HERMISTON — Most sports in Hermiston have their place. Soccer has Butte Park. Baseball has the Field of Dreams. But the lacrosse program has long been in search of a permanent home.
Hermiston’s lacrosse club, which consists of age groups from kindergarten through high school, has grown from 40 members to over 150 in just four years. They practice at Sandstone Middle School, and play home games and tournaments at elementary and middle schools all across town. As the program continues to grow, so does the need for its own field.
“It goes back to a problem that all of our youth sports are having,” former Hermiston Lacrosse Association President Scott Purswell said. “No one has enough grass. We’re all fighting for it. It just doesn’t work. We’re beggars. We get the scraps. We talked about buying grounds, and someone asked, ‘Why not EOTEC?’”
The lacrosse team plays most of its away games in the Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Yakima, but its home field is always changing.
Purswell said EOTEC has the kind of clean, buildable grounds that a lacrosse field would need. The program has been serious about its search for a location for the past two years, and the EOTEC board took an interest.
“EOTEC is a possible long-term solution,” Hermiston Parks and Recreation Director Larry Fetter said. “(The lacrosse program) has had some very noticeable growth over the years, and it looks like its popularity will only grow. They need a home.”
Hermiston’s AYSO soccer teams went through the same dilemma over 30 years ago, before Butte Park became its home for local matches.
“Lacrosse doesn’t have that benefit right now,” Fetter said. “They have to hunt for any scrap turf they can. They’re going to be around for a long time.”
Of the 100 acres on the EOTEC property, the lacrosse program is eyeing 20 of it to construct their proposed field, which would include fresh turf, lights, and a sprinkler system. Once built, they hope to host all local practices, games, and tournaments at the location.
The program has been working with the city of Hermiston, EOTEC, and EOTEC’s private management company VenuWorks to set things in motion, but it’s a process that has taken longer than intended.
“We had hoped to start last year after the (Umatilla County Fair) ended. That’s when we wanted to start the earth work,” Purswell said. “It takes four months to get the grounds cleaned and sprinklers set up.”
The lacrosse team’s fall season is played up in the Tri-Cities, but its spring schedule, which kicks off at the end of February, is played locally. Purswell said the goal is to make even more progress before then.
“I hope it would be soon,” he said of construction. “Our season is in the spring — we need to get the grass established.”
The team is funded entirely by donations. Purswell noted that it is only able to cover expenses for pipes and sprinklers alone. Their dream, he said, is to install their own lighting system, as well.
“We’re looking for help to build this project,” he said. “(Lacrosse) has elements of soccer, hockey and football. There are kids who were meant for baseball. They’ll play it no matter what. But there’s a lot of kids just sitting inside. We’re seeing growth year after year. They love lacrosse. We’re running out of room for them. We want to get the kids active.”