A youth football field in Norwich has fallen on hard times after players and coaches told Eyewitness News the playing surface is dangerous and feel the city needs do something about.
The home field for the Norwich Wildcats Youth Football teams is so beat up, the lush green grass is nearly nonexistent. Instead it's replaced with clover, weeds and plenty of dirt patches.
"Its very frustrating," said one parent. "I feel bad for our kids and our families that come down and they don't have a park that they can be proud of. We take pride in being the Norwich Wildcats."
Sunken in off of Hamilton Avenue and out of sight, coaches said the field has a reputation and not a good one, earning the nickname "the dust bowl."
"After the first couple of weeks of practicing down at the field, there's dust going up in the kids' faces, they're spitting out every couple of minutes," said head coach Josh Howarth. "It's just disgusting compared to other towns."
A newer problem includes vandalism along with people using the football field as their own personal fairway. We spotted golf balls lost in the rough.
Coaches told Eyewitness News those surprises and all those bare patches pose a danger.
"You're running on grass and all of a sudden you hit a dirt spot or a mole spot and go down, you can hurt and ankle," Howarth said.
In years past, coaches have taken matters into their own hands. When the field was seeded, they'd come down to the field daily to water it in the hopes that grass would grow.
On top of that players and coaches said they'd cut back weeds and overgrown brush surrounding the field, but were eventually told to stop.
"We've come down with weed whackers, just to take care of some stuff on our own and we've been scolded not to do so because it's a city owned park," said Johnny Burns, who is the president of Norwich Wildcats Youth Football. "So it's kind of a catch 22."
Norwich Recreation Director Roger Moss told Eyewitness News one of the biggest issues plaguing the field is the lack of an irrigation system.
"It's difficult economic times, and we're trying to do the best with the smallest amount of money we have," Moss said.
The other major problem is what Moss calls over use.
Starting in August, 200 football players and cheerleaders will practice and play at the football almost daily, with the wear and tear taking a toll.
"We're trying to improve how much we maintain that field," Moss said. "It just gets beat on the hottest months of the year when you can't maintain a good turf."
Coaches and players said they just need some help with the field.
"We just need a little support from the town and it could go a long way," Howarth said.
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