South Parks and Recreation District commissioners have decided to temporarily close the entire South Whidbey Sports Complex and restrict all usage for one field until spring due to damage sustained from inclement weather.
“The biggest problem is we’re going to have to let it dry,” Grounds Supervisor Tom Fallon said. “The winter is just about to start, so we’re not even close to getting out of the wet season.”
Field one, the field closest to the South Whidbey Sports Complex entrance off of Langley Road, is closed until at least March due to issues with the field’s drainage system, after icy conditions left the field heavily saturated. South Whidbey Reign soccer teams played weekend matches on the field in the snow, tearing up some of the turf and leaving divots. The other soccer fields in the complex are also waterlogged for the time being. Teams will be directed to practice on the Community Park baseball fields or South Whidbey School District fields.
Parks officials say they will monitor field conditions throughout the winter season to ensure the fields will be playable come spring.
“What caused this was a cycle of freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, sleet and then it snowed,” Fallon said. “A section in our policy says that with extreme amount of damage, we should not be playing on the fields.”
The field closure, which parks officials regularly described as an “extreme situation” during Tuesday’s monthly commissioner meeting, ruffled feathers with South Whidbey Reign coaches and parents. They say they were told by officials to move fields only two hours before practice. They added that the short notice created logistical and safety problems for the players, many of whom take public transportation to practice.
“The coach lost half of his practice by trying to communicate with parents and reorganize the kids,” Reign coach Terry Swanson said. “We will work with the parks district, we just expect to have fields open.”
Parks officials recognized the concern expressed by parents and coaches, but said the extent of the damage warranted a usage restriction.
“For as much as I appreciate the effort to maintain the fields, having people be able to use them outranks everything else,” Commissioner Mark Helpenstell said. “More usage right now could mean less playability in the future.”
Parks officials say if the district had turf fields, the situation could be different. Coutts said other parks districts in the area often direct traffic off of grass fields and onto turf fields during the winter and spring.
“Turf fields are just a luxury we don’t have,” Coutts said. “This is a challenge every winter, but this is the first time in my time we’ve had to completely shut down the whole sports complex.