Virginia red clay means headaches for gardeners and homeowners trying to plant grass.
For soccer players at Howison Homestead Park, the red clay translates into a much bigger problem.
Puddles of standing water that can’t drain through the compacted clay trigger game cancellations on sunny, blue-skied days.
Joe Re, president of Prince William Soccer Inc. said that by installing FieldTurf brand artificial grass, they could theoretically play 365 days a year.
“Play 365” is the name of a capital campaign PWSI has announced to bring FieldTurf to Howison Homestead Park, which is located just south of the intersection of Spriggs and Minnieville roads.
The club is looking for donations to supplement a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation to install artificial turf at three county fields.
Re said the total installation cost could reach $1.78 million and would triple the time each field could be played.
So far, it seems the soccer club will require steady fundraising efforts to raise the money because the Prince William County Park Authority doesn’t have the money.
“At this point we have not committed any funds to the project and funding isn’t available at this time,” said Park Authority spokeswoman Shannon Moran.
The Park Authority is however supportive of the PWSI initiative and is interested in installing artificial turf fields, Moran said.
In a growing area where undeveloped land for playing fields is increasingly hard to come by, Re said installing FieldTurf would maximize the fields at Howison.
Howison has the only lighted soccer fields in Prince William County.
During summer months, the Prince William Park Authority closes the fields so the grass can regenerate.
And the players don’t mind kicking around a soccer ball in the rain, Re said.
By the time $600,000 is spent on each field, players could dribble the ball in a spring downpour, pass it on a chilly December day or even do some shoveling in January to practice their goalie skills.
Two weeks ago, a weekday rain drenched fields one, two and three.
“It gets muddy, but not too bad,” said Jim Claffey, a founding member of PWSI. “It’s the puddles.”
By Saturday, the fields still hadn’t drained and soccer games for players ranging in age from five to 30 were cancelled.
Canceling games could strip a player’s interest in the game, said a few coaches.
Without weekly games, teenagers might find other things to do, Re said.
Sometimes 12-year-old girls drop from team rosters, said Kirby Thomas, vice president of operations for PWSI.
“I won’t say it’s because of the fields, but … it has an impact,” Thomas said.
Brianna Ratashak is a 12-year-old player who certainly isn’t losing interest in the game, but FieldTurf would make her happier.
The 12-year-old girls play on field one, which receives the water running off two other fields and sometimes is the only field closed.
“I’ve been telling [my father] that I want [FieldTurf] because our games get canceled and we can’t reschedule them,” Ratashak said.
One of the benefits of FieldTurf is that snow can be cleared from its surface for wintertime playing.
Ratashak said she’d be on the fields in most any weather.
Tomiwa Ogunsola, 19, said the turf would speed the pace of a soccer game.
“The ball rolls faster,” said the Dale City resident and player for F.C. Delco, an elite soccer club based in Pennsylvania. “[Artificial turf] definitely helps you later on in life in soccer. It helps your game.”
The synthetic grass can be found at the Giants Stadium in New York, at high schools and universities across the nation and at the 2005 National Football League All Star Game in Hawaii.
“These are excellent fields [at Howison], but I think the [FieldTurf] would be superior,” said referee Wayne Briggs.
For more information on the “Play 365” capital campaign, visit http://www.pwsi.org.