COLUMBUS — Home turf has taken on a new meaning at Central Community College-Columbus.
A new athletic complex that recently opened features synthetic turf fields for both soccer and softball.
The men’s soccer team played its first match on the field last month, earning a 7-2 victory over the York College junior varsity squad at the complex located just north of Raider Fieldhouse.
The $1.1 million project got underway in the spring. The fields were built where the college’s original asphalt track and softball field used to be.
The addition cuts down on travel time for the soccer team, which previously practiced and played its home matches at Wilderness Park, just south of Lost Creek Parkway along 18th Avenue.
“We had to practice off of campus. I had to drive the bus every day. We appreciate we were able to practice someplace else, but it took forever. Here, we just change in the gym and then come to practice,” said Central head men's soccer coach Dave Silva.
Most of the 28 players on the team live on campus, so it's much easier for them to walk from the dorms to the field. It also makes practice times more flexible.
“We can practice in the morning if we want. We can practice in the afternoon,” Silva said.
Raider players are liking their new field.
“It’s soft and easy to run on,” said Kevin Toledo, who is from Lexington.
Teammate Vitor Lima of Aracaju, Brazil, said it was common for players to miss lunch or dinner after returning late to campus from Wilderness Park. That shouldn’t be a problem now that the field is on campus.
The softball team, which starts its season in the spring, also played its home games away from the college campus because of the condition of the field there. That team played at Gerrard Park in Columbus.
Synthetic turf was selected for the new fields for easy maintenance and upkeep. The complex is designed so the fields share some of the same surface.
Silva said artificial turf plays differently than natural grass, which is what the Raiders were used to at Wilderness Park. The ball moves faster and has a truer bounce because the field is level.
Toledo said he appreciates playing on an even surface.
“Your touch gets better because when the ball hits bumps on the other fields, it goes everywhere. You didn’t know what’s going to happen. Here you have a more-controlled style of play,” he said.
The fields will be used for soccer and softball and be available for intramural sports and student activities.
Bleachers are being added for fans, and Silva expects more students to attend games since they'll be closer.
The complex is the latest improvement to athletics and wellness at the local college.
Last year, an expansion was completed at Raider Fieldhouse. The $1.1 million project included an improved cardio/weight room, bigger training room, six new offices for coaches and conference room.
Silva said the additions will help attract future student-athletes to CCC.
“I think it will help with recruiting for sure,” he said.