coated with a colorized polyurethane product. The polyurethane coating eliminates any potential contact with the actual rubber and encapsulates the rubber to prevent the emission of any toxins, which has been the primary concern raised by our community
Is there an additional cost to change to the coated rubber infill?
Yes. The district estimates that it will cost from anywhere from $12,000 to $15,000 per field, depending on the size of field, to install the coated crumb rubber infill on our new fields.
Is the district exploring other options to crumb rubber infill?
Yes. The district is recommending that cork infill is piloted at the play toy area at Enatai Elementary School. This recommendation is being made for two reasons: (1) to address the concerns regarding the crumb rubber raised by the community and (2) to give the district some experience with this alternative product.
Why not move to cork infill?
Cork infill is very expensive and we don’t have any first-hand experience on how the use of cork infill will impact player experience on the field.
Why are elementary schools having synthetic turf fields installed?
In 2014, one of the initiatives funded by the voters in the capital projects levy was to include artificial turf playfields at elementary schools to alleviate concerns and complaints by students, staff and parents about the amended sand play fields, either being too wet and muddy or too dry and dusty.
Why did the district start using crumb rubber instead of Astro-turf?
Crumb rubber infill was introduced as an alternative to the former Astro-turf, the first-generation artificial turf product. While Astro-turf provided a maintenance-friendly, year-round playing surface, users experienced conditions far different and foreign than natural grass. The Astro-turf surface was later found to be the cause of injuries both serious (knee and head) and minor injuries (scrapes and burns).
Fields that use crumb rubber provide year-round playability, and also have been found to be resilient surfaces that created a more realistic and safer playing experience that mimics natural grass. The use of crumb rubber in the district has dramatically reduced both serious and minor injuries.