Bellevue School District is excited to be installing all-weather fields at schools throughout the district. Over the past 15+ years the district has been following research on synthetic fields and using this information to guide recommendations on products that will provide students and community members with a quality experience on district fields.
This spring, new research related to uncoated crumb rubber was released. Based on the findings of this research and additional information on possible infill options, district staff recommended that the district continue to use a polyurethane coated crumb rubber on district fields. At the May 2, 2017 School Board meeting the board voted to approve this recommendation on projects moving forward. New all-weather fields will use coated crumb rubber, while playground areas at district elementary schools will be using a cork infill.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which schools have or will be getting all-weather fields installed using the coated crumb rubber?
Installation is in progress at Medina, Somerset, Lake Hills, and Phantom Lake elementary schools. Additional all-weather fields are scheduled to be installed at Bennett, Sherwood Forest, Eastgate, Woodridge and Newport Heights elementary schools this summer.
|Phantom Lake||June 2017|
|Lake Hills||June 2017|
|Sherwood Forest||Summer 2017|
|Newport Heights||Summer 2017|
|Elementary 18||Summer 2018*|
|Cherry Crest||Summer 2019+|
|Jing Mei||Summer 2019|
|Clyde Hill||Summer 2019*|
|Puesta del Sol||Summer 2020*|
* Part of building reconstruction project
+ Dependent on agreement with City of Bellevue
Why are district elementary schools having all-weather fields installed?
In 2012 a community group representing multiple sports leagues throughout the area lobbied the school board to improve the fields at our schools. Community members were frustrated with the lack of access to fields due to weather and the limited number of fields that were available for community use. In the 2014 bond election the district included all-weather fields as an item to be funded and Bellevue voters approved the measure.
When did the district move to using crumb rubber infill?
In the mid-1990’s crumb rubber was introduced in the market place as a new product for synthetic fields. In 2001, as part of the capital construction plan to rebuild all schools, the district moved from using Astroturf to using crumb rubber. This change was based on research that showed that crumb rubber infill improved player experience and reduced injuries.
How widespread 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 percent 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?
While current research does not indicate a causal link between crumb rubber infills and increased health risks, the district also wants to be responsive to community concerns. After investigating several options such as coconut husks, cork, crumb rubber, and polyurethane coated crumb rubber, it was decided that using a polyurethane coated crumb rubber is the best product available to address concerns, and provide the best playing surface possible.
How is coated crumb rubber different from the crumb rubber the district has used in the past?
The difference between these two products is that coated crumb 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 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.
Has/Is the district exploring other options to coated crumb rubber infill?
In 2016 Enatai Elementary’s field was installed utilizing the polyurethane coated crumb rubber. The playground area and early learning play area were installed with cork infill. This decision was made to begin working with the cork infill product in smaller areas to assess its performance in our climate.
To continue gaining experience, the district will install cork infill in playground areas at elementary sites as they are rebuilt, including at Bennett.
Why is the district continuing to use a polyurethane coated crumb rubber on district fields when they have heard from community members who are concerned about the use of crumb rubber?
The decision to move forward using the coated crumb rubber at the May 2 school board meeting was made for the following reasons:
- Multiple studies have been conducted and at this time no evidence has been found to substantiate that exposure to crumb rubber increases health risks;
- New infill products, such as cork, coconut and rice husks, etc., are relatively new to the market place and there is limited experience locally and nationally with these infill options; and
- The additional assurance provided by polyurethane coated crumb rubber, which eliminates any potential for direct contact with the crumb rubber.
Why not use a cork infill?
Cork infill is a relatively new and untested product. In Washington state, three large playing fields have a cork infill. These fields have been installed for approximately one year. Around the country there are 25-30 fields with cork infill, many having been in place for less than three years.
Will elementary playground areas use crumb rubber infill?
No. The district will be installing cork infill in the elementary playground area moving forward in response to concerns raised by community members and to give the district more experience using this product.
Will existing crumb rubber fields be changed to the polyurethane coated crumb rubber?
Infill for all-weather fields has a 10-year lifespan. When our fields with crumb rubber are at the end of their lifecycle, we will change out the infill for coated crumb rubber.
Will the district do ongoing monitoring and testing of the fields?
Yes. The polyurethane coated crumb rubber has a guaranteed life of ten years. To err on the side of caution, the district will assess the condition of the infill every 3 years to ensure that the coating is not deteriorating.
What research did the district review in making its decision regarding crumb rubber and other infill options?
The district reviewed multiple studies regarding the potential health risks of uncoated crumb rubber. In addition, we asked an industrial hygienist to review all the literature and studies and summarize them for the School Board members. Below are the links to multiple studies with information regarding the use of crumb rubber as infill for all-weather fields.