BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – There was a time not that long ago when football and track and field were the only sports contested within the friendly confines of Buck Swank Stadium, at the Palmyra Middle School. Apparently Cougar athletics have come full circle.
Over the last few years, some Palmyra sports have gravitated towards In The Net sports complex and its desirable turf fields. As of this school year, five Cougar sports teams – field hockey, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, boys’ lacrosse and girls’ lacrosse – will play their entire home schedule at In The Net.
“Even for soccer, just about every postseason contest is played on turf,” Palmyra athletic director Brian Weidler said. “Every field hockey game is on turf. It’s an advantage. But turf fields are pretty prevalent. Absolutely, if we don’t do it, we’re behind.
“It fits our style of play,” added Weidler, “and the kind of game our soccer coaches are trying to play.”
“Just playing on turf is a whole other game,” said Cougar head football coach Kristi Harshman-Costello. “It helps develop players, and the speed of the game is so much faster. Every team in our division has it, so we’re at a complete disadvantage if we’re not practicing on it and playing on it. An opportunity to get to play on turf came along, and we took it.”
The cost for the Cougars to play their home games at In The Net is considerable, about $5,000 per team. But the cost to install a turf field at Buck Swank Stadium – something Weidler has explored in the past – is even more steep, more than $1 million.
In the past, each team was responsible for raising their own rent.
“It’s a one-year contract,” said Weidler. “We pay rent. Some of it comes from booster club contributions and some of it comes from district funding. I’m hoping we can turn this into a long-term situation. I’m hoping we can sign a longer deal next time around.”
“We play all of our home games here,” said Harshman-Costello. “This is our third year for every game. My first year, we still played on a grass field. This is the first time the school district has helped fund it. In the past, the booster club raised money and we paid for it ourselves.”
In The Net sports complex is located about a mile from the Palmyra high school campus. So not unlike Buck Swank Stadium, transportation is an issue.
“It is a football only facility,” said Weidler of ‘The Buck’. “We miss the Buck Swank atmosphere. But we consider ourselves a soccer school and soccer is meant to be played on a full field.”