EAST LIVERPOOL - A long-time softball coach reiterated her concerns to the Thompson Park board last week about the grass surface being installed on a new softball field at the park.
Laura Smith, who, along with her husband Mike, has coached for 25 years and also has a player on the high school girls' softball team. She had addressed the board at its last meeting about her concerns, and last week again spoke to board members and Dave Dawson, who is overseeing the project.
Smith said girls don't play on grass, but Dawson said major league teams do, as does Crestview High School, although Smith said after the meeting Crestview does not play on grass.
Dawson presented an email from the Ohio High School Athletic Association documenting that a grass field is acceptable, saying a question was submitted to the OHSAA to ask if grass could be used.
"We don't like grass fields. The ball comes (to players) differently on grass than on a dirt field," Smith insisted, pointing out that the contract between the high school and park board gives the girls' high school team first preference for use of the new field.
Dawson agreed, saying that, after that, the field becomes a community facility, open for Little League and other play.
He also said there is considerable maintenance required for a dirt field, saying, "Grass holds up a lot better. We would like something in the park a lot more maintenance-free."
Board President Burl Warrick pointed out the school district has agreed to maintain the field during the girls' team season.
Dawson stated succinctly, "We are not going to take out the (newly-installed) sprinkler system," to which Smith pointed out, "You can water a dirt field, too."
Dawson said the project was begun in 2010 under then-Superintendent of schools Ken Halbert and that he, the athletic director and coach "all approve of this" and that he and park board member Wink Smith have "been on the same page throughout this entire project."
Wink Smith told Laura Smith (no relation), "This is a day late and a dollar short. We've been working on this two years, and everyone said it was OK. It's on our land and we agreed to this. Right now, it has grass and it will stay grass for at least one season. If we find out we're wrong, we'll re-address it if we have to."
Some concern was also voiced by Warrick on whether or not the field will be ready in time for the girls' practice which starts in February, and Dawson said it is his understanding it will not be used at that time for practice, saying, "The school has plenty of places to practice."
He said that is not certain and will depend on the condition of the field at that time.