Soccer, lacrosse and football fields should be a little less packed next summer when the $4.2 million expansion project is completed at South Jupiter Community Park.
“With all the youth and adult sports programs going on throughout the town, we always need more fields,” said Bill Bymel, Jupiter Tequesta Athletic Association executive board director and past president. The JTAA has about 7,500 boys and girls between preschool and high school ages enrolled in sports programs such as soccer, lacrosse, flag and tackle football and baseball.
Workers from Lake Mary-based Collage Design Construction started last week using heavy machinery to tear out out Brazilian pepper, melaleuca trees and other on-native plants on the 14-acre property at the corner of Frederick Small Road and University Drive in the Abacoa’s section. Native plants that are growing on the edge of the property, such as saw palmettos and pine trees, will be left to act as a buffer, said Thomas Hernandez, the project engineer.
Before starting, engineers searched the area for wildlife and archaeological objects. While nothing historic was found, engineers discovered 13 gopher tortoises both on and near the property. The tunneling animals, which are a threatened and legally protected species, were moved to near Okeechobee, Hernandez said.
“One of them was in its tunnel outside the boundary. But because the tunnel was within 25 feet and going toward the property, it was taken away,” Hernandez said.
Not only will the new park give athletes more space to play, but it also will provide JTAA and other athletic associations a chance to hold more events. Many events, such as a JTAA Halloween soccer tournament scheduled for next month, help the organizations raise money for programs, equipment and scholarships. The money from tournaments also helps keep registration costs down, Bymel said.
“We can raise between $10,000 and $40,000 at these tournaments, depending on the amount of sales of concessions and T-shirts,” he said.
So many adults and young people are enrolled in community sports that fields are being worn out, which was the problem at Jupiter High School. The solution adopted by local officials was spending about $800,000 for artificial turf. The town paid half, and school boosters raised the other half.
Building new fields will allow the town to give some fields a rest while the other ones are used, Bymel said.
“The fields need to rest two or three months a year so the turf can grow back,” he said.
Once the Abacoa property near Independence Middle School is cleared, work to install the athletic fields will begin. Plans call for:
— Four multipurpose fields with a total of a dozen 70-foot-tall lights that are made to withstand hurricane winds.
— A 4,200-square-foot building with bathrooms, equipment storage and public restrooms.
— A mulch-covered walking trail around the park.
— 195 additional parking spaces.
SOUTH JUPITER COMMUNITY PARK
Where: 1501 W. Frederick Small Road, Jupiter
Hours: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
Information: jupiter.fl.us, click on departments