4S fields to get artificial turf; process started to get Rancho Bernardo fields converted too
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
A $650,000 grant will make installing artificial turf on four multi-use fields at the county-owned 4S Ranch Sports Park possible by fall.
Meanwhile, user groups are being asked to see what grants they can obtain so artificial turf can go on two fields at the city-owned Rancho Bernardo Community Park.
The upgrades will mean fewer closures for maintenance and weather, officials said.
4S Ranch’s $2.15 million project is being financed through two sources — $1.5 million from the community’s two special parks assessment districts and the $650,000 grant — coming in the form of donated supplies and equipment — from Community Sports Development Council, Inc., said Jason Hemmens, chief of development for the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“Our department realized there is a growing need for field space in the area, which is at a premium for youth and adult sports leagues,” Hemmens said, adding water and maintenance costs are also rising. “Maintaining natural turf is a pricey business to be in, so we started looking at artificial turf conversion … which extends playability.”
By converting part of the 4S Ranch Sports Park and Sweetwater Lane Park in Spring Valley from natural to artificial turf, county officials estimate a combined annual savings of more than 23 million gallons of water and $140,000 in ongoing operations and maintenance.
After reviewing all the county’s sports fields, Hemmens said these two parks are the largest and most heavily used, therefore they were chosen for the first round of funding. Sweetwater received a $850,000 donation from the same nonprofit organization that is a national alliance of sports products, vendors, sponsors and funding partners, he said.
“They are dedicated to assisting government agencies develop sports fields by providing materials and equipment associated with artificial turf,” Hemmens said. “They match funding, will not pay the entire cost, but reduce it by 30 to 70 percent, which helps you complete the project.”
He said the county’s grant — a combined $1.5 million in artificial turf and equipment — is the first the group designated for California, though he heard subsequent projects in the state have recently been approved. County Parks and Recreation officials discovered the group while doing grant and Internet research.
Hemmens said all the 4S Ranch park’s north fields — four multi-use spaces used for soccer, football and baseball — will be renovated with artificial turf. The park’s remaining fields will be completed in the future if additional funding is obtained.
He said the 4S Ranch project will likely be completed in late summer or early fall. Its timeline is dependent upon completion of the Sweetwater project in order to save on costs.
For now, he said the 4S Ranch project is in the design stage. Officials are consulting with the community’s sports teams, with a plan to be likely finalized by this spring.
Meanwhile, Rancho Bernardo Recreation Council President Nick Anastasopoulos said the group held its first meeting last December with the youth soccer, Little League, girls softball and Pop Warner teams to see what funding each could obtain from their national organizations to convert two of the Rancho Bernardo Community Park’s eight fields.
He said the project is estimated to cost about $1.2 million. While the council could likely contribute several thousand dollars to the endeavor, the vast majority will have to come from those who use the fields.
“We’re not asking the groups to write a check, but contact their national organizations,” Anastasopoulos said. “Nationally, each organization has funds available through grants for field improvements.”
He said due to the number of participants in each group, the fields are overused. Though officials recommend fields “rest,” be reseeded and aerated over three weeks twice a year — which occurs at the 4S Ranch park according to Hemmens — Anastasopoulos said it only happens once a year in Rancho Bernardo.
Artificial turf will also mean fewer field closures due to rain, since when fields are wet players must stay off so soil is not compacted or made uneven.
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