Practicing and playing games away from campus is nothing new for athletes at Archbishop Murphy High School. Members of the Wildcat track and field, tennis, swimming and golf teams have long used off-site venues to train and compete.
But as the school awaits the completion of an installation project for a new artificial turf surface at Terry Ennis Stadium, the Archbishop Murphy boys soccer team has joined the school’s list of sporting nomads.
Even as work crews are hurrying to complete the new field for the final few weeks of the spring soccer season, the Wildcats have been practicing and playing at nearby Tambark Park, a City of Mill Creek facility. Though the park lacks fan seating, the field itself “is probably one of the nicest I’ve seen,” Wildcats coach Mike Bartley said. “It’s a really nice complex. … If we have to be somewhere (other than the school), we couldn’t have picked a better place.”
As for the inconvenience, “everybody’s been positive about it because there’s a goal in sight, and that goal is having our own field,” Bartley said. The number of complaints, he added, has been “basically zero. Most of my team plays select or some type of soccer outside (of high school), so they’re used to traveling around and playing at different facilities.”
Since the school opened, Archbishop Murphy’s stadium has had a grass field. And like other grass fields at schools in and around Snohomish County, heavy use and inclement weather often turned that field into a muddy mess.
According to athletic director Erick Streelman, there had long been talk of getting an artificial turf field at the school. But the project was still likely a few years away until two events occurred to drastically reduce the time frame.
For one, Streelman said, Archbishop Murphy football coach Jerry Jensen got word of an artificial turf field that was available for free. The reason was that it had been returned to the Hellas Construction Company of Austin, Texas, “because it was the wrong (shade of green),” Streelman said.
The second bit of good news was a gift by an anonymous donor of around $600,000 that would cover the actual installation costs.
The entire proposal came together quickly last fall. “It was a whirlwind,” Streelman said. “But because it was such a good deal, it was too hard to pass up.”
By doing it now, he added, “we’re saving over $500,000,” which would be the purchase price for the field itself. “And the donor was so generous and stepped up with the right money (for the installation).”
With a new artificial turf stadium, “the ability to use it year-round is going to be a massive benefit to our kids,” Streelman said. Another plus, he went on, “is safety, because when that (grass) field is muddy and sloppy, the possibility of injury is increased. Kids are going to slip and turn ankles, turn knees and things like that.”
Ultimately, he said, the new field “is going to beautify our campus. It’s going to be an attractive piece of our facility.”
The field could be completed by the middle of this month, which means the boys soccer team might end up playing its final four regular-season games at the stadium. “We’ve got our fingers crossed on that one,” Bartley said.
In the meantime, the team will continue with carpools to get players to and from Tambark Park for practices and games.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes,” Bartley said. “But we can’t wait to get on our field.”