We are now happy to share a letter from the Mavericks Board of Directors.
Dear Members of the JPA for the Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex:
Mavericks Soccer Club is a Berkeley-based soccer club serving boys and girls, ages 9-19, and includes hundreds of families who live within the five JPA cities. We are writing to raise our concerns regarding the condition of the Gilman fields, aka Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex.
We are aware that the JPA plans to replace the current artificial turf later this year. We support that decision. Later in this letter we will recommend that the JPA install a “shock pad” beneath the new turf to make the new fields safer.
But we believe there is a potentially more urgent matter. We have been recently informed that a 2012 study of the field’s surface hardness, known as GMAX testing, concluded that sections of the field may not be within safe limits. A GMAX rating in excess of 200 is considered unsafe. There were two zones at the Gilman fields with GMAX ratings that exceeded 200 in 2012. To our knowledge, no further study has been done since then. We believe this study should be updated promptly to assess whether the fields pose an unacceptable safety risk, and if so, whether they should be closed before construction begins on the new fields.
As for the new fields, we strongly recommend that the JPA install a shock pad beneath the new turf to mitigate risks of concussions and other impact-related injuries. There is growing data and understanding of the dangers of concussions, both to adults who use the fields but especially to our children. We therefore believe an ethical imperative exists to mitigate these risks through currently available materials, technology and best practices, including installation of a shock pad.
In addition to making the fields safer, installation of a shock pad will allow the JPA to select an alternative to crumb-rubber infill. While potential risks associated with crumb-rubber requires further research, the planned turf replacement, along with a shock pad, provides an opportunity to install a comparably priced “green” alternative infill.
Concussions can be permanently debilitating. Although not all risks of injury can be eliminated from rigorous sports, the JPA has both an opportunity, and an obligation, to prioritize safety when considering the current use of the Gilman fields, and planning for the next 10+ years of use of these fields. Therefore, we urge the JPA (1) to promptly commission an update to the 2012 GMAX study to determine whether the current fields can continue to be used safely before they are replaced; and (2) to install a shock pad beneath the new artificial turf.
Board of Directors, Mavericks Soccer Club