Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park to get new synthetic grass soccer fields July 14 2014

SHERMAN OAKS — Before each soccer game at Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park, players and their parents walk its scruffy fields to clear rocks and pebbles from its dusty pitch.

But the Sherman Oaks “rock walks” soon will be a stroll of the past after an official groundbreaking Saturday for three new synthetic soccer fields.

“It’s outstanding,” said Josh Gertler, 43, of Sherman Oaks watching his 9-year-old son Nicolas block an American Youth Soccer Organization shot on goal. “This community has been playing on rock-strewn dirt that has produced dust clouds for many years.


“The fake grass should be a dramatic improvement.”

At the urging of Councilman Tom LaBonge, the city will convert three faded fields into $2.7 million in artificial turf in the middle of the popular sports complex. Soccer players should be able to dribble across the plastic grass as early as next June, officials say.

“It’s not just the millions of gallons of water saved,” said LaBonge, whose latest district includes the park. “It’s the smiles of young people who will play on the best soccer fields in the San Fernando Valley.”


An estimated 150 officials and residents gathered at the morning groundbreaking to herald a long-needed renovation of three existing soccer fields now heavily used by children and adults.

The synthetic turf, now in use at 21 fields across Los Angeles, will save on water, save on maintenance and can provide safe fields for soccer athletes year round, officials say. It’s expected to last 10 years.

To further improve the park, the city will pave new walkways to the newly fenced fields for easier access from its parking lot. It will also build covered benches for soccer moms and dads and their kids, where players can catch some shade and cool off.


An infrastructure will be built for future lighting.

“No more rocks,” declared Ramon Barajas, assistant general manager for the Department of Recreation and Parks, who grew up near Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park and learned to swim there. “After this construction, this will be the best soccer complex in the Valley, if not Los Angeles.”

It was a couple of years ago that LaBonge, while hiking different corners of his newly redrawn district, took a gander at the Sherman Oaks fields. He said he saw 700 kids playing on nubs of grass and bare dirt. He then spoke with AYSO officials, who told him referees and players sprained their ankles on the deteriorating fields.


So he directed his chief of staff, Carolyn Ramsay to locate $2.7 million in so-called Quimby funds from developers’ fees to fix it.

“It’s badly needed,” LaBonge said. “It’s used so much it’s unsafe because you can’t maintain it.”

The project will add two full-sized and one small synthetic turf soccer field next to the Little League fields at Magnolia Boulevard and Tyrone Avenue. Its 180,000 square feet of fake grass will save an estimated 8 million gallons a year of water — enough to supply 25 families of four, parks officials said. It’ll also save on fertilizer and other costs to growing real grass.


For Gertler, who has sat along the dusty fields for seven years where his eldest son, Alex, also played, the clean fields will be a godsend.

“The only downside of the new fields will be for my carwash owner,” he said, “ who’d going to see drastically less income on Saturday mornings after soccer games.”