City of Kent to install new $1.7 million turf at Wilson Playfields

The city of Kent will replace the synthetic turf this summer at the popular Wilson Playfields on the East Hill. - MARK KLAAS, KENT REPORTER
The city of Kent will replace the synthetic turf this summer at the popular Wilson Playfields on the East Hill.

The city of Kent this summer will install $1.7 million worth of new synthetic turf on the popular Wilson Playfields baseball, softball and soccer complex.

The City Council voted 5-2 on April 1 to approve the contract to replace the turf at the complex along 132nd Avenue Southeast. City officials will close the park May 12 to install FieldTurf and reopen it in August.

Council members Bill Boyce and Les Thomas voted against the motion after longtime Kent resident Brad Martin, a representative of Sprinturf, testified during public comment at the council meeting that the city will pay as much as $200,000 more by going with FieldTurf.

"I would simply like to contend that the Parks Committee decision to procure FieldTurf through a buying co-op without soliciting other prices from competing manufacturers, including Sprinturf, is a colossal mistake and will potentially result in spending as much as $200,000 more in taxpayer money than is necessary for this turf replacement," Martin said.

The council's Parks Committee approved the FieldTurf agreement 3-0 prior to the full council vote.

Kent will buy the turf through the King County Directors Association (KCDA), a purchasing cooperative that the city has been a member of since 1982.

Parks Director Jeff Watling told the council putting a project out to bid isn't always the best way to go.

"A typical bid-type process presents some significant tradeoffs because how you define value in the product you're getting is not necessarily attributed to just the lowest cost," Watling said. "The recommendation at Parks Committee is we recommended acquiring FieldTurf. We feel it is the best combination of price, quality, durability and reliability. We respect there are likely difference of opinions out there."

Watling said other cities as well as school districts have used the KCDA co-op to purchase items. KCDA bids products and co-op members can purchase off the bid. KCDA has a current contract with FieldTurf.

Other jurisdictions have had problems with Sprinturf, Watling said.

"Why we are recommending to go with a product that perhaps is perhaps a little bit more expensive is in terms of consistency of installation and what we've heard from local jurisdictions about how Sprinturf was installed and other things, we felt as a critical investment for this community the additional dollars it might cost to go with FieldTurf will pay dividends in the 10 to 12 year life of this turf," Watling said.

Thomas and Boyce weren't persuaded that one company was much better than the other.

"Sometimes we get into these really difficult decisions where you have apples and oranges," Thomas said. "But here I see two apples. Everything is the same except price. So from my standpoint, I have to go with price."

Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger said she had confidence the parks staff made the right decision with FieldTurf.

"Wilson Playfields is a high-impact field as we get hundreds of teams on there during the season and we really need to have a turf that's going to last and really be durable," Ranniger said. "I'm comfortable moving forward with this particular product because I think it will serve the test of time and hold up under the wear and tear and abuse it's going to get from our highly popular programs."

The council in December approved an additional $500,000 in the 2014 budget to help fund the turf replacement at Wilson Playfields. City officials will use another $800,000 for the field from the real estate excise tax and carryover money from previous years. The rest of the money will come from delaying improvements at other parks.

Watling said all of the turf at the field will be replaced. He said the lines on the fields will change to include lacrosse lines, a growing sport in the area. He added the surface edges that are now rubber will be replaced with synthetic turf.

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