Why can’t the Town pursue natural grass like the WSA did at Elm Street?

Over the past two years, we obtained the input of three independent, professional experts: Brandstetter Carroll, who led the Strategic Parks Plan; Spiezle Architectural Group, who led the Edison project design; and CME Associates, who performed an independent assessment, at the request of the Town Council, verifying that lighted turf fields are the most fiscally prudent option to achieve our field usage goal, grounded in the reality that it’s not practical to rely solely on grass fields where demand far exceeds capacity. 

Natural grass cannot sustain more than ~650-800 hours of use/year (if really well constructed and maintained). Existing usage of Town & BOE natural grass fields already significantly exceeds this benchmark:

○ Town: 1,091 hours avg/year (max = 1302, min = 871)

○ BOE: 823 hours avg/year (max = 1327, min = 492)

For this reason, adding turf is critical to alleviate the current overuse of grass fields that already exist. Maintaining existing natural grass fields without the supplement of a lighted, turf field to relieve some usage capacity is not a prudent use of funds. With the addition of Edison Fields, the Town’s field locations will still be approximately 85% natural grass.

Additionally, our town sports associations rely on heavy usage of fields outside of Westfield, including Garwood Park, Unami Park, Nomahegan Park, Madison Ave Park, Rahway River Park, Echo Lake Park, Wardlaw Hartridge, Oakridge Park, and others.

The WSA partnership with the Board of Education to manage the Elm Street field has allowed the WSA to fill needed requirements that they lost from allocations of field time assigned by Union County, but has not added to the Town’s overall field capacity.

The partnership spans from June 2022 through the end of 2024. The field was out of service for the entire fall of 2022 and had limited usage in spring 2023 – only for training and for nine-player teams (9x9). Beginning this fall, through the end of 2024 (half of the total span of the partnership), the WSA will schedule 9x9 and 7x7 games on the field. Usage is monitored based on the impact of rainfall and in the spring, about 15% of the scheduled days were canceled due to wet conditions.

According to the WSA, they are not yet realizing any savings from this investment in the Elm Street field; the objective in 2024 is to reduce some of the costs used to rent field time outside of Westfield. It’s also worth noting that usage is only able to be controlled on the natural grass Elm Street field because of the heavy WSA schedule that continues at Houlihan/Sid Fay, Wardlaw-Hartridge, and Garwood – all of which are artificial turf fields that can withstand much higher usage. 

Show All Answers

1. What specifically will be voted on in the referendum?
2. Why has the cost of the project increased from $9M to $11.8M?
3. How will the project be financed? Will taxpayers have to pay for the $11.8M bond?
4. What is the timeline for the project if the referendum passes?
5. What if the referendum doesn’t pass?
6. Can the Town proceed instead with the Tamaques plans or other natural grass fields?
7. Will the fields be used primarily for games or practices?
8. How will artificial turf improve stormwater management at the site?
9. Why can’t the Town pursue natural grass like the WSA did at Elm Street?
10. How many hours of in-town play will be gained by installing lighte turf?
11. Will the Town pursue newer, more sustainable turf products to mitigate environmental concerns?