The north complex sports fields at Acreage Community Park will be resodded over the next two-and-half months with an eye toward installing artificial turf in the future, the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors decided Wednesday, April 27.
The fields have been a source of concern for the district and the Acreage Athletic League (AAL) for some time, but problems recently have become acute, according to Parks, Facilities & Recreation Department Director Kenny Lawrence.
“Though it was not planned in the 2022 budget, the department recognizes the emergency at hand and feels that this is the best option to provide the community with immediate relief,” Lawrence wrote in a report to the supervisors.
He called the current condition of the fields “a potential hazard.”
The cost of resodding is not expected to exceed $110,000 and is within the department’s 2022 budget, according to Lawrence.
The sod installation will start May 16 after the end of the flag football season and continue through the summer with the goal of having the fields ready for play by Aug. 1. The entire north complex will be closed to the public during that time, aside from a few special exceptions for softball, ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson said.
However, the district and the AAL appear to see the sod installation as a stop-gap measure to allow time to study the various artificial turfs available. “What with the planning and permitting, choosing the type of turf that will work best for our needs and installation, there just wasn’t enough time [to do it this summer],” Hanson said.
A public workshop set for earlier in April to discuss issues at the fields and artificial turf installation was abruptly canceled, much to the consternation of ITID Vice President Betty Argue.
“The whole turf thing is a big issue… I’m not happy the workshop meeting was canceled,” she said, urging staff to reschedule it. “I understand that when there are contentious issues, it’s tough. But that’s what we’re elected for, to deal with these contentious issues.”
Daniel Duncan, the AAL’s director of marketing, said that the league is simply happy to see the fields fixed. While he said players and coaches always prefer to play on natural grass, league leadership understands that the economics are pushing many entities to go with artificial turf.
Still, all turfs are not equal, and it’s important to choose the right one, he said.
In the report from Lawrence, he noted that the cost of installing an artificial surface would be approximately $1.36 million but would be made up in its 20-year life span and low annual maintenance costs of about $80,000, as opposed to the annual cost of maintaining a grass field of approximately $161,000, and the need to completely resod every one to three years.
Some of the problems with the current fields are from natural causes. “One of the big things that started everything over at the park was the spread of weeds basically coming from the outside areas into the fields,” Lawrence told the supervisors in March.
Other factors could be wind, wildlife and people using the fields without authorization, or for purposes for which they are not intended, including an incident mentioned at the March meeting of an equestrian practicing barrel racing on the fields.
In other business related to the park, the supervisors approved the use of $3 million from Palm Beach County for the Phase 2 southern expansion of Acreage Community Park.
The total project is estimated to cost $2,995,549 and includes, but is not limited to, the construction of the new multi-purpose field with artificial turf, a splash pad, a skate park, an equestrian drop-off, sidewalks and additional parking with lighting, according to the proposal from staff.
The county money originally was tagged for the construction of a 45,000-square-foot community center behind the park’s amphitheater.
Plans for the center were scaled back to 20,000 square feet, but the current era of increased cost of materials and construction put even the smaller project out of reach, so the funds are being repurposed, Argue said.