Two new synthetic turf fields unveiled this week at Kinder Farm Park will transform the Millersvillle facility into the new home of Severna Park High School athletics — at least for the foreseeable future.
Community leaders, school officials and student athletes gathered at the complex Monday to dedicate the fields, which along with four additional grass surfaces will accommodate many of the Falcons' fall and spring sports teams while construction is underway on the new Severna Park High School.
Local officials believe the $2 million upgrade will turn the park into the county's premier public athletic facility and a first-class venue for practices, tournaments and games for the school, as well as for the Green Hornets youth athletic organization and the county Recreation and Parks Department.
The Falcons were displaced in May as construction workers began tearing down the grandstands to make way for the first phase of work on the new $138 million Severna Park High School.
The school will be built on the site of the athletic fields, which sit adjacent to the current building. Students will continue to use the old building throughout the construction process. Once the new school is complete, athletic fields will be built on the site of the old building.
The process is expected to take about four years, meaning for this year's freshman class, Kinder Park will be the only home they will know for many of the school's fall and spring sports. Field hockey, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls lacrosse will practice and play at the park, while the football team will play its games at Old Mill High School.
The Falcons began using the new fields late in the summer, and school athletic director Dave Lanham said the transition has been an easy one for coaches and athletes.
"The facility is wonderful," Lanham said. "The fields are lined. Parking hasn't been an issue at all. The shuttle bus service that takes student athletes over to the field has worked out very smoothly. It's been great."
Other than the seven-minute commute from the school to the fields, few changes have been noticeable for the teams, he said. The complex lacks locker rooms and meeting rooms — which means video sessions and other off-the-field activities must be held at the school.
Games start earlier as well, and are often played simultaneously because the school teams must be off the fields by 5:30 p.m. to make way for the Green Hornets teams, which use the facility each evening.
The Green Hornets organization, Lanham said, has been "wonderful to work with throughout the process. They've made it feel like this is our home."
The Green Hornets have long been a tenant at Kinder Park, and the organization was instrumental in the facility's recent transformation, contributing $300,000 toward the effort. The Hornets' former fields suffered from routine flooding and surfaces that were worn down from overuse. Now, teams have new turf and redone Bermuda grass fields.
The remainder of the project's funding came from county sources involving the Recreation and Parks Department, the Board of Education, the County Council and the county executive administration. The project was fast-tracked from idea to reality in little more than a year.
"We had this idea of doing turf there at Kinder and we brought that up as a potential solution and really it grew very quickly," said Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony.
The expansive venue is the first of its kind in the county, and Anthony hopes it will become a reliable source of revenue as well. Anthony said his department is working with the Anne Arundel Visitors Bureau to attract regional tournaments and other revenue-generating events to the field.
"We want to be major players and take advantage of the facilities we have, especially if these facilities aren't being used 24/7," Anthony said. "With these kinds of partnerships, we can maximize use, create revenue and provide another activity or amenity for our county citizens."