Puyallup Herald

Puyallup banking on artificial turf to ease sports field shortage

Players and families arrive for the opening night of summer league softball games at Puyallup Recreation Center on Valley Avenue on Thursday, July 19.
Players and families arrive for the opening night of summer league softball games at Puyallup Recreation Center on Valley Avenue on Thursday, July 19. toverman@theolympian.com

When it comes to sports in Puyallup, the competition is fierce, but not in the way you might think.

Whether it’s baseball, soccer or lacrosse, it can feel like a battle for teams to find a local field to practice, according to Puyallup Vikings Lacrosse treasurer Holly Sutton.

Every year, local teams gather to divvy up fields in the Puyallup School District. The district gets first priority, then city teams, then everyone else.

“It’s almost like a shouting match at these meetings, trying to get fields,” Sutton said. “As we grow, and baseball grows and football grows, the fields have just become tougher and tougher (to rent) ... Everyone’s always fighting for fields all the time.”

Many local sports teams are supporting a city project to install artificial turf and create multipurpose fields at the Puyallup Valley Sports Complex — also known as the Puyallup Recreation Center. The project is expected to open up availability to teams year-round.

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Players and families arrive for the opening night of summer league softball games at Puyallup Recreation Center on Valley Avenue on Thursday, July 19. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

“Being able to look out here and say we’re going to have multipurpose fields, I would say that’s a dream come true, just because it’s going to benefit the whole Puyallup community,” city recreation manager Deon Moyd said. “We’re going to be able to offer more, not just to the city of Puyallup, but other local groups and also be able to offer some tournaments for lacrosse, baseball, softball (and) soccer.”

Field conditions

There currently are three fields at the Puyallup Valley Sports Complex, located at 808 Valley Ave. NW. Field 1, named Lacey, and Field 3, named Morgan, are both used for softball and baseball. Field 2, Kiwanis, is about the size of Cheney Stadium, stretching out 325 feet. It’s one of two high-school sized baseball fields within city limits. The other is at Cascade Christian schools.

In the spring and summer seasons, the fields are typically okay to use. But between October and February, the city shuts them down due to inclement weather, leaving many teams with even fewer options for places to practice.

“In the winter, during the rainy season, (the fields) are underwater. You can’t use them,” said Moyd, who’s worked with the parks department since 1992. “Football, soccer, they play no matter what. Could they still play on the field? They could, but it would just tear up the grass so there wouldn’t be any left.”

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Torn and uneven outfield grass at Puyallup Recreation Center on Valley Avenue on Thursday, July 19. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

Sutton says her team takes what it can when it comes to fields. Sometimes, that means practicing on elementary school fields.

“Grass fields are tough anyway because they’re never flat and they never get mowed, but during the winter time it’s horrible,” Sutton said. “It’s tough for these kids to practice on dirt and grass and then play on a (turf) field.”

The only other available fields in Puyallup are Puyallup School District property, including Sparks Stadium, which can cost upwards of $200 per hour to rent. At the complex, kids teams from Puyallup pay $24 per hour, non-residents paying $29; for adult teams from Puyallup, $32 per hour, $38 per hour for non-residents.

“We’re constantly conflicting with other clubs,” Sutton said. “We kind of just take what we can get, and we’re hoping that eventually we can share some time on the (Puyallup) Rec field.”

The project

Phase 1 of the city’s Puyallup Valley Sports Complex Field Conversion Project consists of replacing the infield and outfield of Field 2 and the infield of Field 3, converting them into multipurpose fields. The city has already allocated $2 million to the first phase.

Phase 2 would complete the outfield of Field 3. The city has applied for grants to fund Phase 2.

The time line and funding for the conversion of the complex’s final field — Field 1 — is still up in the air.

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Phase 1 of the Puyallup Valley Sports Complex Conversion Project is budgeted for $2 million and includes installation of artificial turf on Kiwanis Field (FIeld 2) and part of Morgan Field (Field 3). City of Puyallup Courtesy

The project also consists of updating the complex’s lighting and drainage system. The project would help with field availability. Not only would the multipurpose fields accommodate a wider variety of sports — soccer and lacrosse, for instance — but they would be available year-round. They’d also be available late into the evening.

“We have a luxury because our fields are going to be lit, and a lot of these other fields aren’t lit, so they are limited in the fall and the winter because it gets so dark quickly,” Moyn said. “Right now we have lights on until 11 o’clock, typically every night a week.”

The city is moving forward with Phase 1. Construction is expected to begin in early September, about a month before the fields would normally close for the fall and winter. They’re expected to open back up at the end of March 2019.

Not everyone is excited about the prospect of turf fields. Members of the Captain Jack Hodors, a coed team for the adult softball league, say they’d rather stick with grass fields.

“Turf is hard. It rips up your skin when you dive and slide,” team member Frankie Van Gelder said.

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Paul Ankenman (left) of Federal Way talks with Captain Jack’s Hodors teammate Frankie Van Gelder of Puyallup as Gabrielle Ankenman and her daughter, Gwendolyn, 3, warm up before their opening night summer league softball game at Puyallup Recreation Center on Valley Avenue on Thursday, July 19. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

On a larger scale, the project makes the complex more marketable for tournaments, said Parks and Recreation director Sarah Harris. Tournaments foster positive economic impact for the city — more people from out of town coming into Puyallup, using hotels and eating of local restaurants.

“It’s going to be win-win all around for us,” Harris said. “It’s really getting the maximum value out of a complex that the city already owns.”

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison
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