Impacts of new artificial turf at St. George soccer field go beyond water conservation

ST. GEORGE — It was a chilly and slightly wet afternoon at the Little Valley soccer fields as civic officials and area sports enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the artificial turf recently installed as a part of area water conservation efforts.

Shane Moore, parks and community services director for the city of St. George, speaks to the replacement of regular glass with artificial turf at the Little Valley soccer fields, St. George, Utah, Feb. 21, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“This is one of the largest artificial turf soccer complexes in the state that is open to the public,” Shane Moore, the city of St. George’s parks and community services director, said during the brief event.

The day’s rain momentarily ceased as Moore and others spoke about the conversion from regular grass to artificial turf for the primary soccer fields at the Little Valley sports complex located at 2995 S. 2350 East in St. George.

Approximately 4.6 acres of grass have been replaced and will provide a water savings of over 14 million gallons annually, Moore said.

The removal of the sod is part of a growing movement across Washington County and the state to replace grass with more water-efficient and desert-friendly landscaping.

Recently the Washington County Water District announced that over 1 million square feet of sod had been removed and replaced within the county over the last year thanks to a rebate program. Local water managers estimate these efforts will save approximately 45 million gallons of water annually.

Soccer players practicing their sport at the Little Valley soccer fields, St. George, Utah, Feb. 21, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

In addition to water conservation, the artificial turf will allow the sports fields to see more frequent, year-round use. Prior to the change, the fields were subject to periods of closure for seeding, winter or matters of maintenance.

The extended use is anticipated to build on the facility’s economic impact.

The sports fields regularly play host to soccer tournaments and will be able to increase its use time with city staff not having to worry about maintaining and reseeding up to 200,000 square feet of sod.

The transition of the sports fields from regular to artificial turf began in 2022 when the city of St. George and Washington County entered into an agreement for the county to apply $1.5 million to the estimated $3 million price tag. The county’s funding was derived from transient room tax revenue, which are tourism-based taxes collected from hotels and similar temporary lodging stays within the county.

“Unless you’ve (stayed) in a hotel here, you didn’t pay for this $1.5 million portion that we had,” Almquist said. “Rather, that comes from the visitors.”

People who visit the St. George area – be it to attend a sports tournament at the Little Valley complex or some other local attraction – generate enough revenue for the county to offset individual property taxes up $1,600 annually, the county commissioner said.

People gathered at the Little Valley soccer fields to celebrate the recent installment of artificial turf which is estimated to save over 14 million gallons of water a year, St. George, Utah, Feb. 21, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The 2022 agreement between the city and county also included partial funding for the expansion of the Little Valley Pickleball Complex next door.

Also contributing to the project was the Washington County Water Conservancy District, which provided an additional $1 million for the artificial turf installation.

“Everybody quickly realized this is a good project and the water district wanted to be a part of it,” said Zach Renstrom, general manager of the county water district. “I just want to thank St. George City for being such a great example of water conservation and what we can do when we collaborate together.”

Following the round of comments about the new state of the soccer fields, attendees participated in a ceremonial “first kick,” kicking soccer balls into a goal.

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