Synthetic Grass For Soccer Fields at Great Park [Opinion]

Tuesday, June 14, 2022 – The City Council approved the mid-cycle budget that includes $275,000 for synthetic grass athletic fields at the Great Park at the recommendation of the Finance Commission. Unfortunately, there was no discussion of the many negative ramifications of installing synthetic grass previous to the approval of the budget item. However, City Manager Oliver Chi stated staff will present an update on synthetic turf and real grass, that will inform and guide our city’s policy going forward. No date was provided on when that presentation would be.

The installation of synthetic turf will affect four of the soccer fields located at the Great Park where many local teams, including youth teams, play. According to the City of Irvine:

The Sports Complex Soccer Stadium and fields are drawing players of all ages for youth and adult team practices and games; local, national and international tournaments; and professional teams and club games.”

Given the increased potential of injury to our youth players, it would have been helpful for the Irvine Children Youth and Family Advisory Committee to provide input. And given the environmental concerns, it would have been helpful to have the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee chime in as well.

Physician-researchers from University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Sports completed an analysis of the data on injuries to high school athletes on synthetic fields as compared to real grass:

“They found athletes were 58 percent more likely to sustain an injury during athletic activity on artificial turf. Injury rates were significantly higher for football, girls and boys soccer, and rugby athletes. Lower extremity, upper extremity, and torso injuries were also found to occur with a higher incidence on artificial turf.” 

Synthetic grass has also been shown to be detrimental to the environment and can literally increase the heat of the microclimate causing an additional source of danger to the players:

“Synthetic turf is 40-70degrees hotter than surrounding air temperatures on warm sunny days. On clear warm days, synthetic turf fields get superheated to temperatures from 120 to 180 degrees F. Playing on synthetic turf can melt shoes, blister hands and feet, and induce dehydration and heatstroke.”

There are a myriad of findings on PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) which have been found in synthetic turf. The detrimental impacts on health- including increased cancer risk – and the environment-including groundwater– are supported by a growing body of research.

If you are concerned, contact the members of the Irvine City Council via email at irvinecitycouncil@cityofirvine.org.