Covenant Park to have three synthetic fields

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

February 29, 2004|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

AND NOW, there'll be three synthetic turf fields at Covenant Park, the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County's building complex off Centennial Lane.

The 6,500-player club, which made surprising news last year by announcing that two of eight fields it is building roughly opposite Centennial Park would be synthetic, recently decided to make a third plastic - and we mean that in the kindest way - as well.

"The bottom line is that we get the greatest value for our kids by using synthetic turf," said club President David Procida. "The yield is just so much more in terms of playing that can be done on those fields."

The artificial surface will have recycled plastic blades with tiny rubber pellets as a base, all installed over a gravel base that facilitates quick drainage of rain water. This kind of synthetic turf - far more player-friendly than the older, skin-ripping, smooth "carpet" type of material - is a hot product nationally.

It is considered durable, is virtually maintenance free, and it provides ball bounces and movement similar to that experienced on real grass.

Three of Covenant Park's four lighted fields will have synthetic turf, Procida said. All will be in the central portion of the complex. All are full-size fields, meaning they range from 65 to 70 yards wide by 110 to 120 yards long. The park's first phase includes eight fields, with a couple of smaller dimensions for young players. Two more fields can be added later under an agreement with neighbors, assuming that traffic concerns are met.

"With the lights and by where those fields are on the site means we can play on them as long as we need to," Procida said.

Club officials got an unexpected surprise several weeks ago, when their intended turf contractor, the industry's oldest company, filed for bankruptcy.

Fortunately, Procida said, SAC/HC had not needed to give money to the vendor. Regrouping quickly, the club will go now with Sportexe, another experienced turf maker with offices in Georgia and Florida. Sportexe surfaces are on many large stadiums and other sports facilities, the closest to Howard County being Baltimore's Ravens Stadium.

Procida said that despite recent notice that the new complex would not open until fall, given decent weather, he expects games will be played by midspring on the synthetic surfaces and, possibly, two sodded fields.

"We definitely will be using Covenant Park for Memorial Day," he said, referring to the club's annual Columbia Invitational Tournament over the Memorial Day weekend.

Plans for a Covenant Park clubhouse, with offices and space for equipment and maintenance gear, have been submitted to county agencies for permits, and Procida is hoping to have the facility open by the end of summer.

Along the sidelines

WOMEN'S LACROSSE: The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks is trying to organize a women's league in lacrosse, hoping in the process to find at least 80 females 18 or older who would like to play.

"There've got to be a substantial number of women out there who could play," said Kelly Keefer, the rec department sports program assistant doing the work. "This type of league has proven popular in Baltimore and in the Annapolis area, but we've never had one in Howard County."

Keefer, who learned the game at Wilde Lake High and played club ball while at Penn State, said she would like to have a minimum of four teams, with about 20 players each, to get started. Teams would play Monday nights.

One of the first to call after seeing a note in the department's winter course guide was Nancy Stefan, a social studies teacher at Dunloggin Middle School in Ellicott City. She is a runner who did her first marathon last year, and she plays soccer in the county's women's league, as well.

Stefan learned lacrosse growing up north of Philadelphia but hasn't played since college. At 37, she is a bit concerned about the skills of younger lacrosse players. "But it's a lot of fun to play," she said. You can register as an individual or as a team with Keefer at 410-313-4700.

TENNIS: Last week's article here about the Columbia Association's tennis program erred in the number of indoor courts in the new town. It's nine: five at the Owen Brown tennis bubble, four at the Athletic Club in Harper's Choice village.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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