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Girsh Park Grows Closer to Artificial Field

After raising almost $1 million toward its Fields Forever 2 campaign, installation of a synthetic turf field could begin this fall.

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With only about $400,000 to go toward its $1.25 million goal, Girsh Park is well on its way to getting its much-anticipated synthetic turf soccer field.

“We need playing fields,” said Pat O’Malley, a fund raiser, community contributer, AYSO member and soccer fan who has spearheaded the push for a synthetic soccer field since 2003.  While the initial financial outlay for the project is big, according to O’Malley, the rewards will be significant.

Girsh Park, located at 7050 Phelps Road south of Camino Real Marketplace, is the only active recreation park in Goleta. With its basketball courts, baseball diamonds and soccer fields, the park is a favorite venue for neighbors and visitors alike. For the private park, however, upkeep has always proved to be costly; maintenance costs alone for the 25-acre property prevent the park from being able to pay for itself, and for several years, the Foundation for Girsh Park has requested assistance from the city and from private donors to keep from going into the red.

“Have you look at the soccer field over there?” asked O’Malley, pointing to a well-worn lot on the southwest corner of the park. “It was seeded just three months ago.”

About half the field is bare dirt, worn down by the cleats of soccer players young and old in just a few weeks.

It’s this kind of treadmill that O’Malley wants to avoid: Players use the field, it gets worn down, the park has to spend to reseed and maintain the field. Meanwhile, no user fees are collected from that area because the field is temporarily closed. Games can be moved to other parts of Girsh Park, but those sections get worn down as well.

People weren’t really keen on the idea of an artificial field at first, said O’Malley. But synthetic turf is rising beyond its reputation for being a difficult playing surface, unpopular with players because it was traditionally less forgiving and harder on knee joints than grass.

“There are better technologies now,” O’Malley said. This particular field will have a little more give, and more durability, he said. The result? More games, and more players, more often. Maintenance costs will go down, and user fees will go up, which ultimately will help Girsh Park become more self-sufficient.

Not only that, said O’Malley, a former soccer coach active with a local Rotary Club on youth projects, more kids can play on a field that doesn’t need to be closed down frequently for repairs. And there’s even talk of a possibility for a soccer league for older adults.

After five years of fund raising and donations and pledges, the Foundation for Girsh Park is close to deciding which company will be responsible for the park’s first synthetic field.

“I know which one I want, but it’ll be up to the foundation to decide,” he said.

With the Fields Forever 2 campaign inching ever closer to its goal, O’Malley said that the park will be ready to break ground later this year, probably from September to November. Community members and donors like the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Hutton Foundation, the Mosher Foundation and the Towbes Foundation have been instrumental in filling this community need. The Girsh foundation received a sizable contribution from Andrew Bermant, executive vice president of Bermant Development Co. and a longtime soccer fan.

“I’ve refereed games that he’s played,” O’Malley said. “And his kids used to play in AYSO.”

With the goal of a synthetic turf field coming closer, O’Malley nevertheless continues his final push for funds to close the gap. After so many years carrying such a huge project, what’s he going to do when it’s over?

“When you don’t have the land available to create a field," he said, "the next best thing to do is make good use of the ones you’ve got.”

 

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