Bald spots, especially around goals, create odd bounces of soccer balls and slow action for the 1,700 players who use the fields in the town of Lexington, officials say.
That’s one of the headaches for players and coaches at the overused fields at the Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission’s sports complex at Gibson Road near Barr Road.
“This complex is packed,” Brian Paulen, one of the youth soccer coaches, said.
Help is on the way, but not until 2019. The Lexington fields will be some of the last projects completed as part of a $23 million expansion of commission facilities. The expansion, which costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $3 a year in property taxes, was started in 2013.
New fields at Gilbert also will be among the last to be ready.
So far, the renovation program has resulted in a baseball stadium for the Lexington County Blowfishsummer collegiate baseball team; extra athletic fields near Pine Ridge, Red Bank and Swansea; and improvements to senior centers.
In Lexington, three new fields will be added to the soccer complex, bringing the total there to 14. Two fields for baseball and a football field are being added at Gilbert.
The Lexington and Gilbert projects are taking “a lot longer than I would have liked” to get under way, commission executive director Randy Gibson said.
The projects took longer because of delays in finding and acquiring sites in both locations. Plus, the state Department of Transportation required a traffic study at the Lexington complex that ultimately determined turning lanes were needed at new entrances off Barr Road.
The Lexington sports complex at Gibson and Barr roads also is a getting a new gymnasium for basketball and other indoor sports along with meeting rooms. It also will be ready in 2019.
At 25,000 square feet, the new gym will have two courts and will be more than twice the size of an older one a half-mile away on Ball Park Road that will close. Today, 46 teams play at the current gym compared to 22 in 2013, officials said.
“Some good things are planned, but the wheels sometimes move a little slow," said Dana Price of Gilbert, who pushed for a new complex for baseball, softball and football in her community.
The six new baseball fields, along with the new football field, will cover 70 of the 121 acres that the recreation commission owns in the Gilbert area, with the unused space reserved for two more fields for baseball and one for football in the future, officials said.
Baseball teams in the Gilbert area have 216 players today compared to 325 in 2013. But the Gilbert baseball complex hosts more weekend tournaments that bring in revenue, officials said. Gilbert’s youth football teams have 70 players compared to 62 in 2013, officials said.
Softball teams will take over four former baseball fields, increasing the number for their sport to seven, officials said. The teams have about 170 players today, the same as in 2013, officials said.
About 2,200 youths play soccer on three dozen county fields, officials said. Overall, the Columbia area has 7,000 soccer players, officials at the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association said.
Meanwhile, Helmut Tissler should see his wish come true by spring.
He peeks regularly at the area slated for new soccer fields while refereeing games at the complex in Lexington.
"I keep looking over there, but I never see anything,” Tissler said. “I hope to see a bulldozer over there eventually."
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483