Ewa football is safety concern for coaches - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Ewa football is safety concern for coaches

EWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ewa Mahiko District Park is home to the Ewa Saints football program. Four age groups of Pop Warner teams practice and play on the field off Renton Road.

"This is the only field that we got," Ewa Saints team president Charmaine Bernard said.

The field is known in kid league football circles as the "Dust Bowl." That's not a compliment. It's criticism.

"Tuesday through Friday we're out here and plumes of dust," Bernard said. "As soon as they hit the ground, dust is flying."

And players are inhaling it. Look across the playing surface and you see the entire area is mostly dirt. Whatever grass is there is either dead or dying. Some visiting teams refuse to play their games there.

Coach Jay Fernandez said Ewa Mahiko park has been like this for years despite requests to the city to water the grounds so grass can grow.

"The information that we got is that when they were building the gym the irrigation system was damaged. But it was never replaced," he said.

"It's not being watered so there's no traction. It's just solid dirt," Bernard said.

City Parks director Michele Nekota said sometime back a pipe burst. The city installed a regulator but the water pressure remained too low to trigger the sprinklers.

"What we need to do is we need to tie in to another water line. That will help to get the sprinkler system working again," Nekota said.

Bernard is president of the Ewa Saints Pop Warner teams. She said the field is also littered with rocks.

"We don't want them to get hurt - break a hand, break a leg, break a finger. It's a real safety concern," she said.

Last weekend the Pop Warner Association declared Ewa Mahiko unsafe for the Saints to hold home games.

"These kids do not hit soft. They hit hard. So when they hit the ground it's like hitting concrete," Bernard said.

The Saints are halfway through their eight-game schedule. Fernandez hopes something is done between now and next season to soften the surface.

"I would like to see this field nice and green," he said. "It doesn't have to be golf course grass, at least green and safe for the kids."

Nekota said the city will also plant grass. Repairing the sprinkler system will cost taxpayers $22,000.

"I really want to let them know that we're working on it, and we're repairing it," she said. "The sprinkler system is going to work again."

In the meantime, Bernard said other parks in Ewa are used by other teams, so the Saints have nowhere to go.

"There's no room," she said.

Right now there's no home field advantage in Ewa Mahiko, a park that's more field of dread than field of dreams.

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