Open Comments to the Boca Raton Beach and Park District Commissioners


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Earl Starkoff, 2385 NW Executive Center Drive, Boca Raton 33431.

Good evening.

The agenda this evening includes deliberations and setting priorities for the various capital improvement projects that were reviewed at the last meeting.

One project under consideration is the installation of 3 rectangular fields of artificial surface at Patch Reef Park, which the minutes reflect as an estimated cost of $3MM.

I recommend that this project should NOT receive any funding from the District because it is not warranted by the facts. Instead, I’d like to make a suggestion which will save all $3MM of the District’s money, allow the City to have a 2nd demonstration of artificial surface at a much lower cost, and preserve jobs for City workers.

FACT 1: During the planning phase for the refurbishment of Patch Reef, the user groups were surveyed by the District and 95 – 98% opposed artificial. This is an overwhelming number.

FACT 2: The tax-paying public that uses the rectangular fields has consistently chosen natural surface over artificial surface at public hearings and public request sessions.

FACT 3: the only support for artificial surface by adult residents has been by Vahan Varian on behalf of a couple of dozen men who say they like the surface and that their weekly game are more likely to be played on rainy nights.

FACT 4: for 5 years, only 2 youth sports groups – Boca Jets Lacrosse and Pop Warner Football – have supported the City’s recommendation for artificial, so that fewer games and practices are cancelled.

FACT 5: those two youth sports groups only field 150 – 200 resident players per season.

FACT 6: At least one representative from these groups has stated in public meetings that they prefer natural grass as a playing surface.

FACT 7: youth teams do not miss games if the fields are closed due to moisture. They are rescheduled.

FACT 8: rainy school night practices only attract partial attendance.

CONCLUSION FROM THESE FACTS: These adults and youth groups are not large enough to fiscally justify expending even $1,000,000 of public funds on one field for the sake of playing or practicing on an occasional rainy evening.

What is being presented for your consideration is, therefore, a political rationale to spend the funds so that the City will grant permission to the District to spend $7 million to answer the real public need for 4 more rectangular fields at the DeHoernle Complex, and provide access and facilities for the Mizner Dog Bark.

This proposed rationale is a severely flawed justification to spend even $1 million of District monies on even a single field at Patch Reef Park.

FACT 1: It has always been the City’s priority – not the District’s – to install artificial surfaces.

FACT 2: The City’s demonstration of artificial at Sand Pine Park uses a crumb rubber infill that has been rejected for use by thousands of taxpaying participants.

FACT 3: the City and its allied artificial surface companies are now promoting a “new, improved” product that uses “natural” infill.

FACT 4: almost – if not all – of the below ground construction is in place at Sand Pine Park, so the Park surface could be retrofitted with the “new, improved” product with 100’s of thousands of dollars of savings of the public’s money.

FACT 5: a retrofitted Sand Pine Park would accommodate almost – if not all – of the practices for Boca Jets Lacrosse and Pop Warner Football.

And perhaps the biggest FACT – the elephant in the room – is that City workers will lose jobs as artificial surfaces replace natural grass. The various financial break-even analyses have calculated anywhere from a 7 – 10+ year break-even point. That’s because assumptions are made as to the useful life of the artificial surface before it needs to be replaced. Offsetting the capital costs of the surface is the known FACT of the savings in reduced labor of annual field maintenance; i.e., City workers lose their jobs.

This was an election issue and a key factor in City Firefight financial support for Erin & Craig. The narrative was that the District had looked at privatization of maintenance when, in FACT, the City proposed that to the District.

Now, if the District funds even one field if demanded by the City to go forward with Phase II at DeHoernle, it will be the District that takes on the financial burden and it will be you – the District Commissioners – that accept the responsibility for loss of City jobs.

CONCLUSION FROM THESE FACTS: the City should resolve the issue of the earlier installation of crumb rubber infill and demonstrate the “new, improved” product with its own moneys. That will be a less expensive demonstration for a new proof of concept of artificial; the District will save its capital resources, so it could use those funds to benefit the much wider general population of residents; and the District stays out of affecting job security on an unpopular and unproven alternative.

The question of artificial surfaces has been studied and debated for 5 years. While opinions may vary, the extreme lack of public support dictates doing the least expensive second “Proof of Concept” project at Sugar Sand Park. If the City Manager and his staff feel so strongly about artificial athletic surfaces, it’s time for the City Manager to convince his elected officials to spend their money, not the District’s.

Above all, this is certainly not an issue that requires further study that would further delay proceeding with the District spending $7 million on Phase II at DeHoernle and Mizner Bark.

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  1. Congrats Mr Starkoff. Natural grass fields are far superior to artificial fields of ANY kind,

    especially for young players. Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent analysis.

  2. 99% of the facts in the Open Comments above were debunked and determined to be “Alternative Facts”. The new Commission met with an open mind reached out to experts to obtain real facts and voted 5 – 0 to put in new synthetic turf fields at Patch Reef Park. I believe a new era of cooperation between the Beach and Park District and the City of Boca Raton is at hand.


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