Competitive Program Families –
March has been historically nicknamed “turf-mageddon” by our administrative staff because of the havoc that it creates around team training. I hope to clear up some of the reasons why we lose turf space during March, what we’ve done to mitigate that loss, and how we can solve it in the future.
First, why do we lose space? During the winter months, we rely heavily on Salem-Keizer School District to rent artificial turf space for team trainings. The school district asks us to fill out rental applications during set quarters that line up with their sports calendars. There is an order of preference given to groups renting fields as set in SKSD policy. First priority always goes to in-season school activities.
This isn’t much of an issue for late fall and winter months, because school-sanctioned sports do not use artificial turf fields. However, March is when spring sports start. We get moved down the pecking order and replaced by sports such as baseball, softball, track, lacrosse, etc.
You may drive by empty sports fields and wonder, “Why don’t we get to use those fields?” Unfortunately, the athletic directors at each of the schools give their availability to the school district and often block out times for their baseball/softball teams just in case it rains and they need to move there. These are then unavailable to us when we go to apply for the time.
We have had many meetings with the school district over the last several years and have found a few creative solutions in the past that allowed us more access than normal. However, in one such meeting, one of the school administrators flat out told us, “These fields are not for you to use.”
North Salem this year decided their fields would not be available for any outside use to any group for the entire year. We have received similar sentiments from many other sources. Believe me when I say that we have looked at every angle in order to get access to these fields. Countless hours, meetings, and letters to multiple people within the school district and in the city have all fell on deaf ears.
This is why we are left in our current situation during March.
What have we done to address this issue during March? First of all, we have been trying to secure space as far in advance at locations such as Salem Academy, Salem Indoor, Willamette University, and anywhere else that we can. Believe it or not, we have done better this year with these than in past years.
Second, we have spoken with coaches and managers and asked them to help search for space individually. In our experience, individual teams have more success getting into the cracks and crevices of available hours than when we try to ask for a bulk of time as a club. This is by no means ideal but is really the best that we can do.
Finally, we are constantly working to open the CFC Training Complex earlier in the year. Unfortunately, no matter how much work we do, we will always be somewhat weather-dependent.
How do we solve this yearly issue? We feel that as long as we are reliant on the school district for field space, there will always be some level of uncertainty. We have advocated with the school and the city to build more turf soccer fields in Salem (which you should do too!), but ultimately we feel that the best solution of this is to build our own turf soccer field.
We have been planning and raising funds to build a field for the past couple years, and we believe we are getting closer to getting that done. Each field costs roughly $1 million, so this is no small task. I have given much of my time to solving this problem, and it might be a little too early to say, but we are hoping to have some big news regarding our project and its timeline in the next month or two.
I hope this helps shed some light on why turf space seems to be so hard to come by during this period of the year, but in just a few weeks we’ll be back home!