The plasticization of Simpson Field


To the editor:

The City of Alexandria is infatuated with plastic grass fields – the latest example is the proposal to replace a beautiful sod grass outfield at Big Simpson Baseball Field in Del Ray with plastic grass. I participated in the City Planning and Council hearings to discuss the Simpson field plastic field or natural grass choice.

The amount of information made available and the discussion by our leaders on this important issue was shocking. Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek deferred to the Parks and Recreation staff on this topic. The Del Ray Citizens Association submitted comments recommending against the plastic grass due to the heat and forever chemicals, PFAS, that come with it.

The estimated cost of overhauling Simpson Field Park is $16 million, including well over $1 million to install plastic grass with a maximum life span of eight to 10 years. This field can be replaced for $40,000 with new sod grass if needed.

The city described plastic or real grass as a choice when in fact synthetic grass has been in the city’s FY24 budget since before City Council and the Planning Commission meetings about the project were held in June.

Some think plastic fields are zero maintenance – wrong. It is a carpet that requires disinfecting, shampooing, raking and professional treatment and regular de-compacting to limit hardening.

How come the city is so enamored with plastic grass fields that they neglected to:

• Provide any costs for plastic fields or a cost comparison with sod/grass retention or replacement;

• Explain that plastic field temps will regularly exceed 120 degrees in the summer, which is 30 to 50 degrees hotter than grass/ sod. This will limit its use;

• Address micro plastic shedding polluting our lungs and neighborhoods with PFAS;

• Mention the 40,000 pounds of plastic and 400,000 pounds of crumb rubber that will go to the dump every 8 to 10 years; 

• Comment, as an Eco-City, on the climate impacts of adding hot impermeable surfaces to our neighborhoods and the planet; 

• Document the usage demand statistics for the baseball field; 

• Provide citizens any evidence of a drainage issue at Big Simpson Field; or 

• Provide updated information on injury risks to athletes playing on plastic grass? 

This is a poorly studied and planned proposal that appears to indicate the city is flush with excess tax dollars, and biased, for some reason, towards installing plastic grass fields. 

I recommend the city provide a comprehensive review of the key issues, including those above, so that we all can be confident we are making the right decision. It’s time to reconsider if artificial turf is the right choice. 

Stop by and see Simpson Field today. It is beautiful as it is and more than adequate to support the great pastime of youth baseball! 

-Brian Collins,