SCC Center Circle gets an update

Salem Community Foundation board members and Salem Community Center staff stand on the new turf at the Center Circle indoor soccer field. Besides installing the new turf, the $245,382 project included new mesh containment fencing and a divider curtain to increase availability for the field for practices in various sports and other events. Pictured from left are SCC CenterPlex Director Cory Wonner, SCF Grants Coordinator Melissa Costa, SCC Executive Director Heather Young, SCF board members Geoff Goll, Deb McCulloch, President John Tonti, Steve Bailey, Mark Equizi, George W.S. Hays, Robert McCulloch and Audrey Null. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

SALEM — Soccer players and anyone else using the new turf at the Center Circle indoor facility at the Salem Community Center are noticing better lighting, newly-padded soccer goals, more secure netting around the perimeter and a more outdoor feel to the surface.

Plus there’s now a divider curtain in the middle that can divide the field in half, enabling more teams to use the field for practices.

No more little pieces of black rubber all over the place either.

Salem Community Center Executive Director Heather Young said the upgrade project provides the community with a safer playing area for anyone who uses the field and that’s what’s most important.

“We’re grateful for the Salem Community Foundation not only in their financial contribution but their community support for the programming we’re able to offer at Center Circle,” she said.

The SCF Board of Directors awarded a grant of $245,382 from the Ruth Harkins McKeown Fund to update the worn out eight-year-old equipment at the soccer field.

According to a description provided by SCF, the new netting system for $87,702 included: installation of 550 feet of tensioned “Specto” 8-feet high black, high-visibility mesh containment fencing around the perimeter of the existing 191-foot by 84-foot turf field, ground screws installed every 15 to 20 feet at 31 inches deep and a cable system to secure the netting which includes four player entrances and one entrance at the overhead garage door area; a divider curtain installed at center field operated by a high-speed key-operated motor to provide two playing fields; and two new fully-padded soccer goals. The design of the net system prioritizes the safety of athletes and spectators, providing “an impactable barrier that athletes can run into without ever hitting a hard surface.”

A new LED lighting system cost $17,680 and included 24 energy efficient LED lights and getting rid of the previous metal halide high bay fixtures, leading to a much brighter system to enhance play. The project description said there will be “a tremendous savings in the electric bill and the LED bulbs should last 12 to 15 years in comparison to the current 3 to 6 months which require the SCC to rent a lift to change out the bulbs.”

The cost of the new turf totaled $140,000 and included installation of 16,680 square feet of SportsGrass Edge XP with 19 tons of Envirofill Bead Infill. The old turf was torn out and the new ForeverLawn turf and associated materials installed, with the old turf surface gifted to the Salem Parks and Recreation Department which can be used in a variety of ways in the Salem parks.

CenterPlex Director Cory Wonner said Envirofill makes the plastic sand pellets that are used for the infill on top of the field, which he said “gives it more of an outdoor play and feel.”

Crushed aggregate is underneath, then a pad on the bottom of the grass, then the plastic sand pellets made of recycled plastic on top spread into the grass. He noted the sand pellets are way smaller than the black rubber pieces previously used. He said it’s like playing on a dry, outdoor field.

“We’ve been getting rave reviews so far,” he said.

The first session of soccer started this weekend with 66 teams ranging from U-8 (under eight years old) to adult. Flag football just ended and there’s a softball tournament planned during Christmas break.

“We have the best indoor facility in the area,” he said.

Young said everybody wants to use it at the same time and now they’ll have more opportunities for local youth teams to get more practice time in. SCF board member Mark Equizi, who was the SCC executive director when the field was originally installed, said the new surface is far superior to the old field. He said more can be done for the community and it’s much safeer.

Board member George W.S. Hays said it’s a tremendous upgrade. The old surface was great but needed upgrading. He said the new surface makes the field more versatile and safer for the kids.

“The new turf resembles play on grass more than the old turf did,” board member and soccer coach Steve Bailey said.

He also said the new netting makes it safer, too.

SCF President John Tonti said there were eight years of playing on the original surface and the “new materials are fantastic.” The ball will act more like it does outside and the field is cleaner and easier to maintain.

“In 1977, the Salem Community Foundation was designated as the recipient of the income from the Ruth Harkins McKeown estate. Since then over $25 million has been received from the McKeown Trust. The Salem Community Foundation has faithfully assessed and met the changing community needs through awarding financial assistance to Salem area organizations much like the Salem Community Center,” he said.

SCF Grants Coordinator Melissa Costa said the foundation has granted over $53 million to local nonprofit organizations since 1966 thanks to the generous support of philanthropic donors like Ruth Harkins McKeown.

“Quarterly, our board of directors grants financial assistance to a variety of nonprofit organizations that strive to address the needs within the community of Salem with innovative solutions. Salem Community Foundation currently manages 115 different funds that cover a wide spectrum of charitable interests,” she said

Organizations in the Salem area with a 501(c)3 status are encouraged to contact Costa at the Salem Community Foundation office, 330-332-4021, to obtain more information about the grant-making process. The next grant deadline is Dec. 1.