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Wet fields become costly for coaches

Madison Parks still banning play on a number of fields

MADISON, Wis. - Madison's forecast is not what Chris Delehanty has been hoping for. He's ready to not hear the words "chance of showers."

"We haven't been able to get outside at all yet. We've had games canceled, a tournament cancelled," Delehanty said.

Delehanty ,and his Regent U14 boys team have been stuck indoors. Luckily, they scored a field at Break Away Sports in Fitchburg. Other teams have had to use gym floors or tennis courts for practice, but Delehanty understood why they can't be on the real fields.

"Even just changing direction on a field, you bring up so much of the mud and dirt that can really ruin a field for months, or even a year," Delehanty said.

While coaches have to shell out $70 to $110 an hour for field time at Break Away Sports, manager Greg Kinsey is welcoming the abnormally late surge in business.

"Last year, (it was) 70, 80 degrees all April long," Kinsey said. "We had maybe two to three times teams came in, maybe due to rain or anything like that. This year, jam packed from 4 o'clock to 10 o'clock every day of the week."

Kinsey said his facility is one of a handful of places teams can turn to when fields are too drenched to play on. Plus, Kinsey said, there are advantages to indoor play.

"They're still being able to play, still trained to get up a sweat, still working on passes," Kinsey explained. "A lot of times on the ground when it's wet in the spring, the ground is uneven. The ball is bouncing all over the place. In here on the turf field, it's a true roll. It's always a perfect roll. It's not going to be bouncing every other way, especially when it's muddy or anything like that, you're ripping up the ground."

Chris Lay with the Madison Area Youth Soccer Association (MAYSA) had to cancel a tournament at Reddan Soccer Park a couple of weekends ago. The soaked ground couldn't handle 130 teams, which also lost the organization the $30,000 to $40,000 a tournament of that size would bring in.

Lay said MAYSA plans to put in a synthetic field this summer with financial help from the Goodman Foundation.

Madison Parks and Recreation banned field use at all of the city's parks through Sunday. While some of those restrictions were lifted Monday, the department said the choice is bound to back up seasons.

"To repair these, it could take months, even a year, so we do need people to abide by the rules and anyone is caught, any teams are caught doing it, we will assess for damages," Madison Parks and Rec spokesperson Laura Whitmore said.

When field supervisor Lisa Laschinger checked out grounds on the city's west side, she discovered plenty of muddy footprint and slide marks. Those teams who violated the ban on field use were forced to pay for damages, which averaged $300 to $400.

"When people start to come out here and disturb the plants before they've had a chance to start growing, that's when we have problems," Laschinger said.

"We're just as anxious as everybody. We want to be using the fields, but we need them to stay off because if anyone goes on the fields now, they will ruin the fields for the rest of the season," Whitmore said.

Madison reopened a number of the athletic fields, but Bowman baseball field, Baxter Park, Blackhawk Park, Quann soccer field, Elver Park softball field No. 1, Rennebohm Park, Warner Park softball and soccer fields, and Olbrich soccer fields are still closed.

"There really is no end in sight, but we'll have to just wait and see when everything dries out," Kinsey said.

You can check for additional updates.

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