Memorial Field closed due to elevated lead levels
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
UNH students exiting the Whittemore Center after catching a hockey game or utilizing the gym will no longer see athletes practicing on the bright green Memorial Field. On Saturday, Oct. 20, university officials announced the closure of the artificial turf field due to elevated lead levels detected in dust samples.
The field had been deteriorating for quite some time, and it was this deterioration that prompted the finding of lead. The field was constructed in 2002, and renovation was scheduled for the upcoming fiscal year. Now, however, UNH officials are “developing an earlier timeline for replacement,” according to a press release issued by the university. No details as to exactly when the field will be replaced or how it will be financed have been released; even campus recreation officials were not sure.
Artificial fields typically degrade after 10 years, so this deterioration was not out of the ordinary. Campus Recreation Director Stacey Hall confirmed that this was the result of normal wear and tear.
Closing the field was more of a precaution than a response to an actual threat, as the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services reported that adults would not be at risk due to the lead content.
However, children six years old and younger would be at risk, according to the department.
While the Centers for Disease Control found in 2008 that there were no reported cases where elevated blood levels in children were linked to artificial turf fields, the university felt that closing the field was the safest thing to do.
In a press release, UNH Director of Athletics Marty Scarano issued a statement regarding the field’s closing.
“The safety and well-being of our students, staff and faculty, as well as our many visitors, is of the utmost importance,” Scarano said. “We felt any risk of exposure to lead was too much and that closing the field was the right thing to do.”
Hall agreed that safety remains a top priority, and stated that campus recreation and athletic facilities are carefully monitored on a regular basis. Personnel reported the deterioration of Memorial Field, thus prompting the testing.
“Routine maintenance is an important thing,” Hall said.
Memorial Field hosted many sports, including field hockey, lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee. While many of the intramural and club sports teams practice at Boulder Field, Bremner Field, and the new student recreation field (all located near Cowell Stadium), varsity team practices and games must be rescheduled and relocated. The athletic department declined to comment as to how this will affect its athletes.
Although the lower fields are now crowded, and scheduling is more difficult, some students see the closure of the field as a good thing.
“The turf on Memorial Field was definitely not as good as the pro-grass on the lower fields,” said Tim Patterson, a junior Frisbee team member. “We’re just happy that we get to play on a nicer field.”