LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Parts of four city soccer pitches were called downright dangerous by an artificial turf expert after 13 Investigates asked him to inspect the holes, divots and exposed sub-base we discovered.
After our investigation aired, the City of Las Vegas installed large patches to replace the goal boxes.
The patches are fresh and those portions of the fields are better and safer than they were before, but still, experts will tell you… it's not nearly enough.
"When it gets this thin, the product is just beat to death and it's just time for replacement," said Joe Wadkins, after examining the fields in question.
Wadkins, who goes by JW, is considered one of the world's leading synthetic turf experts.
He helped us inspect City fields at Ed Fountain Park on Decatur Boulevard and Vegas Drive, and Kellogg Zaher soccer complex on Washington Avenue and Buffalo Drive.
"The material has no more strength. It's below a half-inch thick and you've lost all your infill, which allows you to simulate natural grass," JW said.
Goal boxes and penalty kick spots had severely damaged areas where the compacted rock and soil sub-base, which is hard as concrete, was exposed.
After our story aired, local athlete Sasha Pina sent an email to share her story.
In 2010, Sasha was a 16-year-old rising college star, but her soccer career abruptly ended on a turf field at Kellogg Zaher.
She suffered a traumatic brain injury after landing on the field, headfirst.
"I saw the story you did about the turf soccer fields. I have been playing soccer in Las Vegas since I was 7 years old. I grew up playing soccer here and I have played in many tournaments while playing club soccer. In September 2010, the weekend of Labor Day, I had a game at Kellogg Zaher on a turf field. During that game, I went up for a header and as I was coming down, I landed headfirst on the ground and was knocked unconscious. At the hospital, they told my mom that I had a fractured skull, grade 3 concussion, and brain swelling. Because of that game, I was no longer able to play and I was 16 at the time with college coaches watching me. We believe that even at the time, the turf fields had issues with lack of padding underneath and rocks and concrete, making it dangerous.
This is something I wish the City would pay more close attention to, and I hope no other athlete has been seriously injured due to the lack of care they have for the fields where we play the game we love."
As 13 Investigates reported in October, fields 6 and 7 at Kellogg Zaher were both installed in the Summer of 2013. That means they are officially out of warranty, and in the world of artificial turf, end of warranty equals end of life.
The City doesn't plan to replace those Kellogg Zaher fields or the two at Ed Fountain (which will be out of warranty as of this Winter) until September of 2023, opting instead for the cheaper patches.
"When they first installed the field, there should have been reserves kept monthly, so that by the time of that end-of-cycle for that field, they would have money in the bank to replace it and not have to keep doing repairs. The patch will only last as good as the turf connecting to it," said JW.
The City says each field will cost about $375,000 to replace.
Leaders have had eight years to budget for that, plus, a recent influx of $130 million from the American Rescue Plan.
Some of that money could be used to fund new fields.