DACULA -- Gwinnett's new million-dollar field has young players feeling like million-dollar athletes.
"I think it's good for the kids, for the motivation factor," Robert Clark said while he watched his 10-year-old Robert Clark II practice this week on the first artificial grass field at a Gwinnett County park. "He thinks its much better."
Clark admitted that the $1 million investment at Duncan Creek Park may have been better spent on other things, with the economy creating a budget crunch for the government, but he said his kid loves it.
"I think it's pretty neat," said Nydia Mormeneo, a team mom for her son Anthony's team. "With the rain it doesn't get so muddy."
Officials decided to try out the turf this year to see if the larger initial investment in grass leads to a lower cost in maintenance, watering and resodding every year.
Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, who coaches football at Duncan Creek Park, points out that the maintenance money comes from the county's general fund, made up primarily of property taxes, while the turf project was funded by the county's special purpose sales tax.
"It's great. It's about giving the kids the best place to play," he said, adding that the 10-year life expectancy for the turf could mean a good lift to the county's general fund, especially since last year's rainy weather left the kids playing in "mud bowls."
"It takes the elements -- except for lightning -- out of the picture," he said.
Erik Richards of the Gwinnett Football League said the field should last a lot longer than the fields at other local parks. With the new popularity of lacrosse, the fields are likely to take a bigger beating.
"It's a win-win for everybody," Richards said. "The people up there are excited."
Last week, when the first scrimmages were held at the field, Richards said it was "poetic justice" that the day was marked by rain. In the past, that would have meant many of the games would have been canceled to protect the field.
"It was nice to not have the county call and say, 'Can y'all get off the field?' We just played through the rain," he said.
Later this year, artificial turf is expected to be installed in Norcross, and Kenerly said future plans include fields for Grayson and North Gwinnett.
Richards said the expansion "is going to give us a lot of options to host eight games on a Saturday," when tournament season rolls around with fields in poor conditions.
Regular season games begin today at Kevin Kenerly Field, as it was dubbed last week, dedicated to the commissioner who secured the funding for the pilot project.