I refer to your article "It’s game time, clear the fields", which appeared in last week’s Park Record, regarding the woefully limited availability of our athletic fields during the late winter months and the adverse impact thereof on our high school lacrosse and soccer programs. Your article addressed two options for the Quinn’s Junction Sports Complex, one being year-round labor-intensive snow removal; the other being a capital-intensive construction of a dome. While those are by no means the only options worthy of consideration to address our local needs, your article attributed to our City Manager his disinclination to support either option, his conclusion being "that snow removal could present a danger to the [artificial field turf]".
In my opinion, that "conclusion" is simply wrong. Schools and public facilities throughout the country effectively, properly and cost-effectively have long been able to deal with the issue of snow removal from artificial turf fields, without damage to the facility, without impairment to the manufacturer’s product warranties, and at costs far less than suggested in your article. It is long overdue for our community, together with our local officials, to seriously and comprehensively drill down on a solution to this issue, be practical, and run numbers that comport with budgetary restraints (i.e., rather than a $2.15 million dome with annual costs of $347,000 or some snow removal program with unsupported annual costs of $135,000 to $165,000, consider specialty-manufactured heavy duty tarps, mechanized top roller-retractor, and compact tractor with snow blower, for a total cost of $70,000 with annual nominal tractor operator costs). There are, in fact, effective and cost efficient alternatives and solutions to the problem; misplaced or misinformed speculation must yield to a thoughtful solution for immediate implementation.
Taking your article in a slightly different direction, but embellishing upon the very obvious significant adverse effect upon our student athletes and athletic programs which need both early season access to these facilities and a reliable season games schedule, consider "home court advantage". Just last week, the final three regular season games of the Park City High School Lacrosse team were played. The results thereof, not a mere coincidence, were that the first game, played away, resulted in a very close defeat; the ensuing two games, both played at home in Park City, resulted in two very critical (albeit close) victories for the Park City lacrosse team.
Naysayers notwithstanding, the fact is that "home court advantage" is a statistically proven element of competitive sports. Sports professionals and academics have quantitatively established that the familiarity with the home field venue, the minimization of travel, and the psychological support of fans in attendance, are not only significant but can be outcome determinative. Additionally, there are environmental factors which contribute to "home court advantage." Park City, being approximately 3,000 thousand feet above the Salt Lake City valley, has thinner air, enough so that it can effect the stamina of athletes who are not used to high altitude effect; moreover, and stating the obvious, our average temperature and precipitation is substantially colder and more frequent than in the valley, another factor which our student athletes need not acclimate to.
Having a longer practice season and being able to host scheduled season games, without weather-related delays and cancellations, plain and simple, will contribute to the success of our athletic programs and student athletes. Pit two teams of comparable skills and abilities, and nine times out of ten, the team with the "home court advantage" will prevail. Anyone who has no appreciation for the significance of "home court advantage" has never played competitive sports, never suffered the wear and tear of travel to the opponents venue, never felt the disorientation of being the "visiting" team, and never has been stimulated to the highest level of play by the roar of the home team crowd.
I urge our local officials, in consultation with the leadership of our high school student athlete programs, to quickly find a practical and cost efficient solution to the inadequate availability of our otherwise wonderful field facilities.
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