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Grassroots effort creates new fields
More than 35 years after competing at Battle Point Park with the Bainbridge Blues, Max Marinoni can still remember the scratches he’d get from the rough, muddy fields.
“We used to get what we called strawberries when we played on those hard surfaces,” Marinoni said. “Not enough to bring blood, but after a day or so it’d turn like a strawberry.”
On Oct. 25, Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District and the Bainbridge Island Youth Soccer Club hosted a grand opening celebration of Battle Point’s new FieldTurf soccer fields.
Field work began in February of this year, with estimated completion in June, but rock aggregate problems pushed completion to October.
“They were built in the early 1970s out of sand and rubbermix and then had never been improved,” said Terry Lande, executive director of the park district. “They basically became mud or dirt, sand, and maybe a little rubber.”
The five-year project, spearheaded by BIYSC, cost $1.5 million. The fields will be used primarily for soccer and lacrosse, and are available for public recreation.
BIYSC, which had more than 1,100 members in 2005, couldn’t field its teams as local grass fields shut down due to rain and overuse.
“What would happen this time of year every year is it started raining, and we had to play on them and it would turn into a mucky mess then they were damaged,” said former BIYSC president Laura Sachs.
Sachs, Marinoni’s daughter, also competed at Battle Point when she played on the high school soccer team.
BIYSC, working in conjunction with park district, conceived the idea to replace the dilapidated grass fields with new FieldTurf, the same surface used by the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders FC.
“We figured we could get six times the use out of the two fields than we could from grass fields,” Sachs said. “I made more sense to put more kids on the same two fields.”
The project received significant legal opposition from groups that questioned the safety of materials used in FieldTurf.
“We had five attorneys working for us for free – some of the best attorneys in the state,” Sachs said. “They really gave their time.”
Once they overcame their legal obstacles, BIYSC was also responsible for fundraising.
The City of Bainbridge contributed $300,000, and Washington State Recreation and Conservation Service gave the project a $230,000 grant. The park district contributed $250,000 and the Bainbridge Island Rotary donated $50,000.
BIYSC privately raised $450,000 through grassroots fundraising.
The most successful fundraising campaign was selling Cougar Mountain cookie dough, Sachs said.
Over four years, BIYSC soccer players raised more than $70,000 selling tubs of cookie dough.
BIYSC also took a low-interest $250,000 loan from Washington Youth Soccer to be repaid over 10 years, Sachs said.
“The debt is there, we’ll figure out a way to pay it with the
community,” said Rick Golden, BIYSC’s vice president of community relations and fundraising.
While BIYSC will continue grassroots fundraising, including cookie dough, it will also use corporate sponsorships along the perimeter of the fields during certain events, Golden said.
“They’ll be signage we can remove during very specific times,” Golden said. “That’s going to be our primary vehicle in terms of retiring the debt and getting started funding the new fields when it’s necessary.”
While the BIYSC gets priority scheduling on the fields during soccer season (August through November), the fields are open to the public year-round, Lande said.
“It was a soccer field when it started out and it primarily remains a soccer field, but the artificial gives us a huge array of things you can do on it besides that,” Lande said.
At opening kickoff, more than 300 players and community members participated in the day’s events, Lande said.
“What’s exciting about this project is that everybody got involved... it was a problem,” Sachs said. “We can show on Bainbridge Island that people can come around a problem and solve it.”
Marinoni, who competes in the Greater Seattle Soccer League, recently watched his two grandchildren play on the new fields.
“It’s great for them because for young bodies, you don’t feel the impact of jumping and falling,” he said of the new fields. “It’s a lot truer than the other surfaces because the ball bounces right and when you fall, you don’t pay for it.”