Girsh Park’s internationally sized soccer field is about to get a welcome makeover thanks to The Foundation for Girsh Park and its Fields Forever 2 Capital Campaign.

Construction of a permanent synthetic turf field has begun to replace the troublesome grass field and its ongoing maintenance problems, which result in the field being closed nearly five months every year.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the park’s main soccer field, 7050 Phelps Road, with elected officials, campaign volunteers and donors in attendance.

“This is likely the most used soccer field on the South Coast,” said Pat O’Malley, board member and campaign chairman.

Organizations that use the field include the Central Coast Soccer League; Santa Barbara Women’s Soccer League; American Youth Soccer Organization; Santa Barbara Soccer Club; Girsh Park After-School Soccer Program for Goleta-area elementary school boys and girls.

A study done for the city of Santa Barbara in 1999 concluded there is a shortage of 10 soccer fields for youth alone in the greater Santa Barbara area, which includes Goleta, Isla Vista, Ellwood, Hope Ranch and Montecito. The shortage creates over-use of the fields that are available, and the soccer fields at Girsh Park are no exception. These soccer, baseball and softball fields are heavily used, requiring reseeding and reconditioning on a consistent basis.

The park’s international size soccer field is used the most, and consequently suffers the most damage. This results in closing the soccer field for four to five months annually, at great expense. To resolve this problem, the Foundation for Girsh Park embarked two years ago on a $1.25 million capital project to convert the soccer field to a state-of-the-art synthetic turf field.

The advantages of the new synthetic turf include year-round field availability, less wear and tear on the other fields in the park, minimal maintenance and water usage, as well as the elimination of any herbicides or pesticides used to maintain the field.

The Fields Forever 2 Capital Campaign Committee was formed to complete the project. The committee includes park board members, soccer enthusiasts and community leaders.

“Our goal is to complete the project by fall/winter of 2008,” said campaign coordinator and Girsh Park fundraising chairwoman Kimberly Schizas. “And we will make that schedule.”

The $1.25 million project consists of a drainage base, the synthetic turf and installation. In addition, gated fencing, fundraising costs, endowment expansion and modest program expansion are included in the project budget. Funds have been solicited from foundations, corporations, individuals, businesses and governmental agencies to achieve that goal.

The campaign’s larger donors include the Girsh/Hochman family, the city of Goleta, Santa Barbara County, Williams-Corbett Foundation, Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Santa Barbara Foundation, Towbes Foundation, Hutton Foundation, Moser Foundation, Central Coast and United Soccer Clubs, Deckers Outdoor Corp., Granite Construction, Nancy and Thomas Crawford, Robin Cederlof and The Foundation for Girsh Park board of directors.

“We are still short from reaching our capital and maintenance goals,” Schizas said. “We are still seeking donations of all sizes to help us finish the capital campaign and provide a first-class soccer field for the community.”

Girsh Park has the distinction of being the only active park in the Goleta Valley. The 25-acre recreation facility is owned and operated by The Foundation for Girsh Park, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. The park includes three Little League fields, a large baseball field, a softball field, an international size soccer field, basketball courts, a community room, group picnic area, playground and family picnic areas.

Click here for more information on how to make a donation to the Fields Forever 2 Capital Campaign.

Jim Youngson is a principal of Terrain Consulting Inc.