Wet ground delaying club's new soccer fields

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

December 21, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

FIGURE ON some kind of soccer being played this coming spring at the new Covenant Park, but just not as much as the new facility's owners were hoping and planning for - initially, anyway.

The Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County reluctantly decided last week to put off sodding most of the eight fields it has under construction there, as well as three at Howard Community College, until winter weather begins to break, we hope, in early March.

Reason? No guesswork needed here. The ground is just too saturated for heavy equipment to be used, as has been the case for too many days and even weeks since work began in late May on the complex off Centennial Lane, opposite Centennial Park.

FOR THE RECORD - Along the sidelines
Soccer: We misspelled Rob Bindel's surname in a recent column. Apologies to the Polly Carlan Award winner for the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County.

The club had been hoping to get sod on all fields by the onset of winter to improve the turf for play. Now, with that achieved on only three fields, early play will have to wait for the new surface to take hold.

"We're past the point of being frustrated," said SAC/HC President David Procida, "but it's just out of our control - the wettest year in the history of Maryland."

All of this wet weather, remember, began about this time a year ago, included record-setting snowfall for Maryland, and has cost construction crews weeks in delays.

What Procida said he is hoping for now is an extended hard freeze - sans snow cover - that would permit work to be done this winter on installing two synthetic grass fields at Covenant Park, a first for youth sports in Central Maryland. If that happens, the club could start play from the earliest moment possible in the spring.

The club's contractors also will alter their focus this winter, Procida said, to add more infrastructure for the field complex, for which the club began saving money a decade ago.

"We want to see some life - some soccer being played - there in March," said Procida.

In case you're curious about the quality of the plastic stuff to be installed, Procida noted that the bladed synthetic turf being installed will have exactly the same specifications as that being used by the National Football League's Buffalo Bills in their stadium, among many other big-time sports facilities.

The bladed grass is kept erect by millions of minute rubber pellets. A similar product is being used indoors at SoccerDome in Jessup.

The club recently presented its annual awards. The winners:

Rita Boule, girls travel coach of the year; her under-15 classic team won Division 5 in its first season in the Washington Area Girls Soccer League.

Willie Ibarra, boys travel coach of the year, with an under-17 boys team. He is also girls varsity coach at Centennial High.

Wilma Moran and Jill Fritsch, boys and girls rec-level coaches of the year, respectively.

The Polly Carlan Award for service to the club went to Rob Dindel, who supervises a lot of behind-the-scenes work, ranging from lining fields to maintaining equipment to managing the coach-licensing program.

Unsung hero citations went to Walt Malecki, who coaches two travel teams and is boys coordinator with the National Capital Soccer League; Karen Dye, a travel team manager and second-in-command of managing the annual Memorial Day Columbia Invitational Tournament; and Walter Davidson, who also has much to do behind the scenes with fields.

And finally, if you've ever considered refereeing soccer as an avocation, despite all the bad stuff you might have heard about that activity, you might want to check things out in new classes that are forming for early next month.

Jim Carlan, SAC/HC's operations director and former president, told coaches in a recent memo that "over the last several years, the number of qualified adults officiating soccer games in Howard County has dropped by almost 75 percent.

"As a result, there is a critical need for adult referees," he said. "If the trend continues, within the next year or two, there will not be enough experienced referees to officiate our upper level recreational and travel league games."

Check the club's Web site, www.sac-hc.org or call 410-772-9373 to find out more. Note that refereeing pays.

Have a nice holiday. To provide tips about interesting people or activities in any amateur sport in Howard county, call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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