Wilton’s fall sports athletes have something to cheer about—the new, replacement artificial turf field at Fujitani Field in the WHS Veterans Memorial Stadium has been completed. Not only that, it has been finished earlier than expected in time for the fall sports season to begin. Wilton High School teams that play football, field hockey and lacrosse, as well as Wilton’s youth sports leagues and other outside groups that pay to use the stadium field, will be able to access the field as planned when they return after the summer.
The type of artificial turf chosen for the field by Parks and Recreation Commission officials uses an organic material rather than the controversial crumb rubber fill. Instead, Wilton’s new field will use a mixture made of 96-percent coconut husk, with the remaining 4-percent a small amount of cork and corn husk.
“Our concern about the environment and all the concern about crumb rubber, we took to heart and just discounted crumb rubber as an alternative to us for this field,” explained former P&R Commission chair Mark Ketley, who oversaw the project.
Installers from Shaw Sports Turf began working on the field on July 13, giving Wilton time to enjoy its July 4th celebration without interruption. After removing the old field, workers began by installing the base, which is a layer of crushed stone. That base was then covered by a “Brock Pad,” one of the elements that led town officials to select Shaw as the field vendor.
“It’s a concussion pad that goes under the entire field. This was $100,000 for this material. It puts the field below the minimum requirement for safety for concussions. Shaw won’t sell this organic fill field without it. Some fields they put right over the crushed stone, and it’s a lot harder. This is a big deal,” Ketley says.
The turf was then rolled onto and laid down on top of the concussion padding, and stitched together. Three different color striping was put onto the turf for the three different sports that will be played at the stadium. The yard markers and numbers were then cut into the field once the turf was positioned. According to Ketley, Shaw uses a different stitching method which helps reduce wear on the field, and should also help extend the life of it.
Once the turf installation was completed, the last stage was to ‘seed’ the field with sand fill followed by the coconut husk fill.
Wilton’s contract with Shaw included safety testing, which was conducted Tuesday, Aug. 2. Once installation is complete, the company tests the field’s shock absorption capability, referred to as G-Max testing. The standard G-Max test is performed on turf systems using a special gauge to impact the turf multiple times to measure a result. (A “G” is a single unit of acceleration caused by gravity). For infilled synthetic turf surfaces, ASTM specifies that the reported G-Max value for all test points on a field should be less than 200 G-Max. If the standard isn’t met, the field is considered unsafe and remediation is required.
“Final numbers are not in yet, but we were told that we came in well below the minimum safe levels,” Ketley says.
Among the new details that come with the field, the words ‘Wilton’ and ‘Warriors’ appear in large letters in the end zones, and netting can be attached to removable poles around the end zones for lacrosse.
Shaw had guaranteed Wilton that the field install would be completed with enough time before fall football practice begins in August. The vendor worked quickly to make sure they had plenty of time to spare.
“They would show up at dawn, and still be here at 8 p.m. when I stopped by to check,” Ketley said, noting that the workers went above and beyond in really hot temperatures. “They had other fields to install this summer, as soon as they’re done here.” Ketley mentioned that the crew would likely be moving on to a high school in Monroe, CT which was installing the same field as Wilton’s.
Wilton’s voters approved the replacement and installation of the field during a referendum vote at the 2016 Annual Town Meeting and Vote in May. The $650,000 total cost of the project will be bonded by the town.
In addition, selectman Dave Clune has proposed a plan to help cover costs of continued maintenance and replacement, by allowing paid advertising around the stadium. The plan is being discussed by the Boards of Education and Selectmen, including what types of advertising to allow and whether local businesses would be given preference over national advertisers.