Sydney Morning Herald Article on Artificial Turf at Arlington Oval

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Something funny is afoot, and not everyone is laughing

Stirring up the mud ... John Sotiropoulos prepares to kick as coach Soteris Mavrou and Jacob Lanzafame of the Stanmore Hawks under 14s soccer team look on during practice at Arlington.Stirring up the mud … John Sotiropoulos prepares to kick as coach Soteris Mavrou and Jacob Lanzafame of the Stanmore Hawks under 14s soccer team look on during practice at Arlington. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Paul Bibby Urban Affairs Reporter

July 8, 2009

OVER nearly a century Arlington Oval at Dulwich Hill has hosted many sports events, including rugby league and the Empire Games in 1938. Now a most modern phenomenon is about to take to the field: synthetic grass.

The grand old ground will become the first council football field in Sydney to be resurfaced with synthetic grass, as the local council tries to deal with a chronic shortage of usable sporting fields in the region.

Made from hundreds of tonnes of shredded tyres covered by a synthetic green carpet, the turf provides an even, all-weather surface that can survive the daily stampede of football studs.

The move is a win for local sporting teams which have been forced to travel across the city to play and train to avoid turning Arlington into a quagmire.

But the plan has drawn criticism from some residents and councillors who say the artificial surface is overpriced, may leach toxins into the air and soil, and will diminish Arlington’s proud history.

The council will need a loan to pay the $850,000 installation cost, $17,000 a year in maintenance, and $420,000 for resurfacing every seven to 10 years.

Football NSW says the surface would have to be used 36 hours a week to be better value than natural turf.

A Greens councillor on Marrickville council, Cathy Peters, said: “It’s a big outlay at a time when this council is very short on funds and when questions remain about the health impacts. There are concerns that the rubber may leach unsafe chemicals and that foreign objects such as animal faeces and bodily fluids will contaminate the surface.”

Locals are upset at the effect on the character of the ground, which has a heritage listed grandstand and dressing sheds.

“Not only will it dramatically reduce the heritage character of the oval but it will make it completely inaccessible to local residents,” Cr Peters said.

“People who just want to have a kick, walk the dog, or run around – they will not be able to use that oval. It’s taking over the oval for the exclusive use sporting teams.”

Despite the controversy, Football NSW says artificial turf is the way of the future across Sydney.

It has been installed across Melbourne and Football NSW will include at least two synthetic fields in its new Riverstone West sporting complex.

The manager of the new complex, Tim Geldhill, said: “It is a potential solution to the sporting field shortage experienced by many councils in recent years. The surface may be a little bit different to playing on natural turf, but it’s perfectly flat and plays the same in all weather conditions.”

View this article on smh.com.au

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