High School Football

Doug Shaw Stadium gets new playing surface as turf provider is pelted by lawsuits

The familiar Myrtle Beach High logo adorns the 50-yard line at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium after a new FieldTurf playing surface was installed at the facility.
The familiar Myrtle Beach High logo adorns the 50-yard line at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium after a new FieldTurf playing surface was installed at the facility. Myrtle Beach High School

As tempting as it may be, Myrtle Beach football coach Mickey Wilson kept his shoes on while walking the new playing surface at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium last week.

Part of a renovation project costing the City of Myrtle Beach an estimated $6 million, the installation of college-grade FieldTurf was completed a week ago at 49-year old facility. The municipality footed the bill for the $280,000 refurbishment of the playing surface.

“I walked on it, and (crews) did a really good job,” Wilson said. “The grass was longer than before, the blades seem higher and nicer. Before, with the old turf wearing down, you certainly worried about injury. Guess some of that is gone now.”

It is the first time work has been done to the stadium playing surface since a FieldTurf Duraspine field was installed in 2008. Initial cost of the project was $450,000.

Myrtle Beach High School athletic programs — including their football and soccer programs — serve as primary tenants at the facility, part of a joint-ownership agreement with the Horry County School District and City of Myrtle Beach. It also serves as the longtime host of the annual Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl, in addition to a number of other football, soccer and track and field events year-round.

According to Myrtle Beach special projects manager Ron Andrews, such activity played a role in deciding to replace the turf.

“The surface was showing wear and over the past several years, minor repair was required to maintain a safe playing area,” he said. “… The decision to replace the artificial turf was a city decision based on the condition of the surface. The high level of activity in the stadium requires a well-maintained surface.”

A nine-year warranty was set for the FieldTurf installed at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. With such assurance set to end this year, city officials pushed the button to take advantage of such a deal.

Count the venue among the luckier ones as a host of the 1,428 FieldTurf Duraspine fields sold in the U.S. — from small municipalities to NFL franchises — are conspicuously failing early in the life of turf. As a result, the integrity of the country’s leading supplier of artificial sports turf, Montreal-based company Field Turf, is being questioned.

Since the result of a six-month investigation by NJ Advanced Media titled “The 100-Yard Deception” was released, the company has become quite the target after reportedly continuing to sell the high-end turf even after receiving complaints the product was falling apart.

Nearly a dozen lawsuits against FieldTurf have been filed in several states, alleging breach of contract and fraud based on the premise that FieldTurf knowingly provided a product susceptible to premature deterioration and failing to disclose such information to customers. Most of the fields brought in between $300,000 to $500,000 if not more, purchased with the use of tax dollars.

Since such reports came to light, FieldTurf — a division of publicly traded French flooring maker Tarkett — has sent letters to customers and released a video from company CEO Eric Daliere claiming it had no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

“A recent report in New Jersey argues that FieldTurf fields around the country have failed prematurely, as a result of an issue with Duraspine fiber,” according to a statement by FieldTurf officials. “FieldTurf strongly disagrees with the accusations and conclusions upon which this story is based.”

Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium is one of a pair of facilities in South Carolina to use FieldTurf, the other being Benedict College’s Charlie W. Johnson Stadium in Columbia. Neither venues’ ownership group has filed suit.

Andrews said the City of Myrtle Beach was in fact aware of FieldTurf’s issues elsewhere, working with the company’s engineering consultant particularly regarding a price in replacing the surface.

“It is our belief that some of the repairs have been necessary due to this ‘fiber’ issue,” he said. “However, everything was repaired under the warranty.”

Despite such wear, there were no reports of catastrophic injuries the result of the turf at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.

“I’ll say this: It is a neat thing to have,” Wilson said. “It really is a benefit to us. Not only on game day, but when it rains and other teams aren’t able to get out on the practice field, we are able to get on it and work.”

Myrtle Beach will make its debut on the new surface and a recently renovated Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium in an Aug. 31 matchup with West Florence.

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII