Programs helped by synthetic turf field


Facility at Rockburn Park will make it easier for county to start new winter leagues


There should be some new games in Howard County this winter, thanks mostly to a new field at Rockburn Park.

Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks recently installed a synthetic outdoor field at Rockburn Park, enabling games to be played over the winter and teams to start spring practices earlier. It is a big reason why parks officials are trying to start new flag football and outdoor soccer programs this winter.

Community sports supervisor Mike Milani said the new field is similar to what the Baltimore Ravens use at M&T Bank Stadium. It's called Field Turf, and was installed in August. The field is basically the size of a soccer field, about 120 yards long, which fits a football field in it, and different sports can be played there.

Milani said outdoor grass fields are usually shut down from Nov. 15 through April 15 because playing on them during the winter causes a lot of damage.

But using the turf field will enable the county to offer soccer and flag football programs.

Registration has begun for two leagues. Milani said they would like to have a men's and/or a co-ed league, starting the second week of next month. The exact plans for the leagues depend on how much interest is shown.

"We've had a lot of people ask us in the past about it," Milani said. "We just weren't able to accommodate them because of the fields."

Both leagues likely would have a six-game schedule, starting about Jan. 12.

Flag football is another sport that recreation officials are hoping to start during the winter. The program will be for older kids -- 12-14 and 15-17 -- with games on Saturdays, starting Jan. 14. Registration is also under way for this program.

Milani said they would like to have 10 players per team and compete in a 5-on-5 format. This would be more like the run-and-shoot style of football that has become popular in recent years with lots of passing and scoring.

However, if there isn't enough interest in the flag football or soccer programs, either or both would not take place. Milani said officials will watch how many register throughout this month and see what happens.

The new field also will have an affect on some spring programs, most likely lacrosse. Milani said that, in years past, spring teams would start practice April 15 because that is when the county would re-open the grass fields.

But that is going to change with the new field. Milani said lacrosse teams could begin preseason practices in mid-February.

Milani also said that two more fields just like the one at Rockburn Park will be installed at Western Regional Park, set to open next year. That park is going to have nine fields, including the two Field Turf fields.

Some of the fields at Western should be available for play in the spring. There is no firm date when all of the fields will be open.

County lacrosse

Milani also confirmed this week that the Department of Recreation and Parks will be taking over the operations side of the Howard County lacrosse program this spring.

The Department of Recreation and Parks is going to work on handling most of the administrative details, such as scheduling, getting fields and finding officials. Milani said it should make things easier for everyone in the league -- especially those who volunteer and coach.

"It was a group of volunteers that did it before, and it's just so that we can provide some extra help," Milani said. "We can help with the management end of it. What we will do is give them the time to concentrate on the coaching and kid aspect of it; that's the most important thing."

Milani will be helping with a lot of that this spring, and everything would be reviewed after the season.

Practice would officially be scheduled to start in March but could start earlier because of the availability of the turf field at Rockburn Park.

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