Field of dreams
Slow-growing grass delays Youth Sports Complex opening until 2013
By Brandon Bieltz
Although the complex was scheduled to open this fall, youngsters will have to wait until spring to dig their cleats into the new grass.
Because the grass is not fully matured and ready for competition, the opening of the Youth Sports Complex has been pushed back from September to Spring 2013.
"What's happened is we're not getting the grass growth we would like," said Francisco Jamison, youth administrator of Child, Youth and School Services. "It's not about the green; it's about the growth."
With a mild winter, CYSS officials were hoping to be ahead of schedule in opening the fields. But the hot, dry summer prevented significant growth of the grass.
"Everything that went well in the winter has gone the opposite here in the summer," Jamison said. "The heat has just killed the grass. We have the water on all the time, and even with that it's hard to keep the grass growing.
"We're almost there. We really thought we'd be ready, but the weather has been blistering."
As long as the complex remains under construction by a contractor, the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation doesn't technically own the fields. Once the contractor determines the field is completed and turns the land over to the installation, DFMWR must add finishing touches before the fields can be used.
"This field still needs trash cans, picnic tables, bleachers, signs," Jamison said. "We've already started the process of buying all that. They'll be in storage until we get the field."
The approximately $3 million project, which began in 2009, is a "complete renovation" of the complex, Jamison said. The site will feature 13 new sports fields, including five soccer fields, five baseball fields, two T-ball fields and a football field.
One soccer field and baseball field will be large, adult-size playing surfaces, while the remaining fields will be suited for youth sports.
Until the sports complex is ready for young athletes to take the field, CYSS Youth Sports teams will play on other fields located throughout the post to prepare and play out their seasons, including soccer fields on Huber Road, a football field near Meade High School for practices and the Meade High field for home games.
"We are extremely strung out," said Matthew Sagartz, director of Youth Sports.
While the multiple locations means parents and young athletes shuffling around the installation for games and practices, it also requires more work of Youth Sports staffers who have to prepare the fields such as painting lines, Sagartz said.
Jamison said that although CYSS understands the disappointment of parents and athletes, he believes taking the proper steps to ensure the field is ready is the best course.
"This is like a prize horse," he said. "We're not going to rush it. The smart thing to do is to do it right, take it slow. You can't mess up -- the grass won't grow back. It would cost us a million dollars or more to fix it. We're going to take it slow. ...
"Nobody wants this to be open more than the CYSS staff."
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