SALEM - The rubber from the road met the turf at the Center Circle indoor soccer field Wednesday, courtesy of the community-conscious Salem Quakers football team.
The players from grades 7-12 kicked off their shoes and picked up some buckets, rakes and brooms to help the Salem Community Center with a project to rebuild the cushioning on the turf, using tiny rubber pellets made of recycled tires.
"We're hoping to put an additional inch of cushion across the field," SCC Executive Director Heather Young said.
The surface under the field is dirt, which is then covered by the green artificial turf which is covered by thousands of pounds of rubber worked down into the field and barely noticeable to spectators or participants in a game. When the soccer field was first built, the rubber pellets were brought by the truck load and dumped, then spread around and raked into the field, giving the surface a spongy feel.
Young explained that over the past seven years, they've dragged and raked the field three or four times a year to fluff it back up. If they noticed a bad spot forming, they poured some leftover pellets onto the surface and worked them back into the field.
With the level of the field dropping slightly below the concrete surrounding the field, they decided to build it back up by at least an inch. The 16,140-square-foot field will have 36,000 pounds of the rubber pellets spread over it and worked into the surface this week. The SCC purchased 18 bags containing 2,000 pounds each of the recycled tire material from Liberty Tire in Pennsylvania.
To spread it out, they're using brooms, rakes and 4-wheelers equipped with rake drag units. Young estimated it will take at seven or more days to finish the work and have the field looking green again. SCC staff members started the work on Monday. Knowing they needed a lot of bodies to spread the rubber pellets, since they couldn't use dump trucks this time around, she thought of the football team.
Team members have used the field in the off-season to throw the ball around and work on their skills, so she asked for their assistance in exchange for some free rental time over the course of the year.
"Our kids and our program are part of the community so we wanted to do anything we could to help," head varsity football coach Ron Johnson said. "The time is just an added bonus."
He said they would have done the work for nothing because that's what the team is all about. They want to serve the community.
"We build our program on three facets: mind, body and spirit," he said.
For the mind, they've focused on academics and earned Academic All Ohio honors by having the second highest grade point average in the state as a team out of 718 other schools. They've been working on the weights and getting stronger bodies. The Salem Power Lifting Team won third place at the Columbiana Power Meet this year.
For spirit, Johnson said they've learned through various community service projects that "it's not always about them," helping them to build up some pride.
Heading into his third season as head coach, he's volunteered the team for a lot of projects, including the city spring cleanup, helping move files and boxes at the police department, painting the visitors bleachers at Reilly Stadium, helping with youth football camps and reading and serving as mentors to elementary students.
He said he's noticed a change in some of his players over that time.
"You can see how much more pride they have. They're proud to represent Salem football and the Salem community. Any time you can have young people make an investment, then their commitment to that investment is a lot stronger," Johnson said.
About 100 players showed up at the indoor soccer field to volunteer their labor.
"This helps us out tremendously," Young said.
The team's first game this year is Aug. 28 at Mineral Ridge. According to Johnson, it's going to be a payoff year for all their hard work.
"We're excited for everybody to come and watch these guys," he said.