by MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter Regional Editor
Jun 15, 2012 at 8:00AM updated at 2:09PM
As a soccer dad and youth league volunteer, Dennis Higgins vividly recalls a time when Petrovitsky Park's sand fields would disintegrate into a quagmire on soggy game days.
"We used to sit up here when it was a giant mud pit, and the kids would come home covered head to toe," said Higgins, the Kent City Council president and a youth soccer supporter.
The park is no longer a sloppy mud pit, but a pitch in paradise.
"It's gorgeous," Higgins said of the park's transformation from muck yard to synthetic turf fields. "To have this now is great. It's going to be a community asset for years to come."
Higgins joined officials from the Kent Youth Soccer Association (KYSA), state dignitaries, volunteers, business partners and families in the official grand reopening of "Petro" Park last Saturday morning.
As youth leagues competed on the recently completed fields, officials took turns lauding a community-wide effort that produced one of the region's state-of-the-art soccer parks – for all, especially the greater Kent/Covington area, to enjoy.
"It is one of the nicest facilities you will find in the Northwest," said the Seattle Sounders' Roger Levesque, a special guest at the ceremony.
The $1.5 million project was a 42-month journey from inception to completion, according to Wayne Jensen, KYSA president who led the long and sometimes exhaustive mission.
"A labor of love," Jensen summed up. "It's giving something to the community that should have been done."
Jensen and supporters committed to the project, making sure it was done right. The new fields, he said, would not have been possible without the full-fledged contribution and cooperation from partners and volunteers.
In 2008, the KYSA began a partnership with King County Parks to renovate Petro's existing dirt/sand soccer fields, which have been underutilized and unplayable because they often were too wet and mucky. But to meet the increased demand for available practice and game fields for a growing number of kids joining the KYSA and other leagues, groups stepped in to raise the necessary money to renovate the fields.
Through a grant program, King County Parks provided KYSA with seed funding to kick-start the major field renovation campaign.
In addition to King County Parks' $250,000 contribution and KYSA's own fundraising efforts, along with donations and sweat equity – the campaign raised an additional $875,000 from the Washington Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, and $300,000 from the Washington State Youth Soccer Association.
The result added two full-sized, 120-by-78-yard synthetic turf soccer fields to King County Parks' inventory of recently upgraded or added athletic fields, such as those at Marymoor and Preston. Lights accommodate Petro's new fields at night.
State Sen. Joe Fain (District 47) came away impressed with the new fields.
"Growing up, youth sports were an irreplaceable part of my life," he said. "(The fields) are something fun and positive for the community, and something priceless for youth."
Just northeast of Kent in unincorporated Renton, the county's Petrovitsky Park is an 88-acre site with baseball and soccer fields, a playground and picnic areas. It is widely used by youth and recreational leagues.