Under pressure from legislators, FieldTurf says it didn’t scam NJ schools and towns
Amid growing concerns about the reliability and durability of artificial athletic fields made by FieldTurf, which cost between $300,000 and $500,000, the New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee held a special hearing Monday to try and get answers directly from the Chief Executive Officer of the Company.
During testimony before the panel, CEO Eric Daliere said the vast majority of fields installed at New Jersey high schools have held up well, with no problems reported.
“Customers tend to buy multiple fields from us, not in the same year but over years. ... Municipalities, school districts and the like talk to each other, so if they’re not happy with us, we don’t get to stay in business,” he said.
Daliere rebuffed allegations made in a NJ.om report, "The 100-yard deception," that FieldTurf fields were falling apart years before their warranties expired, and that company officials kept quite about it. He called the allegations “inaccurate and misleading.”
Since the article was published last month, class action lawsuits against FieldTurf have been filed in New Jersey by the Newark school system, the borough of Carteret and the New Jersey Stallions Club in Clifton.
During the hearing, Daliere also disputed an allegation that some of the fields, as they have gotten older, are unsafe.
When he was asked why the company had not informed all customers that there were concerns about a turf product called Duraspine, originally touted as a top-of-the-line breakthrough product that would last longer than a decade, but was then discontinued after it was found to be defective, Daliere said there were no cover-ups about the defects. He said Duraspine was predominately a concern in parts of the United States with high UV environments, like California and Arizona.
When pressed on the issue of disclosure, Daliere said “I think we’ve been responsive to customers when they’ve asked us questions as it relates to the performance of Duraspine.”
"What our technical analysis showed us was the problems with Duraspine were predominately in high UV areas, and so disclosing to all customers who were not impacted, hmmm, was not something we felt was necessary," he said.
When Daliere was again asked why his company had not reached out to schools and municipalities to let them know about Duraspine durability concerns, he replied: “We haven’t been perfect and we certainly have had customers that have slipped through the cracks, but there are a large number of FieldTurf customers who are pleased with the way we’ve handled this issue.”
He stressed 89 percent of Duraspine fields that are at least 10 years old are still being used.
At one point during the hearing, state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), the committee's chairwoman, reviewed a long list of complaints about artificial turf fields installed by FieldTurf in several states. She accused the company of improperly marketing its fields and having different answers for different customers complaining about different issues, and providing poor, or even non-existent customer service in many instances.
Daliere sat quietly for several minutes and then finally said: “I quite clearly believe that I respectfully disagree with your description of how the company has behaved, and I think the truth will come out in litigation.”
When Daliere was asked about all of the towns and school district that have not filed suits against his company but have complained about fields falling apart, he said: “We try to respond in New Jersey to customers within 24 hours of reaching out to us on any issue, and get back to them.”
He added when significant issues have come up, “our goal is to work with customers to make them happy."
"We are very aggressive in trying to look after the customers in New Jersey and we have not had many significant claims or complaints," he said.
He also said in instances where customers have been unhappy with their athletic fields, “we’ve worked very hard to try and get to an answer that’s fair for them.”
Pou said she intends to formally call on State Attorney General Chris Porrino to launch an investigation of FieldTurf.