Hermiston Community Praises Opening of HERO Sportsplex

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The Hermiston Muddawgs and the Walla Walla Wildcats, both seventh- and eighth-grade teams, charge for the ball on March 30, 2024 at the inaugural Farm City Face off lacrosse competition at the Hermsiton Oregon Sportsplex fields. (Photo by Yasser Marte)

Eighteen youth lacrosse teams gathered Saturday, March 30, for the Farm City Face Off, a day full of games to celebrate the opening of the Hermiston Oregon Sportsplex fields.

The HEROS fields at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center will host lacrosse, soccer, flag football and 7-on-7 football. Six grass fields are available for youth teams’ use.

Jennifer Feigum, a board member on Hermiston Youth Lacrosse, said field space in the Hermiston area can be hard to come by. These fields will allow “more teams, more players, more clubs” access to playing space.

“And add in this,” she said, referring to the tournament, “we get to bring in teams from everywhere.”

Historically, she said, the Hermiston School District has offered clubs its facilities to use, but the fields can get clogged or accidentally double-booked because there are so many groups and types of sports using the same spaces.

The sportsplex will help make sure there’s no more conflict, Feigum said, and that will support the growth of youth sports in the area.

“It’s crazy we were able to do this in just a year or two, and it’s crazy what the future holds for this place,” she said.

Parents agree. The Face Off brought teams from Oregon and Washington to play three games each.

Josie Salazar, of Richland, Wash., said it’s nice for her son, Eli, to get the chance to play different teams than usual. Normally, his fifth and sixth grade team, the Richland Bombers, plays teams from Pasco and Kennewick over and over. Coming to Hermiston to play offered an opportunity to face new opponents.

Locals like the location

For Hermiston youth sports fans, the new space means less traveling, which saves money and time for parents and makes it easier for more family or friends to attend.

“It’s been a lot of years having to go other places,” said Stephanie Edwards, mom of seventh grader Grayson “Sonny” Edwards. “It’s nice to see a facility like this come into fruition.”

Her husband, Vernon Edwards, has coached the sport for years but attended the day as a spectator supporting Sonny, who plays for the Hermiston Muddawgs, a team of seventh and eighth graders.

“It’s nice to be able to play games in Hermiston and not be traveling out, and instead bring in money to the community,” he said.

The extended Denny family also was there, supporting their player, Mason, another seventh grader playing for the Muddawgs.

“The opportunity to have these tournaments close to home means more family and friends can attend, and gives kids more opportunities to play more games in a season,” said Krista Van Veen, one of Mason’s family members.

Van Veen also said she was impressed by what the Hermiston Parks and Recreation Department, which maintains the facility, has done to create community spaces “that are accessible and safe for families.”

The Muddawgs’ coach, Dustin Rysdam, said historically the team has had to fight for green space. Not only will these fields help alleviate that problem, he said, they’ll also make it easier for kids who need more playing time at home because traveling can be prohibitively expensive.

“We want to build up our youth,” Rysdam said. “A good youth program always transfers up through high school, but it starts here.”

Hosting tournaments such as the Farm City Face Off is fun and exciting for the youths, it’s easier to get to for the parents, and, Rysdam said, “It keeps money in our pockets.”

The Face Off is just the first of what spectators and event organizers expect to be many youth sporting events at the grounds. In a few weeks, there will be a soccer tournament, followed by a lacrosse camp in July and a 7-on-7 football tournament in the fall.

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