Company that installed Queen’s turf sued in US for defects

FieldTurf states that Canadian fields weren’t affected, although Queen’s was unaware of possible defects

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FieldTurf — the company that installed the artificial turf on Tindall Field — has been named in over 160 lawsuits for defective and malfunctioning products installed between 2006 and 2009.

Though the company admits that the Queen’s field is made out of the same material — Duraspine — they maintain that they’ve had no complaints about their Canadian fields. 

Tindall Field, which cost Queen’s $21 million, was built in 2007 and opened for use in 2008. Student user fees paid for the costs of the project.

Suits filed by school boards and universities, including Chino Valley Unified School District and New Braunfels Independent School District, claimed that their synthetic turf surfaces broke apart prematurely.

Legal documentation filed for the lawsuits alleges that the breakdown occurred because the polyethylene polymer material used for the fields had been improperly stabilized against UV radiation. Polyethylene polymer is used to create the synthetic grass blades. 

In cases where fields have shown defects, FieldTurf has offered to upgrade the fields at a reduced price of $175,000 US.

Queen’s Recreation and Services website, which calls Tindall “Kingston’s first full-sized, artificial multi-season playing field”, states that construction began on the field in July 2007.

The field was opened for use and dedicated to WWII veteran and Queen’s former football and basketball coach, Frank Tindall, on Sept. 27, 2008. 

At this same time, countless fields — which would later be declared defective — were installed with the same material as Tindall Field across the United States.

Port Neches-Groves Independent School District in Port Neches, Texas, had their field installed on July 31, 2008. According to their complaint, which was filed on May 24, 2012, the district discovered that the turf was defective on May 26, 2010, two years into an eight-year warranty.

Their suit stated that the company had used substandard materials in their artificial turf product. 

“Said wear, degradation and failure consists of, but is not limited to, fraying and separation of turf fibers, significant washing away of turf fibers due to rain and wearing and thinning of the turf throughout the playing surface,” the document reads. 

The suit, however, was dismissed in February 2013. The order stated the parties had filed an agreed motion for dismissal.

Father Ryan High School in Nashville, Tennessee, filed a similar suit in 2009, which included an allegation that FieldTurf installed a defective field after they’d become aware of issues affecting other artificial turfs. 

The school also named Hardaway Construction and Precision Sports Fields, who assisted in the construction. They filed a suit against FieldTurf and Hardaway on four separate counts, including breach of contract,  breach of warranty, misrepresentation and negligence. 

In response to the lawsuits, FieldTurf entered a legal battle with their turf material supplier — Royal TenCate — to cover the costs of replacing the defective fields. 

FieldTurf’s lawsuit against TenCate stated that at least 167 other fields installed between 2006 and 2009 have failed. 

FieldTurf, however, maintains that those fields make up a small portion of the fields they’ve built. According to a statement the company provided to Forbes in 2014, those 167 fields make up only three per cent of the “more than 5,000” fields they’ve installed across the United States.

Queen’s Sports Information Officer Shawn MacDonald said he was unaware of the lawsuits against FieldTurf when he was contacted by The Journal on Monday, Oct. 19. 

During the call, he requested time to coordinate an interview with The Journal. Two days later, on Oct. 21, MacDonald declined to comment. 

“We won’t have anyone available for an interview on this. If you would like you can use the following statement from the department: We have not had any issues,” he wrote in an email. 

MacDonald later provided The Journal with an email response he received from Darren Gill, vice-president of Marketing, Innovation and Customer Service for FieldTurf, on Oct. 26. 

“FieldTurf has always been committed and well placed to honor our warranties, remediate where applicable any customer issues to this end and continue to operate its business without interruption,” Gill wrote.

“We have the financial ability to do the right thing for our clients. We do not hide the fact that we have stepped up and replaced numerous fields.”

The email also stated that FieldTurf had resolved its legal battle with TenCate, and had stopped using the “earlier  generation ‘Duraspine’ monofilament fields” that had caused issues.

In a later interview with The Journal, Gill confirmed that Tindall Field had been constructed using the same Duraspine fiber used in fields later found to be defective. However, he said it hasn’t exhibited any signs of defects.

“The Tindall field is entering its eighth year of use, and is well on its way to surpassing its eight year warranty period,” he said. “I’ve personally visited the field and it is not exhibiting any signs of failure seen on Duraspine fields in high UV scenarios.”

“We have not replaced a single Duraspine field in Canada,” he added. 

Other Duraspine fields in Canada include an artificial turf at the University of Windsor, which opened in September 2008. 

Gill said he encourages students to “take a walk on Tindall, and see the field for yourself”.

“The field fiber, which is the nature of your questions, is in excellent condition for a field of its age,” he said.

Queen’s Athletics hasn’t indicated to The Journal whether they plan to investigate further.

 

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