San Jose considering dirt soccer fields

Bare patches of dirt are something any keeper of natural grass athletic fields typically wants to avoid. Given economic and environmental concerns, however, San Jose’s Parks and Recreation Commission is considering whether entire dirt fields are a viable alternative to traditional soccer fields.

The assistant director of parks, recreation and neighborhood services, Matt Cano, told Mercury News that the city had no intention of converting grass fields into dirt surfaces. And also he cautioned that any dirt field would have to be embraced by the local neighborhood or community.

Rick Simons, the fields director for South San Jose Youth Soccer League, doesn’t think the dirt alternative is a good idea, stating, “It looks like Third World countries.”

Indeed, that’s partially what inspired the idea. Many of the world’s top soccer players grew up playing on dirt fields in poor countries. That’s not to say that such fields don’t come with a cost. A dirt field with engineered soil would cost about $880,000 to build. In comparison, grass fields cost about $370,000, and synthetic turf about $1.4 million, according to the city.

Yearly maintenance can offset the initial cost — maintenance of a dirt field would be about $30,000, grass costs $68,000 and artificial turf only $15,000.

The biggest complaint against the alternate fields is that dirt fields will fundamentally change game. Many believe that the pace of the game would speed up, and allow youth leagues to employ more aggressive tactics, potentially resulting in more injuries.

The city’s report on the alternative sports fields does acknowledge a possible increase in injuries as well as laying out the costs dirt, grass and synthetic turf fields.

>The dirt fields will be a topic of discussion at a parks and recreation commission meeting this week.- Takara Scott-Johnston, Athletic Business