Over the past decade, the athletic fields at FNC Park have been improved upon and cared for in a manner that is second to none. The installation of turf infields in two different quads has improved the flexibility, and playability ,for teams the past few seasons.
Now, the final quad — C — will feature turf infields, increasing the number to 12 surfaces that can sustain large amounts of rain and improve tournament and league schedule games like never before.
Work on construction of the four fields has started, at least from a planning standpoint. FNC Park Director Brad Freeman said the first step is to excavate the infields. After that, an outline of the area will be created and then crews will dig down a foot deep before installing perimeter drains, fabric and rock. Once that process is completed, the turf will be laid down.
Field 12 will be the first to undergo the transition, and Freeman said only one field at a time will be improved upon.
Parents and participants of Oxford Park Commission youth soccer will be the first to see the work being completed. Some league games are played in the outfield in Quad C, and a fence will be installed marking off the area undergoing the improvements.
“The past two times we did this type of work, we started in January, which is risky with the weather,” Freeman said. “Now, we want to try and be done by January because we are starting in September and October. It’s really important for us to start soon and give us some wiggle room time for the weather because it doesn’t care what your plans are.”
The majority of the sub surface work will be completed by the FNC Park maintenance crews, which turns out to be about 80 percent of the project. Freeman understands how the entire process will turn out now that he is entering his third installation process.
“We feel a lot better about the process now that we have eight fields completed. We know how to do it,” Freeman said. “Going from Quad A, to now, it’s amazing. The product that we got was outstanding.”
Quad C has primarily hosted softball teams in both the OPC youth and adult leagues, as well as teams coming in from out of town for tournaments. The fastpitch softball tournaments have increased over the last few years, and having turf on four more fields will allow Freeman to attract more teams and tournaments.
“The whole reason you even install turf is for playability and drainage,” Freeman said. “We used to have 14 dirt infields and we would have 100 some odd teams out here and then Sardis Lake would decide to throw up a cell from nowhere and rain for 20 minutes.
“Well, you can’t play on mud and we were done playing, and that didn’t go over too well with the participants. The turf is great for versatility,” Freeman added. “All the nights we had rainouts for OPC softball but were playing down below, that’s not going to be the case anymore. We’re going to be able to serve a lot more people now.”
If the weather cooperates, one field can be ready for turf installation in 10 days. The entire quad would then take at least 40 days overall. The turf takes about two weeks, on average, to be installed on the four fields.
“So that’s two months, if everything goes according to plan with the weather and scheduling,” Freeman said. “But that’s why we’re giving ourselves a big window to get this completed. Our first event in 2020 is in early February and the last time we did this, we were so tight on our time in terms of completion before our first event. The first time we played on the turf, they literally finished the day before. It was just too tight of a process. We do feel better but we’re also not going to be lax with it.”
By John Davis, Oxford Park Commission