The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

North Ridgeville, OH softball center could open this year !

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NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH —

A women’s fast-pitch softball training facility is projected to open this year on land the city is selling to a developer.

The nearly 17,000-square-foot indoor facility will be a larger version of Leffew Fastpitch, run by well-known father-daughter softball instructors Dave and Amie Leffew in the LaGrange area.

To be built on Victory Lane near the city’s heavily traveled Lorain Road/Interstate 480 area, the center will feature eight to 10 batting and pitching cages, plus gymnasium space and a special surface, according to Tom O’Brien, owner of Blue Marble Realty, a Bay Village business that is developing the facility.

City Council’s Buildings and Lands Committee voted Monday night to recommend Council’s approval of the sale of a 3-acre parcel of land owned by the city to Blue Marble Realty.

The acreage is to be sold for $10,000, far below the $27,446-per-acre value listed by the county auditor’s office for improved acreage near the site that is part of Victory Sports Park, according to Councilman Dennis Boose, D-2nd Ward.

Law Director Andrew Crites said the site has deed restrictions due in part to its being situated on land that formerly held fly ash.

O’Brien said he is having preliminary engineering work done to ensure the acreage is stable enough to support the building. A cost figure for the project was not available from O’Brien.

He said building the softball center next door to Victory Sports Park and nearby I-480 made perfect sense because that facility could generate business for the fast-pitch center.

The 3 acres are part of a 67-acre parcel of land owned by the city and leased to PMJ Holdings, the firm that operates Victory Sports Park.

O’Brien said the center is projected to employ about 20 people, including six to seven fast-pitch coaches, and will operate as a leased subsidiary of Blue Marble Realty.

“The primary focus will be pitching, but they’ll also have catching lessons, as well as hitting and fielding (instruction),” O’Brien said.

The facility also will include retail operations, including one selling softball equipment.

O’Brien hopes to present facility plans to the city Planning Commission at its June 9 meeting, and if all approvals come in a timely manner, to have the business open by the end of the summer.

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Batter’s Box Fortification !

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Batter’s Box Fortification !

  High traffic areas can be a major problem. Don’t let them be. The Jox Box high traffic mats and our porous rubber mats make a huge difference in turning your field into a low-maintenance field. You can protect the batters box and home plate areas, leadoff and sliding areas around your base paths, the pitcher’s landing area on your pitching mound, and even the coaches boxes.

  Approved by ASA and USSSA for league and tournament play, these high-traffic mats are perfect for easy maintenance of these heavy wear areas.

  Also consider our clay Beacon Bricks or bagged clay for maximum protection when fortifying these high-wear areas around home plate and the pitcher’s mound. Contact our team of experts with any questions you have regarding home plate, batter’s box, pitching mounds, or base path areas.

  The ultimate ballfield resource. It’s all here.

Beacon Athletics, 8233 Forsythia St, STE 120, Middleton, WI 53562

http://beaconathletics.com/

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CONSIDER A BUSINESS IN MOBILE BATTING CAGES !

CONSIDER A BUSINESS IN MOBILE BATTING CAGES  !

softball

There are many of you who are baseball and softball instructors that are looking to expand your business. Have you considered looking into a mobile batting cage? A mobile batting cage that could be set up at tournaments, registrations, camps, clinics, and festivals. A mobile batting cage that can rented out or available for a birthday party. These are some of the places that you can take your mobile batting cage. An investment in a mobile batting cage could be very lucrative for you and your business. Our company, INMOTION Air builds the perfect mobile batting cage.

Go to www.inmotionair.net for more details.

Call Directly:  (678) 313 – 4162

InMotion Air has revolutionized the way inflatables are used in sports and promotion. We help your brand and team come alive! Customizing inflatables allows us to provide your team or brand with that extra edge that everyone is looking for.

BASEBALL/SOFTBALL:

Air-Sealed Inflatable Batting Cage

  • SETUP IN MINUTES
  • INDOOR/OUTDOOR
  • NO CONSTANT BLOWERS
  • EASY PORTABILITY
  • RUGGED DURABILITY

How we’re different

The InMotion Air revolution in sports equipment is perfect for university, high school and travel teams because it takes just minutes to put up and take down this rugged inflatable batting cage in any indoor or outdoor environment. These engineered inflatables collapse down to a fraction of the inflated size making transport and storage easy. Our custom air-sealed technology is tested tough to withstand the rigors of active sports and provides instant practice space for any practice, camp or clinic. The high grade materials ensure that our inflatables withstand any climate. Not only do our inflatables perform, but they can make your team look good, too. They can be customized with team logos, colors and even sponsors. Think of the increased pride and visual exposure for your team, organization or company.

Air-Sealed Sports Equipment

InMotion Air portable cages for:

Baseball, Softball, Soccer, Golf,

Lacrosse, and Backyard Multi-Sport use:

  • SETUP IN MINUTES
  • INDOOR/OUTDOOR
  • NO CONSTANT BLOWERS
  • EASY PORTABILITY
  • RUGGED DURABILITY

For more information, contact Craig directly:

(678) 313-4162  or craig@inmotionair.net.

He’s our inflatable sporting equipment specialist,

and can expertly recommend what your team needs.

Call or contact us today! (678) 313 – 4162

Copyright © 2015 InMotion Air. All rights reserved.

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Lawsuit over canceled Kimball Farm event dismissed !

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HAVERHILL, NH. — A judge has dismissed a class action lawsuit against the organizers of an outdoor obstacle-course race planned for Kimball Farm in Haverhill.

The suit was filed after the event was canceled and later moved to Maine. That angered some people who had paid money to participate and were unable to attend after the event was moved.

In their suit against organizers of the Mudderella obstacle course, the plaintiffs said that just days prior to the event planned for Sept. 6 at Kimball Farm, Tough Mudder Inc. moved the race to Westbrook, Maine. The plaintiffs said the organizers refused to refund their registration fees and alleged damages on behalf of themselves and other people who wanted to attend the event. 

On June 3, 2014, the Haverhill City Council denied permits for three outdoor sporting events at Kimball Farm — Foam Fest and Dirty Girl Mud Run on July 19, and Mudderella on Sept. 6. The council denied the permits in the wake of major traffic problems at the May 31 Color Me Rad race at Kimball Farm. Organizers of the event said a larger-than-expected number of participants showed up at the same time, when previous similar events at Kimball Farm had staggered starting times.

Kimball Farm’s owners proved the farm was capable of hosting large-scale events without disrupting the neighborhood when it hosted KidsFEST on June 9 of last year. The successful event drew 6,000 to 8,000 participants and created no traffic problems.

After Haverhill officials rejected Mudderella, the event was initially relocated to the Amesbury Sports Park and planned for Sept. 6. 

But in late August, Amesbury officials put a stop to the plan, citing problems with a similar obstacle-course race, called the Spartan Race, that was held behind Amesbury Sports Park  Aug. 9 and 10. 

The Spartan Race was a 4.8-mile trek that wound through the Hunt Road Landfill site and Merrimack Landing Conservation Area, as well as other privately owned land, according to Amesbury officials. Those officials obtained a legal order barring the sports park from trespassing on city land and private property, which the sports park accessed without permission for the Spartan Race.

The Mudderella event was then relocated to Westbrook, Maine.

By Mike LaBella mlabella@eagletribune.com

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Baseball app “GameChanger” brings major league scorekeeping to little league games !

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My junior year of high school was the last year I would play competitive baseball. As the season came to a close, I sat in the last row of the team bus on a return trip from a game that was played three hours away. I had the scorebook on one knee, and a piece of paper and pen on another. Page by page, diamond-filled square by diamond-filled square, I went through the book and tallied my batting average, runs batted in, errors, and a slew of other baseball stats. 

The tedious process took the entire ride back, yet it felt like time well spent. I knew where I did and didn’t contribute to the team throughout the season, and was able to confirm I was in the midst of the best season I’d ever had. But I was the only one that knew any of this, as I was the only one that actually took the time to go through the book.

That bus ride is the first thing that came to mind as I got off the phone with GameChanger CEO Ted Sullivan. GameChanger is a free app for iPhone and iPad that offers a digital alternative to the paper scorebook long used for sporting events.

On the surface, GameChanger appears to be nothing more than a digital scorebook. The app replaces the sloppy stack of bound paper sitting on the scorer’s table at a basketball, softball, baseball, and (soon) lacrosse game. Tap here for a base hit. Touch there for a wild pitch. Press here and here to log a foul and count the basket.

Stats are automatically calculated in real-time and provided to anyone who follows a team or player. “If only this technology existed when I played sports,” I thought, while going over the app for the first time.

Besides baseball, you can track basketball and softball games, too, with lacrosse coming soon. 

But there’s much, much more to the app than just compiling statistics. 

Sullivan estimates that scoring at 95 percent of amateur games is done using pencil and paper. And what’s more, most of the score keeping is left up to volunteers. From my experience, many volunteers often don’t fully understand how to properly score a game, leading to incorrect statistics—a fact that can have an impact on the dreams of young players who hope to play in college and beyond.

GameChanger aims to be “collector of all in-game amateur sports data,” according to Sullivan. By eliminating the learning curve of how to properly score a game through prompts, the data Sullivan wants to collect is easier to record and more likely to be accurate. 

Statistics and scouting reports aside, perhaps the most powerful aspect of GameChanger is that it allows for a parent to follow a child’s game—in real-time—should he or she be stuck at work, overseas, or anywhere with an internet connection. 

Take the game alerts you’ve long associated with your favorite sports app, and apply that to your child’s little league or high school game. You can receive a text alert when Katie gets a base hit, then congratulate her using FaceTime after the game without waiting to hear how the game went; you already know. Or if the game didn’t quite go Johnny’s way, you can offer encouragement without forcing him to detail how bad of a game it really was. 

I talked with Dwight Schmidt, a baseball coach, Marine, and airline pilot who has used GameChanger for the last six years. He was able to address the experience as both a coach, and a parent of young athletes.

Schmidt told me as a coach he’s able to “keep tabs on pitch counts to combat Tommy John injuries,” along with ensure he is playing all kids fairly. He also uses GameChanger stats to pinpoint areas for each player to work on improving. Best of all, the information is available as soon as it’s entered. He no longer has to spend hours combing through a “paper scorebook with [a] stubby pencil and eraser” to compile the stats on his own.

As a parent, he’s powered up his iPhone in South Korea or Afghanistan and received alerts from both of his sons’ games—something that meant a lot to him, and understandably so.

My kids aren’t old enough to follow within GameChanger, but I did follow some teams who use the app. I watched a live game in Georgia, and was mesmerized by the game updates constantly updating within the app. At times there was a bit of a delay, which was followed up by a rapid stream of what had occurred. But overall, you get the general idea of what’s going on in the game beyond what the score is.

After the game is over, GameChanger processes the stats from a game and creates a newspaper worthy recap, that is then emailed to paid followers of a team. 

GameChanger is free for coaches, who can then add two additional admins to the account. The three accounts combined can keep scores and have full access to a team. Parents can sign up and become a “fan” of a team for free, with access to live scores. If you want to receive live updates and in-depth stats, you can sign up for a monthly plan of $40 per year, or $8 a month. 

I often talk about my jealousy towards the current generation growing up with access to technology I could have only dreamed of when I was younger.

GameChanger is a prime example of my jealousy. Instead of sifting through page after page of barely legible handwriting in a scorebook managed by a freshman volunteer on the bus ride home, I could have only dreamed of launching an app on a contraption called an iPhone and viewing my stats. Who knows, maybe a scout would have taken notice of the season I was having and encouraged me to keep playing.

Jason Cipriani | @mrcippy

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New Outdoor Action Sports Park Hosting Country Music Festival !

APRIL 15, 2015

New Outdoor Action Sports Park Hosting Country Music Festival

Photo courtesy of Florida Tracks & Trails

The excitement surrounding the grand opening of the outdoor action sports park Florida Tracks & Trails in Punta Gorda, Florida, has thrill seekers ready to hit the dirt, but the addition of an inaugural music festival will make this a must-visit destination.

According to a statement from the Florida Tracks & Trails management, the outdoor park will be first opened to the public for the 2015 edition of the Country Life Music Festival, which will take place on the fairgrounds in the park from April 24-26.

The lineup for the festival is impressive for country music fans, and should be enough to entice people to visit the outdoor park. With performances from Reba McEntire, Hank Williams Jr, Billy Currington, Big & Rich, Charlie Daniels, .38 Special and many other stars, this should be the perfect mixture of action packed adventure and a Southern party atmosphere.

Founder of the Country Life Music Festival, Brad Maloney, released a statement about the backdrop of this year’s event:

“This venue is amazing, there is nothing like this in this part of the country. Folks are just not going to believe their eyes when it is complete. It is an outdoorsman’s paradise, a great destination for families and the perfect venue for our festival brand.”

Visitors who purchase a festival pass will have access to several dirt bike trails—including the amateur, beginner, peewee and side-by-side tracks—the ATV trails, the paintball park and the beach. The park itself will be opened for full-time business in May, but this is the first opportunity for fans to get a sneak peak at what everyone is talking about.

For those who seek adventure on vacation, Florida Tracks & Trails is a 1,000-acre park featuring 22 miles of off-road-vehicle trails, four motocross tracks, 80 acres of paintball fields, a 12-acre freshwater beach and lake and the 56-acre event grounds that hosts the 2015 Country Life Music Festival, according to the park’s official website.

If your family is looking for a little more adventure in a late-April vacation, be one of the first to tame the terrain of the new Florida Tracks & Trails while enjoying some great country music.

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Be Prepared ! – Baseball Field Preparation !

Things are coming down to the wire as Opening Day approaches! One thing that amazes me every year is how many baseball groundskeepers wait until the last minute to order the supplies and equipment they need to get their fields ready for play. Baseball field preparation requires advanced planning and purchasing to ensure smooth execution when it comes time for game day.baseball field preparation

Baseball Field Preparation

Back when I took care of Oriole Park and even now as I help take care of a 3-field Little League complex, I plan to get everything in my barn way ahead of time so there is little chance of having to make frantic last minute calls for supplies while I’m in the middle of working on the fields. Part of my shut down routine each fall is putting together a list of what I will need to order in the late winter based on my inventory at the end of the season. I’m able to do that because I’ve already gone through the budget process for the coming season to know how much money I have to spend in my various cost centers. Next, I’ll generate a list of other items I need to purchase like tools, irrigation supplies, netting, fencing, backstop padding, windscreen and so on while everything is still fresh on my mind. That way, I can plan out my purchasing timing wisely so I greatly reduce or eliminate any chance of not being prepared.

Procrastination Hurts

Don’t let procrastination get the best of you. Too many Beacon customers wait until the last minute to purchase things they’ve known they needed to get their field(s) ready for the season. That procrastination can result in the need to expedite shipping which is expensive, no matter the size of the package. I’ve also seen customers make simple ordering mistakes because they were rushing and did not take adequate measurements or double check the item code number of what they were ordering. This leads to the wrong product or size being ordered, increasing costs from returns, and time lost while waiting on the right equipment to come in.

If you haven’t ordered custom built items for Opening Day yet, (non-standard size windscreenbaseball nettingpaddingtarps, etc.),  it could be tough to accomplish at this point. Lead times increase as the start of the season approaches due to demand for custom product. Lead times can grow to anywhere from two to four weeks depending on the item. Make sure you have accurate measurements and design so that you get exactly what you need for your baseball field preparation.

 

baseball home plate, baseball field preparationThe more organized you are with your purchasing, the more prepared you will be for the upcoming season. Additionally, you protect yourself from unexpected costs or delivery delays when you plan and purchase early. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared!

 

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Frankly speaking, there’s a new dog in play at Cheney Stadium !

Peanut butter on a hot dog? . . . Batter up!

 

Look for a new and local purveyor of franks, brats and other sausages at Cheney Stadium this year.

The Tacoma Rainiers announced Monday that The Red Hot has been crowned the newest addition to the club’s 2015 food and beverage lineup. The Tacoma-based sausage-sandwich enterprise will make its stadium debut when the Rainiers open their home season at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 17, according to a release.

The new culinary kiosk will reside along the home plate side of Cheney’s main concourse area and will be open during each of the team’s 72 scheduled home games, as well as at select concerts, festivals and other specialty events.

“Once we sat down, tasted hot dogs, and met Chris and Stu, this decision became a no-brainer,” said Rainiers President Aaron Artman.

Offerings on the Red Hot ballpark menu will differ slightly from the items available at the Sixth Avenue location. So if you’re of such a mind, how about a hot dog topped with peanut butter, bacon, and Cracker Jack?

Another dog is capped with cream cheese, grilled onions, tomatoes and celery salt. These will be served along with a selection of other sausages, in addition to both vegetarian and vegan options. 

“We’ve never really been interested in opening another TRH,” said Chris Miller, owner and general manager of The Red Hot. “But we love our city, and we love our community, so when the Rainiers approached us with this opportunity, we couldn’t pass up the chance to be part of this iconic stadium and incredible Tacoma destination.”

As the official specialty hot dog provider of Cheney Stadium, The Red Hot will also take over as culinary caretaker of the Rainiers most coveted concession item, “The Best Hot Dog in Baseball.” The classic version of the quarter-pounder comes with grilled onions, sweet relish and beer mustard, and can now be upgraded to include cream cheese, bacon, sauerkraut and dill.

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Massive plans for Hailsham sports park UK !

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  • State-of-the-art facility for growing population
  • Alliance aims to secure land and funding
  • ‘Severe deficiency’ in amount of sporting opportunitiesThe dream of a new multi-purpose sports park to meet the needs of Hailsham’s increasing population moved closer to reality this week.

    Hailsham Town Council on Wednesday agreed to give its full support to the local Sports Alliance’s major project, aimed at securing land and funding.

    Representatives from Hailsham and District Sports Alliance attended the council’s meeting to highlight the existing provision of sports facilities in the town and to request the council’s formal backing on a project to improve access to sport, develop partnership working, actively promote sport in the community and secure a suitable piece of land dedicated to sport for Hailsham.

    The Alliance’s Chairman, Steve Wennington, outlined the current problem with the lack of indoor and outdoor sports facilities, how local organisations can work together to secure the land for a new sports park and help make Hailsham a destination town – not a sports commuter town.

     Mr Wennington said, “Hailsham used to be a leader in providing sporting facilities and back in the 1870s we had more sports area (by population) than is currently the recommended minimum.

    “There is a severe deficiency in the amount of adequate sports facilities necessary to cater for the current population of Hailsham and Hellingly – which continues to increase as a result of new housing developments.”

    He said the goal was the creation of a multi-purpose sports park to include a floodlit artificial turf pitch as a priority as well as ancillary provision such as changing rooms, showers, toilets and function space.

    Hailsham is the largest town in the Wealden District, yet has some of the least adequate sports field facilities for its size in the country. An analysis conducted this year by a sports consultant concluded that the deficit is already 15 acres of facilities, and by the time the current agreed housing development in Hailsham is complete, that will rise to 26 acres.

    It was discussed by councillors and Sports Alliance representatives that preference is to have a site for the new facility in or within very close proximity to Hailsham, so it is seen as a town/community asset. However, this will require agreement with local farmers/landowners and a negotiation with developers for suitable funding and a meeting with Hailsham and District Sports Alliance has been scheduled for later this year.

    Mr Wennington continued, “This is a huge project, and to get this off the ground will also require massive support from local sports clubs, local businesses and influential people. We need to build a bit of an army for this project to highlight our current needs, and more importantly the needs of future generations in and around Hailsham.”

    Town Clerk John Harrison said, “Proof that additional sports facilities are needed for future generations in Hailsham to thrive has already been provided and the next step is to form a workable plan to deliver a sustainable solution, and the determination of the community is essential to see the project through.

    “It’s very important that the Town Council supports the Sports Alliance’s strategy for sport and active recreation and will work in partnership to evaluate how the provision of quality, accessible sports facilities can be developed on a value for money basis in the near future.”

    * For further details about the Alliance’s email:

    steve@pro-eco.co.uk

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Feds promote artificial turf as safe despite health concerns !

Lead levels high enough to potentially harm !

Lead levels high enough to potentially harm children have been found in artificial turf used at thousands of schools, playgrounds and day-care centers across the country, yet two federal agencies continue to promote the surfacing as safe, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The growing use of turf fields layered with rubber crumbs has raised health concerns centered mostly on whether players face increased risk of injury, skin infection or cancer. The U.S. has more than 11,000 artificial turf fields, which can cost $1 million to replace.

But largely overlooked has been the possible harm to young children from ingesting lead in turf materials, and the federal government’s role in encouraging their use despite doing admittedly limited research on their health safety.

Lead is a well-known children’s hazard that over time can cause lost intelligence, developmental delays, and damage to organs and the nervous system.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, charged with protecting children from lead in consumer products, has promoted turf-and-rubber fields for nearly seven years with a website headline declaring them “OK to install, OK to play on.” A news release says, “Young children are not at risk from exposure to lead in these fields,” even though the commission found potentially hazardous lead levels in some turf fibers and did not test any rubber crumbs, which are made from recycled tires that contain roughly 30 hazardous substances including lead.

The commission has acknowledged shortcomings in its 2008 study, which spokesman Scott Wolfson says “was just a handful of fields and was not representative of the full scope of fields across the country.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has promoted the use of rubber crumbs in athletic fields and on playground surfaces since 1995 to help create markets for recycled car and truck tires.But the EPA didn’t investigate the potential toxicity until 2008 and now says in a statement that “more testing needs to be done” to determine the materials’ safety.

“We’re using your children as part of the poison squad,” said Bruce Lanphear, a leading researcher on lead poisoning at Simon Fraser University in Canada, who suggests a moratorium on installing artificial-turf fields until their safety is proved.

The CDC in 2008 said communities should test recreational areas with turf fibers made from nylon, and they should bar children younger than 6 from the areas if the lead level exceeded the federal limit for lead in soil in children’s play areas.

But some communities have refused to test their fields, fearing that a high lead level would generate lawsuits or force them to replace and remove a field, which costs about $1 million, according to a 2011 New Jersey state report.

Forty-five of 50 New Jersey schools and towns contacted in 2009 by epidemiologist Stuart Shalat would not let him test their turf-and-rubber fields, Shalat’s report states. The EPA also found, in 2009, that “it was difficult to obtain access and permission to sample at playgrounds and synthetic turf fields.”

“If you’re exposing children to some potentially harmful compounds, whether it’s organic compounds or metals, you’d think you’d want to know so you can take some action instead of putting your hands over your eyes and saying, ‘I don’t see a problem,’ ” Shalat said.

STUDIES ON RISKS WIDELY DEBATED

Industry groups have touted the federal endorsements, which have helped vastly expand the nation’s use of artificial turf. It now blankets more than 11,000 fields, from NFL stadiums to elementary-school plots, and millions more square feet at resorts, office parks and playgrounds, according to the Synthetic Turf Council.

“There is tremendous growth in all sectors of the industry,” the council says, calling turf a durable, year-round playing surface that needs no watering, pesticides or fertilizers.

The council says turf materials are safe for people of all ages who may absorb particulates through ingestion, inhalation or skin contact. Government and academic studies “all have concluded” that a turf-and-rubber field “does not pose a human health risk to people of all ages,” the council says in a PowerPoint presentation.

But the council mischaracterizes some studies and ignores scientists’ warnings about children possibly ingesting lead in turf fibers and rubber crumbs.

The council quotes a supposed statement in a 2002 EPA report saying that children who play for years on turf-and-rubber fields face only minimal increased cancer risk. The statement actually is from a Rubber Manufacturers Association report and is not in the EPA report. Council spokeswoman Terrie Ward said the inaccuracy was “an honest mistake.”

Only a few studies have investigated the possible harm to young children from ingesting turf fibers or rubber crumbs, which can be as small as a pencil tip or as large as a wood chip. The studies analyzed a small number of turf materials.

A widely cited study by California officials in 2007 did not consider health effects of children ingesting rubber crumbs or turf fibers. The study analyzed three playground surfaces made of crumbs fused into a solid rubberized surface and found negligible risk from children ingesting rubber dust that might get on their hands or from swallowing a rubber chunk once in their lifetimes.

“Research consistently supports the safety of recycled crumb rubber,” said Mark Oldfield, a spokesman for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Nonetheless, the department is planning a new study on health effects of artificial turf and crumb rubber that will look at children ingesting crumb material chronically.

Connecticut state toxicologist Gary Ginsberg says turf materials would not be a “major source of lead” for young children given the limited amount of time they spend on a field or playground.

Others are worried. The Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection in January stopped giving communities money to build playgrounds and fields with crumb rubber. “There are no large-scale, national studies on the possible health issues associated with inhalation, ingestion or contact,” the department said. “Research to date has been inconclusive, contradictory or limited in scope.”

CDC: ‘No safe lead level’ in children

At least 10 studies since 2007 — including those by the safety commission and the EPA — have found potentially harmful lead levels in turf fibers and in rubber crumbs, USA TODAY found.

Researchers flagged fibers and crumbs that exceeded the federal hazard level of 400 parts per million (ppm) of lead in soil where children play. The limit aims to protect children if they ingest lead-contaminated soil — either by swallowing soil directly or by putting dirty hands and toys in their mouths.

But some scientists say that the limit, established in 2000, is too high and ignores recent research showing, as the CDC now says, that “no safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

“Every turf field has to be analyzed in detail to be sure it doesn’t have a problem,” said Paul Lioy, a professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.

California has set a much lower standard for lead in soil: 80 ppm.

When the Los Angeles school district in 2008 tested turf-and-rubber play areas in its preschool facilities, it used 60 ppm as a safety level. After two play areas recorded lead readings in the low 60s, the district removed the turf-and-rubber surfaces from all 54 preschools and replaced them with solid rubber or asphalt at a total cost of several hundred thousand dollars.

“Because of the physical development of younger children, lead has a greater propensity to be absorbed,” said Robert Laughton, the school district’s environmental health and safety director. “They’re the most at-risk population we have.”

Artificial turf at a Nevada day care had 8,800 ppm of lead — 22 times the federal soil hazard level, according to a 2010 study led by a scientist at the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. In 2008, New Jersey health officials found lead levels eight to 10 times the federal level in both school athletic fields and in turf marketed for residential use.

Turf-and-rubber fields typically contain about 200,000 pounds of rubber crumbs, made from thousands of former car and truck tires that may have varying levels of hazardous substances. A single field can have “substantial variability” in its materials and in the “concentrations of contaminants,” the EPA wrote in a 2009 study, listing 32 potential contaminants including arsenic, benzene, mercury and toluene.

“You pick up rubber off a field and you don’t know what that piece of rubber came from,” said health advocate David Brown, Connecticut’s former head of environmental epidemiology and occupational health. “It’s not a manufactured item. It’s a waste. There isn’t quality control.”

Lead in rubber crumbs under scrutiny

The presence of lead in turf or rubber crumb does not automatically endanger children. Health damage depends on how much lead children absorb into their bloodstream after ingestion. And absorption depends on whether the lead is tightly bound to the turf or crumb — or easily extracted during digestion.

The EPA’s 2009 study said that more than 90% of the lead in rubber crumbs tested was “tightly bound” to the rubber and “unavailable for absorption.” The results “do not point to a concern” about artificial turf-and-rubber crumb harming human health, the agency said.

The absorption finding was contradicted by a 2008 study in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology that found lead from rubber crumbs was “highly bioaccessible.”

“When people ingest this (crumb rubber), the gastrointestinal tract, the bile fluids, will get the lead out. That means it will be getting into the body, not just passing through,” said the study’s chief author, Jim Zhang, a Duke University environmental health professor.

Scientists and health officials havewarned also about older turf fibers. Many contain a lead-based pigment that adds vibrancy and colorfastness, and which could release lead particles as fibers get worn, cracked and abraded.

“Fibers deteriorate after five or six years. You’re going to get leaching,” Lioy said.

The CDC’s 2008 advisory says that as turf ages and weathers, “lead is released in dust that could then be ingested or inhaled.”

In California, after health advocates measured high lead levels in artificial turf at schools and public areas in 2008, the state attorney general sued manufacturers, which agreed to stop using lead-based pigments in turf. Manufacturers began using only lead-free pigments by the end of 2009, the turf council says.

“After our settlements, we think the industry has pretty much cleaned up,” said Charles Margulis of the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, which tested the turf. “But that leaves a lot of older fields out there.”

It is unclear how many recreational areas have older fibers with lead-based pigment. Turf companies and consultants say a turf field lasts 10 to 15 years. In 2009, before turf manufacturers phased out lead, the U.S. had approximately 4,500 turf fields.

Internal warning surfaces at EPA

Federal regulators began focusing on possible health damage from turf-and-rubber fields in 2008, at least a decade after their installation began. The EPA had been promoting the use of rubber crumbs for various applications since the early 1990s as a way to recycle millions of discarded automobile tires.

The agency didn’t consider toxicity until parents began calling its Denver office concerned about children coming home from sports practice covered in rubber crumbs, said Suzanne Wuerthele, a retired EPA toxicologist in Denver who raised concerns within the agency in 2007.

A 2008 memo by the Denver office noted the rubber’s potential harm, the inadequacy of research — including industry-touted studies — and suggested a “formal risk assessment of risks to children playing on tire crumb surfaces.”

The EPA study fell far short of that goal. The study is “very limited,” the EPA said when it was released, and “it is not possible to extend the results beyond the four study sites.”

The agency has said recently that the study was intended only to determine how to test crumb rubber, “not to determine the potential health risks of recycled tire crumb.”

In 2013, following a complaint by an environmental group, the EPA qualified the news release for its 2009 study with a note stating, “This news release is outdated.” Yet the note directs readers to a Web page that contains the same study.

“They need to stop promoting it and find out if it’s safe, or make a statement that we don’t know if it’s safe,” Wuerthele said, referring to recycled-rubber crumbs. “You just don’t put children on a finely ground surface that contains organics, fibers, latex and heavy metals, particularly lead.”

The Consumer Product Safety Commission launched its probe in 2008 after New Jersey health officials found high lead levels in three artificial turf athletic fields and told the commission that more than 90% of the lead could be absorbed into a human bloodstream. “It’s a special concern for children who are already exposed to lead,” New Jersey state epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz said at the time. “This could add to their lead levels.”

The commission tested 26 turf fibers from four manufacturers and has neither conducted nor cited research on rubber crumbs.