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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Four Hawaii playing fields reopened

Video: Kapi'olani Park soccer fields closed

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The playing fields at Kapi'olani Park were damaged after trucks delivering supplies and tents for the Honolulu Marathon drove onto the sodden park, causing a closure of the area to high school soccer teams, along with lacrosse, rugby and softball teams.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The city yesterday reopened four of the five playing fields at Kapi'olani Park left muddy by the Honolulu Marathon, and officials said they would work to avoid a repeat of the closure.

The Dec. 9 marathon was held during a period of heavy rain. Add the tromping of thousands of runners and ruts left by delivery trucks, and city officials were prompted to close the fields for a week thereafter.

Affected were dozens of high school soccer teams, along with recreational soccer, lacrosse, rugby and softball teams.

"This was the first time in the 35 years of the marathon that we've had such bad weather," said Tommy Kono, Honolulu Marathon vice president. "You're bound to have such a soggy ground."

On race day, marathon officials tried to battle the muddy mess by bringing in mulch and cardboard and wood planks, Kono said. Several tents were reoriented, and the portable toilets were placed in the parking lot rather than on the muddy grass, he said.

But the fields took a beating from the elements and the sheer number of people, prompting the city to close them for a week.

School athletic directors were left scrambling to find practice space and game fields, competing with other youth sports leagues, said Jim Bukes, Interscholastic League of Honolulu soccer coordinator.

The ILH winter sports season has been extended, Bukes said, because so many games were postponed either because of rain or lack of field space.

"This affects boys' and girls' varsity sports," Bukes said. "We will be playing more games at Waipi'o Soccer Complex. That will mean early release (from school) for many students because of the problems with traffic. Kapi'olani is much more convenient."

The fields are used by the ILH for games and practices, American Youth Soccer Organization teams, private soccer clubs, lacrosse, rugby and softball teams. During the week of closure, 10 permit holders were displaced, the city said. Each year, 1,200 permits are issued for the park, said Dana Takahara-Dias, deputy director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

"With the saturation we had islandwide prior to the marathon, the fields were in bad condition to begin with," Takahara-Dias said. "With 30,000 people, it made matters worse."

Besides the trampling from 24,000 finishers, volunteers, booth organizers and well-wishers, delivery trucks traveled on the grassy fields, leaving deep ruts.

Yesterday, after a thorough inspection of the fields, the city gave the nod to allow teams to play games on four of the five fields, Takahara-Dias said. The fifth field, closest to the tennis courts, won't reopen for weeks, she said.

Next year, the Honolulu Marathon will hire off-duty police officers to make sure delivery vans don't drive on the grass at the park, and will make sure that there's a chain across the park maintenance accessway, Kono said. In addition, marathon organizers have considered repositioning the tents and booths.

Marathon organizers have already paid for the delivery of a load of topsoil to be spread out over the ruts.

Alethea Rebman, Kapi'olani Park Preservation Society board president, would like to see an absolute ban on trucks in the park. The society, which is charged with ensuring the park is preserved for use by the public, said it's seen problems caused by groups using the park in the past, but never of this magnitude.

"We're hoping the marathon committee steps up to the plate and restores the park to its prior state," Rebman said. "They should have thought about moving their tents and stuff to the asphalt rather than leaving it all on the grass to make mud."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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