Softball field update will save water, money

Samuel Sutton

The new softball field turf which was put in during the first couple of weeks of the Spring 2016 semester. Photo by Francisco Martinez
The new softball field turf which was put in during the first couple of weeks of the Spring 2016 semester. Photo by Francisco Martinez

Although Wichita Falls was removed from all drought categories by the United States Drought Monitor last May, the lack of rainfall had already taken a toll on campus athletic and recreational fields, leaving the grass parched.

For the softball field, reprieve came in the form of new turf to replace the wilting grass.

“The primary reason for the turf is to spend less money on maintenance, and to preserve water since that’s also a big issue in Wichita Falls,” said Kyle Owen, associate vice president for facility services. 

The new turf couldn’t come at a better time – according to Charlie Carr, athletic director, the fields were sometimes so bad that the softball team had to play at other facilities in the city.

Joey Greenwood, director of recreational sports and wellness center, said the uncertainty of Wichita Falls’ rainfall levels is of concern to the recreational sports department as well.

“We went through a drought for the past several years and didn’t know when we would get water again,” Greenwood said. “We have a little bit now, but we don’t know when a drought that bad will come again.”

The new turf field will reduce strain on water use and free up maintenance funds.

“This will give us more money to use elsewhere, while also being able to preserve water,” Owen said.

The water shortage caused  fields to be near useless at times, prompting complaints from other teams and players, according to Carr.

“We had complaints from a lot of other teams since they either had turf or better grass so that kind of screamed change,” Carr said.

Before the new turf was installed, the softball field wanted to preserve the grass for games so students couldn’t use the field for intramural sports. Owen said the turf cost about $430,000 taken from the $6 sports and recreational fee.

Greenwood said, “We couldn’t let students use the softball field because we had to keep it playable for the softball team, and since students already pay a rec fee, they should be able to use the good fields.”

The new field has received positive feedback from softball players like Katelyn Vinson, a nursing and psychology senior. She even agrees with the staff members about the turf’s low maintenance.

“It’s very low maintenance and will be easy to manage with weather conditions,” Vinson said.

Vinson said she also believes the new turf will benefit the players’ performance.

“There are a lot of advantages of a turf field, more consistent hops for example,” Vinson said.

While the field change has been positive, there are also some disadvantages, according to Vinson.

“I miss the dirt too. That’s the whole part of the sport. The dirtier you are, the harder you played,” Vinson said.

She said she’ll get over it though, and that the benefits far outweigh the downfalls. She, as well as Carr, believe the new turf will benefit the team and the fans.

The first softball game at the field will be on March 4, and the first intramural softball game will be on April 9.