“I have felt more control kicking a rock down a gravel driveway than a soccer ball on Roy Anderson Field.”
That’s what one former Gig Harbor High soccer player told me about the playing surface at Roy Anderson Field. A bit extreme? No doubt. But the whispers about the less-than-stellar surface at Roy Anderson have been growing louder over the past couple years.
The issue, to casual fans, may be a bit hard to notice. But for the players, coaches, and soccer die-hards, it’s obvious. The turf at Roy Anderson Field was installed in 2003. The football lines — which are actually a separate, white turf — are no longer level with the green turf (the rest of the field).
According to Patrick Gillespie, Peninsula School District’s director of facilities, that’s because the white turf has suffered UV degradation at a faster rate than the green turf, thus causing the white football lines to actually be sunken from the rest of the field.
In short, this creates a problem for soccer, since the ball is played on the ground. Passes that should sail smoothly often bump up on the turf, disrupting the rhythm of the game.
“It’s horrible,” said Peninsula boys soccer coach Brad Scandrett. “But it is what it is. … I could keep complaining about it but it doesn’t do any good. But it is a bummer. It’s like playing on grass — not great grass — where you think it’ll bounce one way and then bloop, a little hop. It’s not a great surface at all.”
Luckily, there will be some relief on the way, as the district is likely moving forward with a new turf field for Roy Anderson Field in the summer. But for now? It’s rough.
For the Peninsula players, complaints about the surface have become a bit of an inside joke.
“Best field I’ve played on,” wrote current Peninsula soccer player Teyj Menon on Twitter. “Really tests your fundamentals.”
The thick layer of sarcasm has become par for the course for Seahawks players, who understand that there simply isn’t much they can do about it.
“It’s not really like real frustration because there’s nothing we can do about it,” said current Peninsula senior midfielder Mason Haubrich. “We just have to keep playing on it. We use it to get better. We try to make the most of it and just play how we play.”
That doesn’t mean Haubrich, or the team, loves it.
Compared to Sehmel (Homestead Park), Gig Harbor (High School) — we have all those other fields that are so much more preferable to play on, and then this one, every line that you kick the ball across, it bumps up. You just have to get accustomed to it.
Mason Haubrich, Peninsula senior midfielder
“Compared to Sehmel (Homestead Park), Gig Harbor (High School) — we have all those other fields that are so much more preferable to play on, and then this one, every line that you kick the ball across, it bumps up,” he said. “You just have to get accustomed to it.”
Since Gig Harbor High School’s upper field doesn’t have adequate seating to host playoff games, the Tides have been forced to use Roy Anderson for postseason games. But it wouldn’t be Gig Harbor boys soccer coach Todd Northstrom’s first choice.
“If that’s the option for playoffs this year, I’m not (playing there) again,” Northstrom said. “It just stinks there.”
While he might be looking through Columbia blue colored glasses, Northstrom thinks the surface at Roy Anderson might have cost Gig Harbor its state tournament game against Wenatchee. The Tides lost, 3-2.
“There were a couple through balls we had that hit one of those divots and bounced out of play,” Northstrom said. “There were a couple instances, we would just think, ‘What in the world?’ But it’s really kind of petty stuff to complain about sometimes.”
But for 2016 Peninsula graduate and Seahawks center back Bradley Keller, it’s not petty. Keller claims he tore his ACL last spring as a result of the poor field.
I tore my ACL on the turf due to the fact that I stepped in a divot on the field that caused my knee to pivot out of the socket and tear.
Bradley Keller, former Peninsula soccer player
“I tore my ACL on the turf due to the fact that I stepped in a divot on the field that caused my knee to pivot out of the socket and tear,” Keller said.
Scandrett, his coach, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Keller’s claim was correct, but it’s difficult to prove.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case,” Scandrett said.
But injuries can happen on any field, on any surface.
“It’s not so unsafe that I would say, ‘Sorry, we’re not playing on this field until it gets fixed,’” Scandrett said. “I don’t think it’s that unsafe. It’s just unfortunate. It could’ve been the case that he tore it because of the field. But it was a freak accident. Kids get hurt.”
Peninsula School District director of community outreach Kathy Weymiller said there is no trend of injuries on the field due to the surface.
I don’t know that we have concerns that would be different from a natural grass surface. We rely on coaches to report those to us. Safety is our top priority. We don’t have any data that’s telling us that we have anything with injuries that’s out of typical range.
Kathy Weymiller, Peninsula School District director of community outreach
“I don’t know that we have concerns that would be different from a natural grass surface,” Weymiller said. “We rely on coaches to report those to us. Safety is our top priority. We don’t have any data that’s telling us that we have anything with injuries that’s out of typical range.”
The good news is that relief is on the way this summer in the form of a new turf surface at Roy Anderson Field, pending Peninsula School Board approval. And this time around, the field degradation concerns appear to be a thing of the past. The district has settled on a company called Field Turf USA, Inc. after a bidding process.
“There have been advancements and improvements with the turf,” Gillespie said. “They believe those issues are gone.”
Gillespie and other PSD staff members toured local fields to examine the product of different companies that were bidding for the field.
“Part of the criteria is the companies had to have so many fields within a certain geographical area installed,” Gillespie said. “So it gives us a good representation of the local area. With our climate — the company that’s helping us made sure all the (bidding) companies had very good local representation.”
If approved, the new field is slated to be ready for football season in the fall.