Mayor Sandy Stimpson and other city officials quite literally kicked off an improvement project for three synthetic turf fields at Herndon Park Friday.

Work has officially begun on the $1.6 million project that will give the park at the intersection of Dauphin Street and Sage Avenue new playing fields for soccer and lacrosse. The fields are expected to be completed by the end of summer.

“It greatly helps with safety for the kids,” Mobile United Soccer Club President Wayne Etheridge said. “We walk around looking for ankle breakers and always find one, especially after it rains. With synthetic turf, we won’t have to worry about that.”

Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Councilman John Williams and other officials kickoff the groundbreaking of new Herndon Park soccer fields.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Councilman John Williams and other officials kickoff the groundbreaking of new Herndon Park soccer fields.

The club, which offers soccer to 700 players in the area, has been in need of new soccer-specific fields for some time, Etheridge said. In the past, teams have had to practice at abandoned schools or in church yards.

With three new fields, the club could host most of a tournament in one spot, he said. According to Etheridge, the club has previously had to make due with hosting games at various locations, like The Grounds, or an old facility called softball city.

City officials have been discussing soccer fields for about 20 years, Mobile Sports Authority Director Danny Corte told a group of reporters at the groundbreaking.

Wynn Vinson, territory manager of Shaw Sports Turf, said the polyethylene fields will come with an 8-year warranty, and if kept in good condition can last 10 to 12 years. There will be no-limit to the amount of wear and tear the fields can take, he said. In addition, the fields will be equipped with a French drain-type feature, which can drain roughly 20 to 30 inches of rain an hour, he said.