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Construction has begun on a new international-size synthetic turf soccer field at Girsh Park. Weather permitting, the project should be done by January. (Jim Youngson / Terrain Consulting photo)

The earthmovers are out at Girsh Park as grading begins in preparation of what could be the South Coast’s first international-size synthetic turf soccer field.

“This is incredible,” said Goleta council member Roger Aceves, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning.

The synthetic soccer field is the result of two years of research and fundraising by the Foundation for Girsh Park. Though about $100,000 short of its $1.25 million mark, which includes the cost of the field and additional money to boost the foundation’s endowment, the park’s Board of Directors believed it was time to start construction.

“We’re still a little bit short of our goals, but we thought we were close enough that we thought it was important to start construction,” said fundraising co-chair Kim Schizas who, with Pat O’Malley,  spearheaded the Fields Forever 2 campaign. FieldTurf is the contractor chosen to supply the new field, whose dimensions are 112 yards by 72 yards.

The privately owned active recreation park has struggled for years to meet its $400,000 annual budget, more than half of which is spent on maintaining its grass fields. Added to the challenge is income that can’t be made during the three to five months the grass is being regrown.

A 12-acre park at its inception, which was part of the development agreement drawn up for the Camino Real Marketplace, the park has expanded to 25 acres, although the budget to support it hasn’t kept up.

Located at the park’s southeast corner, off Phelps and Storke roads, the international-sized field to be replaced is popular with soccer players from inside and outside Goleta, and even a couple of days of play is enough to shred the couple of inches of hydroseeded topsoil layered over clay hardpan.

With the one synthetic turf field, O’Malley said, the park could save on maintenance costs and be able to do more business as the fake grass doesn’t need to be regrown. It could pay for itself in 10 years, O’Malley projected, and today’s faux turf materials are more durable and are easier on players’ joints than they were 10 years ago. The lifespan of the field, given its intensity of use, will be 12 to 14 years.

Weather permitting, the project should be done by January, as the grading gives way to the installation of drainage components. Base material will be layered over the drainage, then the turf will be rolled out like a carpet on the field. Fencing will be installed around the field for protection, and there most likely will be a ban on food and drink in the area.

For Daniel Hochman, the foundation’s president and grandson of Lester and Viola Girsh, the benefactors for whom the park is named, the synthetic field is part of a tradition of giving to the community.

“I feel so proud to live in a community that supports a park such as this,” he said.

The campaign to get Girsh Park a synthetic field has received community-wide support, from local prominent families such as the Girsh/Hochman family to local charitable foundations such as the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Towbes Foundation. The city of Goleta and County of Santa Barbara County are behind the project, as well as local companies such as Granite Construction and Deckers Outdoor Corporation, in addition to generous residents.

But the struggle isn’t over yet, Schizas said.

“We are still short from reaching our capital and maintenance goals,” she 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.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at