High School Sports

AC Flora again closes sports field because of unsafe conditions

The way players slid around the field, it would be understandable to mistake the artificial turf field for an ice rink.

During the March 23 lacrosse matchup between the A.C. Flora Falcons and Oceanside Collegiate Academy Landsharks, players from both teams slipped more than 30 times, despite having cleats designed to prevent exactly that, a video of the game shows.

The March 24 girls’ soccer game between the Falcons and the Blythewood Bengals wasn’t much better, and on both days the weather was sunny, according to video of the game.

The school district closed the field out of concern for students’ safety, making it the second time this year AC Flora’s $728,000 field has been closed for safety concerns.

“It’s not fair to anyone that’s competing on it,” said Bill Weaver, whose son plays soccer for AC Flora. “It’s dangerous.”

The district said nobody has been injured because of the field.

“Our kids have learned to play on it. They understand the nuances. They know how slick it is,” Weaver said. “However, when opposing teams come in, it’s crazy apparent.”

The field, which is a year old, was last closed in February because it did was not properly cushioned and did not drain correctly, according to a previous article from The State. It was later re-opened in March.

“While we are working with the vendor to resolve those issues, practices and games have been relocated and that schedule has been communicated to students and parents by the school,” Richland 1 spokeswoman Karen York said in an email. “We do not have an estimated date of completion at this time.”

Boys varsity soccer has one more game at home. Girls varsity soccer has two more home games. Boys varsity lacrosse has two more home games and girls varsity lacrosse has no remaining home games, according to AC Flora’s athletic calendar.

The most recent issues are also because of the amount of “infill,” which is the artificial dirt that anchors the turf and gives athletes traction, York said.

“The infill on an artificial turf field is everything,” Weaver said.

The issues with the field defeat the purpose of having synthetic turf, said a coach who recently played at the field.

“I do think it is an issue that should be resolved,” said Oceanside lacrosse coach Tom Harris when asked about AC Flora’s field conditions. “I am not sure on the details of the turf or why it is slippery. Whatever method was used seems to be counterproductive since the idea of turf is to always have great field conditions.”

The school does not have an estimate for how much repairs will cost, York said.

The field is a part of a $40 million district-wide initiative to upgrade sports fields. To pay for those fields and other capital improvements, Richland 1 school officials raised property taxes by about $60 for a $100,000 home, according to a previous article from The State.

Lucas Daprile has been covering the University of South Carolina and higher education since March 2018. Before working for The State, he graduated from Ohio University and worked as an investigative reporter at TCPalm in Stuart, FL. There, where he won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his political and environmental coverage.