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Synthetic soccer fields are coming to East County

The Braden River Soccer Club practices at Lakewood Ranch Park. County staff wants to add two new turf fields to the park.
The Braden River Soccer Club practices at Lakewood Ranch Park. County staff wants to add two new turf fields to the park.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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East County parks are among the busiest parks in Manatee County.

Lakewood Ranch Park took 4,887 reservations last year, which totaled 16,575 hours of use across 21 athletic fields. 

Soccer fields, in particular, are wearing out quicker in East County than in other parts of the county. As a result, the Sports and Leisure department is moving toward adding synthetic fields in three East County parks: Lakewood Ranch Park, Braden River Park and the Premier Sports Campus. 

The two additional turf fields at Premier Sports Campus are already underway and funded. Designs started in January and construction in May. The fields are expected to be complete in December. 

The additions to Braden River Park and Lakewood Ranch Park are new projects that staff added to the Capital Improvement Plan during the budget presentation to commissioners in June. 

The budget and CIP will be finalized and approved by commissioners in September. Staff is requesting three new synthetic fields at Braden River Park and two at Lakewood Ranch Park. 

Molly White, Manatee County's director of Sports and Leisure, said the excessive play on the grass fields is wearing out high-traffic areas like the goal mouths. Right now, staff delays the wear by rotating and moving fields when possible. 

“Turf has an average lifespan of 8-12 years, sometimes more depending on use and conditions,” White said. 

If approved and added to the CIP, two turf fields at Lakewood Ranch Park would be finished by October 2026 at a cost of $3,997,125. The three fields at Braden River Park would be finished by December 2028 at a cost of $5,995,688.

According to the reservations by number of fields, Braden River Park has the busiest fields in the entire county. The 10 fields are booked up to seven days a week and 9,306 hours over the course of a year. 

While the fields cost nearly $2 million apiece to design and install, White said there are several advantages over grass fields in the long run. Less mowing, maintenance and management is required, and there’s an additional cost savings on pesticides, fertilizers and paint. 

The lines are stitched into the turf, so they don’t have to be repainted. Turf fields don’t need to rest and recover either, which allows for more play time year round. 

When the lifespan is up, only the padding and turf needs to be replaced. 

“The infrastructure underneath is already in place, so the cost is much less for a replacement versus a new installation,” White said.



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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