Field condition undermines safety

Injuries, lawsuit potential urge swift restoration or repairs


Robert Clinton / The Advocate

A hole clearly visible on the Soccer Field shows the current state of the field and how neglected it has become and, in certain instances, dangerous for players.

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

The men’s soccer team won its first Bay Valley Championship in 10 years, but the condition of the Soccer Field does not reflect the program’s recent success.

During coach Nikki Ferguson’s premier season as Contra Costa College men’s soccer coach last year, the team managed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005 — the same year the last time it won the BVC title under its former coach Rudy Zeller.

“It (the field) has always been a headache since I started coaching (at Contra Costa College in 1998),” Zeller said. “Me and the training staff had to do a lot of the maintenance work on our own because it was not happening regularly.”

After The Advocate inspected the Soccer Field on Tuesday, one end line is elevated and dry while the other is sunken in and moist. The surface in between is uneven, patchy and poses a liability for the college, and the success of the team, if someone gets injured.

Ferguson said he has complained about the poor conditions of the field to Athletic Director John Wade and Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King, but little has been done to improve a lopsided and uneven field or provide a temporary solution.

“It’s not perfect,” Wade said. “But it’s better than a lot of fields. Some fields in other countries are absolutely awful, but great players still emerge from those conditions.”

King said it is challenging to maintain all 86 acres of the campus with only three workers on his staff, but he said he agrees with Ferguson that the Soccer Field needs repairs.

“The Soccer Field is almost at the point where it is unsafe to play on,” King said. “When we can, we lay out patches of sod where it’s really uneven and dry, but the players’ cleats tear it up quick.”

On Sept. 25, leading Comet goal scorer Pedro Rodriguez suffered an injury on the Soccer Field during the last non-conference game against Lake Tahoe Community College.

Rodriguez said he tried to cut and then accelerate to get past a defender, but he planted his right foot on an uneven patch of the Soccer Field less than 10 minutes into the game.

He had to sit out three games. The Comets went on to lose their conference opener against Yuba College. But once he rejoined the starting line up, he only increased his goal tally, which was eight before conference, to nine by the end of the season.

When BVC play started, he was in second place statewide in goals scored. By the end of the season Rodriguez had slipped in ranking down to 37th place.

“A good field cannot hurt a team’s performance,” King said. “But a bad field can.”

After a Comet home game on Oct. 9, Mendocino College coach Shane Huff said, “The condition of the field is a disservice to the players because it is not conducive to an atmosphere of success.”

After the Comets tied their first non-conference game against Evergreen Valley College, its coach, Joseph Silveira said, “Contra Costa (College) is a tough team with talented players. We can’t wait to play them again, but hopefully they fix the field before then.”

King said a possible solution to the problem could be using some of the $84.4 million allocated to CCC from the passing last year’s $450 million Measure E Bond.

“It could be used to repair or build a new Soccer Field,” he said. “The wordage in Measure E says it could be used for classroom (infrastructure) projects. To me, it is what students want. They don’t care about fancy offices — they care about classrooms.”

Interim College President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said projects to renovate the Gym Annex Building and the Gym, using Measure E funds, is still in the design process as the administration is working with the district to review the plans of the athletic department.

Contra Costa Community College District Facility Planner Ray Pyle and King said that they did not see anything in the athletic department’s Powerpoint presentation about renovating the Soccer Field.

King said that does not rule out the possibility of adding the Soccer Field to the Measure E project list.

“A lot of teams come from all over to play games at our facility,” Mehdizadeh said. “We would really like the condition of the field to be more on par with what our students deserve.”