City makes turf choice February 27 2015

The City of Swan is pressing ahead with its ground-breaking, $11 million plan to install synthetic turf on four soccer pitches at the new Ellenbrook District Open Space southern playing fields.

The council moved a step closer in the ambitious project when it last week advertised for tenders for the design and construction of the FIFA 1-Star playing fields and their associated landscaping works.

The surface is believed to be the first time synthetic grass has been used for soccer fields in WA.

The pitches are relatively common in the eastern states, where Victoria leads the way in their installation.

AFL club Essendon installed a synthetic turf surface on an oval at its new state-of-the art training complex near Melbourne Airport last year.

City of Swan chief executive Mike Foley said once the tenders had been lodged with the council at the end of March, the council would decide on a supplier and quickly move ahead with the installation of the synthetic turf.

It is expected to be completed in the first half of 2016.

A report compiled by the City two years ago forecast that the cost of the project, including landscaping on ongoing maintenance, would be more than $11 million.

The synthetic turf alone for the pitches was budgeted at $4.8 million – more than four times higher than the projected cost of regular turf.

But the council said it would investigate opportunities for offsetting the higher capital costs by charging for their use for up to 40 hours per week.

Projected yearly maintenance costs for the synthetic grass is $20,000 – 70 per cent less than the ongoing costs associated with regular turf.

Mr Foley this week confirmed the numbers contained in the report, subject to Consumer Price Index rises.

“We don’t see much change in the figures,” he said.

But he stressed the numbers were estimates only.

“The exact costs for the project will not be known until the project tender is awarded,” he said.

The council’s push for synthetic soccer pitches is because their location is in a water-sensitive urban design area.

The report said a shortage and uncertainty of future suitable water sources – both in quantity and quality – to establish and maintain regular turf made synthetic turf a most viable option.

A synthetic surface at the Ellenbrook Bowls Club has operated successfully for several years now.

The Department of Sport and Recreation does not have a specific policy on the use of synthetic turf; likewise for the Department of Water, despite its potential to save precious residential supply.

A spokesman for the Department of Sport and Recreation said while artificial turf usually required less water than grass, local governments should weigh up the pros and cons according to what use the turf would receive.

“There are circumstances where artificial turf may be the best possible solution, particularly where there are water restrictions or the usage demands a surface that can be heavily pro- grammed,” he said.

“Many turf solutions suggest a balance between real and artificial turf to achieve the best sport and recreational outcomes.”

Those interested in tendering to supply and lay the synthetic turf have been invited to attend a special meeting at 11am tomorrow.