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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
October 17, 2013 Thursday
Bayside Edition
519 words
Artificial turf to get replaced at cost of about $1.2 million

By Ben Werner



Fluorescent colored balls shoot across the deep green, artificial turf. The clickity-clack of sticks signifies passing. The clank of the goal's baseboard sounds a score.

Teammates, parents, friends cheer.

These are the sounds of turbo-charged field hockey, played several times a week on the synthetic surface at the Field Hockey National Training Center. Thanks to an estimated $1.2 million replacement plan, these sounds are expected to be heard for a dozen more years.

"The difference between playing on turf and grass is like night and day," said Beanie Schleicher, coach of First Colonial High School's field hockey team. "The skills are different. The ball moves a lot faster."

Earlier this year, the artificial turf on Field One was replaced. Virginia Beach paid $403,288 and USA Field Hockey kicked in $268,859 - a 60-40 payment split that dates back to the original agreement Virginia Beach signed with USA Field Hockey to build the facility in 2000.

The artificial turf on Field Two will be replaced after this year's high school championships and the NCAA championships, which are using the facility in a partnership with Old Dominion University.

The city is accepting bids for the project, and city officials expect the final cost to be similar to replacing Field One.

Synthetic turf doesn't last forever and both fields were nearing the end of their life spans, said Kevin Bennington, sports management coordinator for Virginia Beach.

"Those fields get a lot of use," he said.

Currently, 150 middle school, high school, club and college teams use the facility, said Chuck Thornton, managing partner of Hometown Sports Management. Plus, USA Field Hockey still uses the facility for training games.

The City Council awarded Thornton's group the management contract in 2009 with the idea he'd bring more events to the facility. Just before the 2008 Olympics, the U.S. Women's Field Hockey team moved out of the center, its home since the $3.5 million facility opened in 2001. Thornton also manages the Sportsplex next door.

Field hockey still is the primary user of the fields, but Thornton has also rented the facility to youth lacrosse, football and baseball teams that use the artificial turf for skills and speed training.

He's increased local use by changing the rates and reaching out to a variety of teams.

"We've made it more affordable and more accessible," Thornton said.

Coach Schleicher schedules as many First Colonial games as possible at the center. Region and state championships are held at the training facility, so Schleicher says it only makes sense for her girls to grow accustomed to playing on the quicker surface. First Colonial won the 2012 AAA state championship.

The fields help local players be more competitive with teams from other regions. The skills developed by playing on the synthetic turf will help local players compete in college. And the learning starts young, Schleicher said.

"You can't compare the skill level of these kids today to when I played on grass," Schleicher said. "My kids are learning to play on turf."

Ben Werner,

ben werner Goalie Katie Jones, right, a senior at First Colonial High, defends a shot taken by a Cox High striker during a recent field hockey game at the National Training Center in Virginia Beach.
October 17, 2013

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