The public is invited to come check out Homer High School’s newly redone lower field. The muddy, well-worn, uneven grass is gone. In its place is beautiful to look at, beautiful to play on turf.
“This is great,” said Doug Waclawski, HHS principal, adding that the turf’s design probably means an additional month of use, as well. “We just want people to use it.”
Calling the new turf field a “great community asset,” Chris Perk, Homer High’s activities director said, “We’re looking forward to being able to host a variety of activities that will enhance life through recreation. Soccer, football, physical education classes, community rec activities … it’s hard to tell what all will end up being played on the field.”
Saturday’s turf dedication is being organized by Scott Cardoza, an assistant coach for the Homer High Mariner football team. The dedication will be held before the Mariners take on the Eielson Ravens, with special activities also taking place during the game’s half-time.
“On Aug. 16, the Homer community is invited to celebrate Homer’s new turf field and show their support for local sports programs and watch the Mariners’ first game of the season,” said Cardoza. “Come make some noise.”
The action starts at 1:30 p.m. with introductions of both the Mariners and the Ravens. The formal field dedication will be at 1:45 p.m., and includes a color guard and the National Anthem sung by Alyssa Vanliere.
The Mariner-Raven game kicks off at 2 p.m.
“During half-time we’ll have an opportunity to see sports activities that will be using the field,” said Cardoza. “The Homer cross-country team will run a Mariner mile around the track. The Homer Soccer Association will use half the field for a scrimmage exhibition. And then the little kids football will be out there doing some practice. One of the ideas is that (the turf field) is not just for football.”
During the dedication and game, there will be free hot dogs for youngsters under 12 years of age, and free popcorn for everyone who attends.
Josh Fraley, the Mariners’ head football coach, also is looking forward to kicking off the season on the new field, with the help of coaches Cardoza, Rick Alexander, Terry Sumption and volunteer coach Zach Kudla of New York.
“This field is awesome,” said Fraley. “Already we’ve seen just great improvement in the way we’re able to run practices, not having to worry about finding a piece of grass to tackle on.”
Fraley is anticipating less pulled muscle injuries due to the turf. However, because the turf offers more traction and less sliding, he anticipates the athletes will have to be mindful of ankles and knees until they get used to it.
“But man, it’s nice,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome for all the sports. Soccer’s going to love it. It’ll be great for the whole community.”
On Saturday, the community will see the Mariners face the Ravens for the first time in two years.
“They beat us 26-6,” said Fraley, who is expecting a different outcome on Saturday. “I expect to see typical Eielson football, extremely fast, quick passes, sweeps around the corners to utilize their speed, but we’re getting ready for them.”
Fraley described this year’s Mariners as “real experienced.” It is comprised of “a ton of seniors and a ton of freshmen,” and a lot of commitment as evidenced by time returning players spent in the weight room during the winter.
“I’ve already seen it paying off. We’re a week, a week and a half ahead of where we’ve been,” said Fraley. “They put in the time this winter and that’s something that hasn’t been done before. Plus we spent a lot of time around each other, really working hard. They’re strong and I think we’ll see the payoff.”
Both new and returning players also have been preparing for the season with some early morning practices.
“They just really want to succeed this year and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to do that,” said Fraley.
Rounding out this season’s team are three new managers: Hayden Nelsen, Sakota Mitchell and Ciara Cordes-Walker.
“They’re phenomenal,” said Fraley.
The new turf field was designed by USKH, an architectural, engineering, surveying and planning firm with offices in Alaska, Idaho and Washington. Arno Construction of Homer was the contractor on the project. Kenai Peninsula Borough’s capital projects director, Kevin Lyon, was the project manager. The project included installation of a shot put area and carried a price tag at $1.7 million.
Made by Field Turf, the new field is a synthetic turf system. It includes grass-like turf fibers. An infill system offers cushioning to absorb impacts and traction, using a layer of sand, covered with a mix of cryogenic rubber and silica sand and, on top of that, larger-sized cryogenic rubber layers made from recycled rubber tires.
“There’s a certain amount of bounce you’re supposed to get when you land on that,” said Waclawski.
To top off the new facility, which includes the track that was installed in 2012, is a $14,000 scoreboard built with donations from Lynden Transport and Enstar.
The turf field comes with a few rules.
“The big difference is that you can’t be driving stuff on it,” said Waclawski. “And there’s no animals on it. That’s kind of a big change.”
All equipment brought onto the field has to be approved and sunflower seeds are a no-no because of the difficulty to remove them.
Other than that, it’s open to the community.
“Just like anything else,” said Waclawski.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.