Towns all across America are struggling with their budgets. The nation remains stuck in the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. In states like New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts household income actually fell last year. And retirees everywhere living on their savings are being hurt by near zero interest rates.
So why are some municipalities still spending big bucks to install artificial turf fields? Main reason: taxpayers have been getting hoodwinked by bogus analysis into thinking artificial turf fields are cheaper than natural grass.
But the reality is that non-partisan studies have shown the exact opposite–natural grass fields are a bargain compared to artificial turf due to the huge costs taxpayers get stuck with to maintain and replace artificial fields after their warrantees expire. One of the artificial turf industry’s selling points is that an artificial turf field will last eight-to-10 years, even though the usual warranty runs for only eight, and that the initial exorbitant cost of installation is recouped in no time from tens of thousands in savings from no longer maintaining a natural grass field. Another way proponents of artificial turf skew the math in their favor is by saying many more events will be held on the field once artificial turf is installed, thereby lowering “the cost per event” on the field relative to natural grass. But who knows if that math is based on reality (the fields in my town, Glen Rock, New Jersey, are often vacant)? How can anyone accurately predict the future demographics of a town?
Indeed, the Australian government did a comprehensive study dispelling the myth trumpeted by some politicians and artificial turf makers that artificial turf fields cost less than natural grass in the long term due to lower expenses for upkeep. But the politicians keep coming up with creative ways to fool the taxpayers into thinking they are going to save money in the long run with artificial turf.
For example, below is a chart from a report done by Montgomery County looking at the cost of a natural grass field versus an artificial turf field. Notice that over 20 years the artificial field is 49% more expensive than the grass field (assuming the most expensive natural grass is used). Then, presto! Towards the bottom of the chart the number of hours the artificial turf field is used is doubled to twice the use of the natural grass field, thus based on “cost per hours of use” projections the artificial field is now cheaper. This type of math reminds me of the guy who went to a sale at a store determined to buy enough items on sale so that his he would “save” enough to pay for everything.