Environmental Impact of Near West Fields

rendering of near west field
Architect rendering of the Near West fields. Actual design may differ.

Planning and design continues for the Near West Playfields project. As with all major construction projects, it is standard practice to perform an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that does exactly what its name implies. In cooperation with several state agencies, including the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), the engineering firm assigned to the project (GRAEF) reported back on the potential beneficial and adverse impacts of installing a synthetic surface at Near West Fields. We are pleased to share the (very positive) results of this study. Because we know you probably have other things to do today, we’ve only provided a summary of the study.

If you’re interested, you can read the full report here.

It’s not easy being green. But we did it.

The EIA assesses several areas of environmental concern with the intention of identifying challenges or cause for further action prior to construction.

Although several species of plants occur near the project site, several of which are endangered or threatened, the site itself is not a suitable environment for these plants to grow. That is to say, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is not concerned about our project’s impact on the nearby plant life.

Once again, the WDNR reported that the project site is not a viable habitat for wildlife that may live in the area. This report included the potential presence of turtles, frogs, fish, mammals, birds, bats, and clams. Yes, clams.

Aquatic Environment
The EIA does not anticipate any significant changes to the aquatic habitats near Near West. Actually, because the synthetic turf does not require fertilization, there could be potential increases in the health of the local aquatic environment.

Sustainability Features
The new fields will provide a decreased use of water (no irrigation needed), carbon emissions (no mowing or trimming), nutrient loading in the surrounding water habitats (no fertilization), and energy use (introduction of LED lighting). Boom.

How will the synthetic turf impact the environment?

The EIA included analyses of the synthetic turf itself and its potential impacts on the environment.

Safer surface 

The synthetic turf will have a G-Max impact rating between 130 and 170. This is comparable to a natural turf field in good condition. G-Max ratings above 200 can be too hard (greater risk of injury), while ratings below 120 can bee too soft (greater athlete fatigue — think about how tired you get running around in soft sand).

This is expected to be an overall improvement from the current conditions in the potential for injury resulting from impact with the turf.

Drier surface

This is a big one. The new fields will be smoother and allow for better drainage of water than what you currently play on. Because of this, athletes will be less likely to get injured and saturated fields will be less of a problem.

Lead-free surface

Chemical tests were run on the materials used in the synthetic turf. The analysis did not detect any metals, including lead. And lead-based pigments are no longer used in field turf fibers. Concentrations of semi-volatiles (pesticides and other organic compounds) were less than 1% and were not a cause for concern.

So what you’re saying is…

The Near West Fields project is expected to have minimal impact on the surrounding environment and wildlife. We are pleased to report that the changes planned for that site may in fact save on energy, promote a sustainable facility, and create a better experience for athletes.

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