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$500,000 Multiyear Pledge a Big Boost for Girsh Park Field Project

The Girsh and Hochman families call their donation a challenge to others to help the Fields Forever 2 Campaign build a synthetic turf soccer field.

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Kimberly Schizas, fundraising chairwoman for the Foundation for Girsh Park, accepts a $500,000 multiyear pledge from Ruelene Hochman, daughter of Lester and Viola Girsh, and her son Daniel. The gift will make it possible for the foundation to begin construction soon of a year-round synthetic turf soccer field to replace the worn-out field shown in the background. (Foundation for Girsh Park photo)

A $500,000 multiyear gift from the Girsh and Hochman families has been received by the “Fields Forever 2 Campaign” of the Foundation for Girsh Park.

Fields Forever 2 is the capital campaign to raise funds to build a synthetic turf soccer field, improve fencing and signage, expand programs, and fund a field endowment at the Lester A. and Viola S. Girsh Park in Goleta.

“There is still a need for funds. The Hochmans are calling this donation a challenge to the community to join them in helping Girsh Park make the new field a reality,” stated Patrick O’Malley, longtime soccer advocate and campaign chairman. Supporters who donate a significant gift will have their names etched accordingly on a plaque or in the synthetic turf at the new soccer field.

The new field, scheduled to begin construction in September, will provide a year-round playing facility that addresses the chronic shortage of soccer fields experienced by participants in the community’s most popular sport. The 25-acre Girsh Park is located behind Camino Real Shopping Center (Costco) at 7050 Phelps Road in Goleta.

This major gift will be publicly acknowledged at the Girsh Park Labor Day fireworks and festivities on Sept. 1. The fireworks had to be canceled on the Fourth of July because of the Gap Fire.

Along with adding hours of playing time for an estimated 4,000 players per year, the new synthetic turf field will eliminate five to six months of ‘down time’ a year for re-seeding and repair, will significantly reduce energy, water, utility, mowing, and labor costs, will eliminate pesticide and fertilizer use, and increase player safety (with the elimination of holes, dirt spots, etc.).

Because of the shortage of fields in the area, the soccer field in Girsh Park is over-used. When the grass is worn down to the point of being dangerous, the field is shut down months at a time for reseeding and other maintenance. This occurs on an annual basis. Because of the shortage of fields, during this maintenance period, games are moved to other areas in the park which also become deteriorated and then need repair.

Coupled with the savings listed above, the Park will realize increased rental revenue for the non-profit park operation from year-round availability of the field for on-going leagues and high-end soccer tournaments. The increased revenues and decreased operational costs will result in a minimum net positive impact on the Foundation’s annual budget of an estimated $46,000 per year.

The goal of the capital campaign, which began two years ago, is $1.25 million. “We hope that the community will be challenged to contribute to this campaign so we can implement all the field and improvements needed,” O’Malley said.

Since the kick-off of the Fields Forever 2 campaign in April 2007, the city of Goleta, numerous foundations, local corporations, businesses, organizations and individuals have been generous with their support.

The beneficiaries of the new, synthetic turf soccer field are 4,000 boys and girls, men and women from ages 5 to 80 who play soccer at Girsh Park each year. Soccer is reported to be the most popular sport in the world; it is especially popular in our community’s large Latino population. Currently there are 2,000 AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) boys and girls ages 5 – 14, including a special program for physically and/or mentally challenged youth.

In addition, the field is used by 1,300 adult male soccer players and 350 adult women players, an Isla Visa Elementary after-school soccer enrichment program, the UCSB Men’s Varsity soccer team, many soccer clinics, employees from local businesses who use the fields to play soccer during their lunch period and after-work, and hundreds of people who get together for pick-up games on a daily basis.

The concept of installing a synthetic turf field was carefully researched. A sub-committee traveled to numerous fields on the West Coast and talked with many park and recreation officials who had already installed synthetic turf. After extensive research, they recommended the design that uses recycled polyethylene fibers tufted to a permeable mat backing. The fibers are about 2 ½ inches long. The mat rests on top of a leveled gravel base; the system is vertically draining. The expected life of today’s synthetic turf is 12-14 years or longer and has an 8-year warranty.

Girsh Park is the only active recreational park in the Goleta Valley—it is unique in providing a place for young and old to participate in active and passive recreational activities. It is estimated that there are over 300,000 unduplicated visits to the park annually with over 90% of users from Santa Barbara County. Although privately supported, it is made available to all members of the public. User fees are kept as low as possible to allow people at every economic level to enjoy the facilities. Girsh Park provides individuals, businesses, and organizations a place to play and hold picnics, fundraisers, festivals, dog shows and obedience training, and passive activities such as walking, jogging, and skating.

The Lester A. and Viola S. Girsh Park was completed in 1998 by the developer of Camino Real Marketplace. Shortly thereafter, ownership and operation of the park became the responsibility of The Foundation For Girsh Park, a 501 C(3)© non-profit organization. In 2002, the Foundation celebrated the successful completed of its first Fields Forever Campaign, which raised $5.6 million to purchase 13 acres of land adjacent to the original park. The Hochmans were also a big contributor to this Fields Forever Campaign that was successful in purchasing the adjacent 13 acres and the Dos Pueblos Little League Fields. This land, now named Elings Fields at Girsh Park, made Girsh Park a permanent 25-acre facility.

For information field naming opportunities and how to donate to the Fields Forever 2 capital campaign, call Executive Director Ryan Harrington at 805.968.2773 or visit www.girshpark.org. Donations may be mailed to 7050 Phelps Road, Goleta, CA 93117.

Rochelle Rose represents the Foundation for Girsh Park.

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