News - February 9, 2011

Portola Valley: Priory proposes synthetic grass for fields

by Dave Boyce

In its bid to resurface three athletic fields with synthetic grass, Woodside Priory, the private Portola Valley Catholic school for grades 6-12, hosted a joint onsite meeting of the town's Planning and Architecture & Site Control commissions to discuss the matter on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

The school is proposing the plastic surface for the soccer field, the softball field and the volleyball court, a total of about 3 acres, according to a staff report by Town Planner Tom Vlasic. The commissions will formally review the proposal in the coming months.

Synthetic fields don't need irrigation and are reportedly more durable, can be played on sooner after a rain, and give athletes improved traction and athletic performance. About half the fields in the National Football League use synthetic grass, according to a Wikipedia entry.

While the technology is continuously evolving, reported down sides to synthetic grass have included rug burns, harder falls, a rubber-tire smell when the weather is hot, and the unintentional dispersal of the tiny rubber pellets that make up the "soil" of the field.

In the report, Mr. Vlasic cites a report by a state-funded study on air quality above the field and infection risks. "The studies referenced suggest that there may be some air quality considerations with artificial turf in an enclosed environment, but that inhalation health risks are unlikely, especially for persons using artificial surfaces outdoors," Mr. Vlasic said.

As for bacteria, the synthetic grass reportedly had fewer than natural grass, Mr. Vlasic said, citing the state report.

A 2010 study of college football injuries over three years compared rates of injury on natural grass versus the artificial surface being considered for this field. The synthetic grass yielded a lower rate of injuries but they were more severe, Mr. Vlasic said.

Go to and turn to Page 9 to read the staff report.

Go to for the state report on air quality and infection rates.

Go to for the report on college football injuries.


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