The City of Leander unveiled nearly five acres of synthetic sports turf field at Robin Bledsoe Park earlier this month, paving the way for young athletes to enjoy soccer, lacrosse, flag football, field hockey and more.
Approved by voters in the 2016 bond election, the multipurpose athletic fields were developed to meet a growing demand for youth sports in Leander. The City Council approved a $1.6 million contract with the lowest bidder, FieldTurf in September 2017.
The athletic fields were dedicated to residents Gabriel and Jayne Serna by Leander City Council in April 2015 following the death of Gabriel Serna in 2014. The Serna couple founded Leander Youth Soccer League, a nonprofit amateur sports organization, in 2002 with just 65 participants and a handful of volunteer managers.
Today, the league hosts more than 400 participants with support from community donations, grants and concessions revenue.
“This is the end result of about 10 to 15 years of hopes and dreams and work,” Jayne said, following the park's ribbon cutting. “You can tell by how much the kids wanted to run over the politicians how much they’ve been looking forward to this.”
The fields are composed of synthetic grass material with spongy, rubber-like material for "dirt" and includes perimeter landscaping and fencing, replacing the park’s original natural grass and softball field areas. Built to serve a variety of uses, compatible sports for the new fields include youth and adult soccer, field hockey, flag football, lacrosse, Quidditch, rugby and ultimate frisbee, said Parks and Recreation Director Mark Tummons.
“The field is designed with several safety standard guidelines, so you’ve really almost reduced all or most concussion causes,” Tummons said. “We looked at it from a safety standpoint. The turf can reduce breaking legs, twisting an ankle or breaking an arm. We wanted our kids to be as safe as possible.”
Tummons said another upside is the low maintenance required for the field compared to the mowing and watering costs the natural grass fields required. Additionally, when it rains, the turf fields don’t have to be closed and games won't have to be put on rain delay.
Maintenance crews will use special turf equipment, referred to as a sweeper and a vacuum for field upkeep. The refilling process for the rubber-like “dirt” is referred to as “refluffing.” A typical lifespan for a turf field is between 10 to 12 years, Tummons said.
“Depending on use and time of year, we use the equipment to drag the field and fluff it so it’s continuously looking nice and new,” he said.
Ryan Worthington, a parent of two Youth League soccer players, said he was at first skeptical about the quality of the fields after his experience as an athlete at Leander High School’s “carpet on concrete” turf fields back then. He said he was impressed with the new field.
“This stuff is pretty cool. You can see the individual blades of grass and the rubber pellets. This one’s got a lot of give and it’s low impact,” He said. “I like it.”
Worthington’s 9-year-old daughter, Ailani, said she was excited to get out and play in the Youth Soccer League for the first time on the field.
“I play soccer at recess and I’m fine and I play with all the boys, so...,” she said. “I just get back up when I fall.”