BUFORD -- Their parents may be nostalgic, but the kids in Buford are excited to break in a new synthetic turf football complex, which opens in the city this weekend.
"It just makes you wanto to bring tears to your eyes. The kids are so prideful," Ken Burge, city recreation director, said of the new Buford Youth Athletic Complex, a Sawnee Avenue site next to the high school field, where the four-time defending champ Wolves play. "They like playing in the dirt, but ... They see the professionals playing on (turf). ... The reason the grown-ups like it is its maintenance-free."
While the park cost $2.7 million to build three fields, City Manager Bryan Kerlin said the expense of the synthetic turf is expected to be made up in seven years in the savings of fertilizer, paint, resodding and water -- a precious resource especially during times of drought. The turf is expected to last about 12 years.
Interestingly, the fields, which have also been striped for soccer and lacrosse and even have a batter's box to allow for baseball/softball practice, are still equipped with sprlinkler heads. They were installed as a precaution in case the synthetic fields get too hot during the summer.
The new complex, which also features a walking track and concessions stand, was envisioned when community leaders saw the need to expand parking at a new civic center currently under construction along Buford Highway. The old field -- which had been a high school field prior to being used for the youth -- was more than 50 years old, and some of the local residents have been sad to see it go.
In fact, both Burge and Kerlin played on the old field and watched their kids play there too.
"We were so proud of our old place," Burge said, "But there will be kids 40 years from now doing that here."
Both the bleachers and scoreboard were moved from the old field.
City Commission Chairman Phillip Beard said the voters should be thanked for approving the county sales tax, which funded about $1.7 million of the work.
"This is Gwinnett sales tax in motion," he said. "I thank the people of Gwinnett."
A ribbon will be cut at the 8:30 a.m. Saturday before games begin at 9 a.m. -- the first of what city leaders expect to be many fall Saturdays spent at the park.
"We hope this sees its 50 years as well," Kerlin said. "It was built for the generations."