Denison soccer field upgrade means artificial turf by August

It’s been a long time since a meeting of the Cleveland Heights Parks & Recreation Advisory Board drew a crowd. But on Jan. 11, about 75 youth soccer players and their parents filled a room at the Cleveland Heights Community Center to show excitement about the artificial turf being installed on the Denison Park soccer field. The turf, they were told, is a premium product utilizing long blades of artificial grass supported by a deep bed of rubberized pellets. It’s being installed by Sports Construction Group, an industry leader that has done enough projects in the region to maintain an office here, said Susanna Niermann O'Neil, director of community services for the city.

The field will be permanently marked for soccer, with prompts to make temporary lines for other sports easy to apply. New soccer goals, benches on the far side of the field, and grooming equipment are part of the $655,000 project.  The sound system – which has operated poorly for years – will also be upgraded. Work is scheduled for completion by July 29.

The renovation will be financed, with loan payments made from Issue 27 funds. Issue 27 is a charter levy approved by Cleveland Heights voters in 2004 that raises approximately $500,000 a year specifically for the upkeep of recreational facilities here.

Niermann O'Neil said the project would have started earlier, but the size of the area affected first required a storm water management plan, which was competed last year.

Members of the audience had been asked to attend by leaders of their youth soccer programs to show support ­– and to begin lobbying for priority access to the field.

Currently, Denison field is used by the Heights High girls and boys soccer teams, as well as the girls lacrosse and field hockey teams. Maintaining safe playing conditions has been a problem during the wet fall and spring seasons when the field gets its heaviest use. Youth soccer leagues use fields at Forest Hill Park, Monticello Middle School and Canterbury Elementary School.

The new turf will increase safety and allow more frequent use by more teams, said Robbie Helfgott, coach of the Heights High girls varsity soccer team and director of coaching for two local youth organizations: the city’s Recreation Department soccer program and the East Side Kickers travel league. Those two programs, which work closely together, involve approximately 750 children.

After the upgrade is complete, the city will begin planning on other improvements to Denison park. Elements of that proposal include filling in the pool, renovating the pool for use as a locker and team facility, building a larger picnic shelter and providing electricity to the existing shelter.

Bob Rosenbaum is a Cleveland Heights resident who has watched his children play in many games at Denison and other area fields.

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Volume 4, Issue 2, Posted 11:20 AM, 01.12.2011