22 Alexandra Street, Hunters Hill NSW 2110

Gladesville Reserve is located on the corner of Victoria Road and Huntleys Point Road.  The playing field is surrounded by trees with a pedestrian walk way on the southern side. The pathway is well used by commuters heading to the ferry wharf. On the western side of the field is a single cricket net and amenities building with toilets, change rooms and canteen. 

 

The surface of the field is a mix of Couch and Kikuyu grass. There is no irrigation on the field and the lack of water pressure makes irrigation not feasible. The grass is watered in the dryer periods using a hose and sprinkler.  The field has four flood lights which are approximately 30 years old and are in need of replacement.  

There are currently three main users of Gladesville Oval:

  • Cricket: Ryde Hunters Hill Cricket Club (RHHCC) uses the oval for 8 hours Saturday and for 1 hour one day a week for training from September until end of March.
  • Football (Soccer): All Saints Hunters Hill Football Club (ASHHFC) use the oval for 8 hours Saturday and Sunday and for four hours in the evening from Monday to Friday from April until August. 
  • Riverside Girls High School:  RGHS uses the oval during school hours Monday to Friday for Physical Education. The games played range from touch football to soccer to general exercise.

The heavy use of the field at Gladesville Reserve in winter is well in excess of the capacity of the natural turf surface.  Use of irrigated turf playing fields for organised training and games should be limited to 28 hrs a week, which is the maximum hours for a safe and healthy natural turf surface.

Sydney’s growing population will continue to place significant pressure on sports and recreational field infrastructure, where demands for additional playing fields and additional hours per field continue to exceed the hours available for natural surfaces.  

The Northern Sydney Regional Sportsground Strategy (2011) investigated the region’s sportsground conditions, facilities available to users and increased player numbers.  The strategy discovered hours of usage on natural turf playing fields has increased significantly and Councils have begun to explore other options such as synthetic playing surface.

Hunters Hill Council Outdoor Sport and Recreation Plan (2013) identified a goal to provide new synthetic and turf sports playing fields in the medium to longer term.

The NSROC Regional Sportsground Strategy Review (2017) identified a shortfall in the amount of playing fields to cater for increased population growth and participation numbers in sports over the next 2 decades, particularly in inner LGAs including Hunters Hill. Synthetic playing surfaces need to be considered in areas where limited provision opportunities, high use of existing facilities, and/or an inability to adequately maintain grass fields to suitable standards are evident.

The NSW Government has provided $2m for the upgrade of the playing field at Gladesville Reserve. The project and grant funds will be managed by Hunters Hill Council.

Council is exploring options including an all weather synthetic field as proposed by key users of the sports field as part of the Plan of Management consultation process. The information provided on this page in part responds to questions raised by community members regarding the option of installing an all weather synthetic surface.

This information has been collated and shared from Smart Connections.

The key sports codes in Australia have all embraced synthetic sports surface technology for their community clubs and some for their elite players.  The codes’ aim is to provide more opportunities for communities to play sport and the synthetic sports surfaces is one way of creating significant additional playing hours in many areas where fields are in short demand.

Football 

Football has been played on synthetic grass for a number of decades with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) embracing the benefits of synthetic turf allowing more people to play ‘The World Game’.  The use of synthetic grass surfaces (designated ‘Football Turf’ by FIFA) over the past 15 years has resulted in the development of performance standards based on quality natural turf performance standards. 

The FIFA Quality Programme for Artificial Turf is a rigorous test program for football turf that assesses the ball surface interaction, player surface interaction and product durability. 

FIFA has two categories of performance standards: 

  • FIFA Quality mark field – aimed at high surface use for municipal or sports club level field (recommended for more than 20 hours use per week).  This was referred to as the FIFA 1 Star previously.
  • FIFA Quality PRO mark field – for professional and stadium usage (recommended for less than 20 hours use per week).  This was referred to as the FIFA 2 Star previously.

The performance standards measured are the same for both categories, although the acceptable criteria range differs slightly to allow the FIFA Quality mark field categories to have greater latitude (less than 5 percent difference in most categories) to meet the needs of the intensity that a 40 to 60-hour usage pattern would expect.  The playing field at Gladesville Reserve will be built to FIFA Quality mark standard.  

Cricket 

Cricket shares the same standards for their outfield as the AFL standards and they have only one level, community field level. This standard will be used at Gladesville Reserve. Council will liaise with Cricket NSW for the best outcomes for the cricket wicket and cricket net surfaces. 

There are a number of types of infill that can be used for synthetic surfaces which aim to replicate natural turf. These Third Generation (3G) fields all have rounded sand and a performance infill on top that is designed to play like a high quality field. The community gets the consistent playing surface throughout the seasons irrespective of the intensity of usage and poor weather.  

The infill options include:

  • Economical infill: The majority of synthetic sports fields use recycled car tyres as the performance infill, commonly known as SBR (Styrene Butadiene Rubber). This is a hard-wearing surface and is the chosen infill at over 80 of NSW Synthetic fields over the past decade. This type of surface can be seen at Blackman Park, Lane Cove.

Due to the nature of the colour of the infill the field can stay warmer longer and it has been noticed that a heat haze can been seen at certain times. Fields that have a grass finish, which encapsulates the infill, are seen to be cooler. These fields do not have ball splash because the grass finish encapsulates the black infill and the UV radiation which causes the heat isn’t absorbed by the green grass as much as the black infill. 

  • Premium infill: Some local governments are investing in virgin rubber infills that are made from either EPDM rubber (ethylene propylene diene monomer) or Thermo Plastics (TP), are normally coloured (green or brown), assisting the heat reflection. 

Although more costly the rubber is designed and made for the synthetic surfaces. This type of surfaces can be seen at Chatswood High School. (Photo below)

  • Natural infill: Natural infills have been tried and tested over the past decade in Sydney and most recently with the City of Ryde at ELS Hall Park and Christie Park. (Photo below)

Although more expensive and greater maintenance is needed many high-level players liken it to high quality fields. The durability of the fields is not as strong as the rubber or TP options. 

 

Q1: Do synthetic sports-fields cause more injuries than natural grass? 

Of the various independent global studies reviewed from 2006 to 2011, the common finding is that there is not an increase in the number of injuries associated with synthetic turf when compared to natural turf. Seemingly the only negative consideration is where sports people alternate between surface types, which may result in varied and increased injuries. This may be similar to long distance runners who run on synthetic tracks and then on asphalt, who are then more susceptible to shin soreness. 

Although the ability of the studies to detect differences in the injury rates was limited by the small number of injuries reported, the studies concluded that there were no major differences in overall injury rates between stadium level quality natural and infilled synthetic turf. Although each study found some differences in specific injury types. 

Each of the sports international federation monitor and design the performance standards focused on reducing injuries. 

Council will specify that the field is designed and procured to the sports international federation standard to reduce risk of injuries for community usage. 

Q2: Are synthetic fields more slippery than grass?

Synthetic sports fields should not be as slippery as natural turf as the drainage in synthetic turf is normally designed to be better. If the surface is not maintained, then the grass/yarn may lean over and then could become slippery. 

Q3: Can I play the same sport on synthetic fields that I could previously on the grass field?

The majority of sports in Australia have synthetic sports surface standards that allow community and some professional players and teams to play on the surface, including all Football codes. Football and Cricket will continue to be played at Gladesville Reserve.  Line markings for junior and senior football will be embedded in the carpet. Temporary line marking will be used for other games. 

Q4: Can a synthetic sports field handle more hour’s usage than a turf field?

Natural turf sports fields, even with good irrigation, drainage and maintenance start deteriorating from 20 hours of usage a week. The greater the usage the higher the renovation investment needed as well as additional time to renovate and rest. Natural turf systems usage is normally based on 1,000 hours usage annually. 

Synthetic sports fields can cope with more than 60 hours of intense usage a week 52 weeks a year as long as the correct maintenance is performed, which should then allow in excess of 3,000 hours annually. This will create significant opportunities for more children and young people involvement in community recreation and sport. 

There are a number of perceived health impacts that have caused community concerns about the type of infills and perceived links to cancer.

Q5: Can synthetic surfaces give you cancer?

Concern from of the community focuses on the polymer base chemicals locked in the polymer chain within the recycled SBR.  The concern is there may be a danger of these polymer chain components breaking down and the raw chemicals being ingested, or reacting against player’s skin, or inhaled into their lungs. Thus, increasing the likelihood of players being exposed to higher health risks. 

Significant research has been completed globally by government agencies and independent researchers on the association of cancer and perceived health impact of synthetic sports turf components (infill, yarn, etc). Over 120 studies have found that there is not any evidence of a higher degree of risk of playing on synthetic sports fields or them increasing the propensity to contract any form of cancer. 

The most important being that the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) conducted their review in 2017 and published their finds specifically to address the concerns associated with “…polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals, phthalates, volatile organic hydrocarbons (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic hydrocarbons (SVOCs). Exposure to these substances through skin contact, ingestion and inhalation was considered.” 

In the studies that ECHA evaluated, which are listed in their report, the concentrations of PAHs in recycled rubber granules were found to be well below the limits set for carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances for consumers.

Q6: Are there standards that infill has to meet to reduce the chance of cancer?

There are no such standards in Australia. Councils in Australia generally embrace the European regulations for the fields and infill. In Europe, there are comprehensive regulations known as Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) addressing the chemical industry and anything made from chemicals. 

REACH aims to ensure a high level of protection to human health and the environment by applying appropriate risk management measures to chemical substances that are used in products or mixtures in Europe. 

The European Regulations will suggest a combined concentration limit for the eight PAHs of 20 mg/kg (0.0020% by weight).  The current concentration limits applicable for supply to the public are set at 100 mg/kg for two of the PAHs and 1,000 mg/kg for the other six. These Best Practice standards will be applied at Gladesville Reserve. 

Q7: Do synthetic fields and their infill have bacteria issues?

There is no independent evidence that bacteria are more prevalent in synthetic grass than natural turf grass. There are four aspects that are needed to grow bacteria; temperature, moisture, oxygen and a PH range. In outdoor synthetic sports fields if the drainage is well designed there is little moisture, and the UV radiation kills the majority of bacteria if the field is dry. 

Research has shown that outbreaks of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the most serious strain of highly contagious staph infections, are not any higher in synthetic grass than natural grass.

Ensuring that the drainage system is designed to the International Sport Federation performance standards for water porosity will help stop bacterial infections. If there is blood spillage use general disinfectant to clear away any bodily fluids, as you would on natural or hard playing surfaces. 

Q8: Is there any evidence that COVID-19 can survive on synthetic fields or can be transmitted at a higher rate on synthetic sports fields as compared to grassed?

According to the World Health Organization it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days, similar to natural turf grass. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If a surface may be infected, it is recommended to clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus to protect the users.

Q9: Are synthetic sports-fields safe for children to use?

Synthetic sports fields provide a consistent playing surface that heavily used natural fields cannot. This increases the confidence of the children when playing, due to the ability of the surface to perform to the required sports levels in most forms of weather. Due to this consistency there is normally fewer days that the fields are closed due to adverse weather and fewer injuries that are normally found in waterlogged fields or barren dust surfaces towards the end of the season. 

Q10: Will the field be safe if children ingest the rubber infill?

Although significant research has identified no additional risks to children who ingest the infill, Council will specify that the infill has to be tested to the European Standards for Toy Ingestion to ensure safety to children and adults in case they inadvertently ingest the rubber. 

Q11: Can dogs be allowed on synthetic turf?

It is recommended that no dogs are allowed on synthetic sports fields. Dogs should not be walked on synthetic sports fields as they may relieve themselves and if the owners are not responsible and clean up after their dog this can cause a problem for sporting users.  Any faeces found on playing fields, whether natural or synthetic, should be removed before training or games and disinfectant then used to ensure all traces are cleared. 

Toxocariasis is a rare infection caused by roundworm parasites. Humans can catch it from handling soil or sand contaminated with infected animal faeces. Roundworm parasites are most commonly found in cats, dogs and foxes, and usually affect young children.

Q12: Are synthetic fields hotter to play on than natural turf?

Natural turf has a significant component make up of water, so in hot weather the water evaporates from the natural grass and can act as a cooling agent. There is no such natural mechanism in the synthetic sports turf for long pile fields. 

The temperature of artificial surfaces rises significantly more than natural turf surfaces, especially on a hot sunny day (20-40 percent hotter).  The key challenge is not so much the heat, but the level of Ultraviolet Radiation (UV radiation) which is far stronger when there are no clouds to shield the UV radiation and the surface becomes hotter.  There are a number of strategies that are offered to mitigate the impact of heat, including the use of organic infill, a water agent to keep the infill temperature lower and the use of coloured infill which is encapsulated within the yarn profile. 

It is important to consider heat stress as a part of weather stress.  In the same manner that Councils and clubs close many grass fields in the wet weather to protect both the field of play and the players, it is a similar approach for synthetic surfaces.  Whether that is rubber (athletic tracks), acrylic (Tennis, Netball or Basketball) or synthetic grass (Football codes, Hockey) a heat policy by the sport is normally used to determine an appropriate level of heat (and humidity) for people to play in.  Sports Medicine Australia produce Hot Weather Guideline that has been adopted by many sports in the development of their own heat policies.

Q13: Do synthetic fields have glare issues?

If the yarn on sports fields fall over due to lack of maintenance or too little infill, the surface can be seen as producing glare across the field. To reduce this happening, the field should be maintained as recommended. 

Q14: Why do synthetic fields have an odour?

Some infills on very hot days reflect the sun and so there seems to be a haze around the fields, similar to rubber athletic tracks or hard-court tennis courts when seen from a distance.  The smell from the black recycled rubber infill is also stronger on the days when the sun and UV radiation is high. It is recommended that the infill be engineered virgin or organic infill to remove this smell. 

Q15: How is a synthetic field sustainable?

Embracing the three pillars of sustainability the synthetic sports fields provide a positive outcome for Council and the community, including:

  • Economic – the whole of life costs of a typical football field, when comparing natural turf with synthetic turf, show that the Return on Investment in favour of synthetic. When comparing 50 hours a week usage for 50 weeks a year, the costs would be $28.25 per hour of use for synthetic compared to $183.11 for natural turf over a ten year period. 
  • Community – natural turf fields are only able to be used for between 20 and 30 hours per week, depending on the level of renovation investment, compared to over 60 hours for a synthetic surface. This equates to 1,000 hours annually compared to 3,000 hours on a synthetic field. 
  • Environmental – by adopting green engineering principles the synthetic sports field can embrace the use of recycled components for the system including the road base, the SBR infill and then can have the majority recycled or reused a number of cycles. For example, the synthetic turf performance shockpad (which is situated under the grass surface) should last 30 years. 

Q16: What recyclable components are available to use in a synthetic field’s construction?

Many local governments are now embracing the use of recycled road base for the pavement base and the performance surface can include yarn being recycled from plastic soft drink bottles, the rubber infill from recycled car tyres and the shockpad from older sports shoes. 

Q17: What synthetic field components can you recycle at end of life?

Manufacturers are now offering key components that can be reused and recycled as part of their initial offering. Although this is not normal in Australia yet, the systems being procured need to have the ability once the field expected life has finished. By that time, Australia will have the technology and the numbers to justify the investment including:  

  • Performance infill (Cork/Rubber) – Cork can be reused in parks and gardens, the virgin rubber is being melted down and recycled as park benches and equipment. SBR is being reused in playground settings. The sand can be reused in parks and gardens and sometimes in concrete manufacture
  • Synthetic carpet – although certain carpets are being recycled in Europe and Asia, there are no such machines yet in Australia, but they are expected in the next five years. The important consideration as part of the procurement process is to ensure that the backing is 100% recyclable   
  • Shockpad – the shockpad is normally guaranteed for 25 years and then the quality ones are expected to be reused again to make the next generation of pads. The cheaper ones will not be able to do that. 

Q18: How does cork perform as infill?

Cork has many beneficial properties including the ability to retain moisture, resulting in staying cooler longer on warm days. It is not an inferior infill, just has different properties and therefore works in some environments better, such as closed fields where the usage can be managed easier rather than a public open field with no fence.

Cork infill breaks down more than rubber infill and therefore this needs a budget to top the infill up more regularly. Some local governments balance this with the benefits that the cork infill is more acceptable to their communities and can keep the fields cooler. 

Q19: Can fields be vandalised or set on fire?

The fields can be affected by vandalism. As the synthetic carpet and infill materials are not flammable, they will normally just melt under the heat of the fire. Once the flammable agent (e.g. petrol) is consumed, then the field damage can be replaced by simply cutting out the damaged area and replacing it.  

Q20: What is life expectancy of a synthetic sports field?

A typical football field (any code) would be expected to last for a decade with 60 hours usage as long as the surface is used as intended and maintained as required. A rule of thumb is for every 10 hours of usage then 1 hour of brushing and maintenance is needed. 

The life expectancy of the synthetic field can be increased by more frequent maintenance and an adequate monitoring program in place that can pick up any problems quickly

Q21: With Wallumatta Bay collecting all of the rainwater and storm water from the field currently how will Council ensure no contaminants enter the waterways?

The synthetic field has a large sand infill that acts as a filter for the rainwater, so actually provides cleaner water than you would expect on a normal soil based surface. 

The field will be designed to address the following aspects:

  • The pavement and drainage system detains the water in the pavement base to allow the water to slowly be released into Wallumatta Bay and does not increase the pressure on the current storm water infrastructure
  • Build on the natural sand filtration of the synthetic carpet by installing a series of filter cavities to collect any micro-plastics that may find their way into the storm water channels (as explained below) 
  • Council will not use spoon drains near the synthetic field, but will have the drains under the field, to again reduce the probability of any microplastics entering the waterway
  • The synthetic surface can be designed for water harvesting, to retain the rain water and then use it on trees and the grass areas at the reserve

Q22: How do you prevent micro-plastics from the field contaminating water and soil?

Micro-plastics is a term commonly used to describe extremely small pieces (less than 5mm in all directions) of synthetic or plastic material entering the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of products and waste materials. The concerns around micro-plastics centres on their potential to cause harm to living organisms in the aquatic and land-based environments.

The main source of micro-plastics on a synthetic sports field is the tips of the grass as they breakdown over time due to UV radiation. In addition, the rubber infill could also be classified as a microplastic and needs to be considered. 

The grass or natural soil surrounds of synthetic playing fields is the largest single collector of rubber infill or micro-plastics and may over time be washed into waterways. The following design and management approaches will reduce the probability of increased micro-plastics finding their way into the surrounding natural environment and waterways from a synthetic field:

  • Embrace synthetic yarn tape systems or a mix of monofilament and tape yarn system that encapsulates the infill, reduces ball splash and infill migration across and off the field
  • Design a plinth for the fence line to fit into which is approximately 200mm above the pile height, to reduce the probability of the infill migrating from the field of play

Photo: Containment strategy example. Curb to reduce the infill being dispersed outside of the field of play

  • At pedestrian and vehicle gates ensure that there is a brush carpet that is large enough (two strides) for people and vehicles that leave the field of play to capture infill from boots and tyres etc.
  • The drains should be designed so that they are under the synthetic surface to reduce the infill entering them. To reduce the probability further Council will consider fitting filters where practical to capture any infill before it progresses to the storm water outlets 

Photo: Containment strategy example. Curb to reduce the infill being dispersed outside of the field of play

 

Photo: Containment strategy example. Drains fitted with filter.

  • Regular maintenance of the field of play and the areas surrounding the field to reduce the level of migration off the field of play.

Q23: Is the water run-off from synthetic fields toxic?

There is no evidence that this is the case. The global Swiss Study by the Ministry of Environment, Traffic, Energy and Communications on the environmental compatibility of synthetic sports surfaces explored the secretion of synthetic surfaces from disintegration by UV radiation, mechanical destruction by abrasion, and diffusion of ingredients and washing off by rainwater. The report summarises there is no risk for the environment (air or water quality) from Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s) or heavy metals including Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Chromium, Zinc, and Tin, which were all lower than the required European safety levels. Auckland Council completed a similar study in 2016-2017 with the same results. 

Q24: What impact will the proposed synthetic field have on the trees in the park?

Council’s arboriculturist will be involved in the early design stages to review the tree line and root line before the size of the field is designed to ensure that the trees are both protected and that their roots do not undermines the integrity of the pavement base. The arboriculturist will provide technical advice as to the most appropriate approach, which may include some pruning and use of root barriers. 

Q25: Will the synthetic turf Impact on the bird life in the area?

From experience with other fields the birds normally roam where there a certain level of peace and quiet.  With the fields expected to be used heavily during the day by schools and then sports clubs, the birds are expected to normally find a slightly quieter area once the fields are in use, probably as they do currently on the natural grass. 

Birds normally don’t use the synthetic surface in the same manner as natural grass (searching for worms etc) and move to an area where they can.

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Hunter’s Hill Council

22 Alexandra Street, Hunters Hill NSW 2110
PO Box 21, Hunters Hill NSW 2110
Tel: (02) 9879 9400