HUMMELSTOWN, Pa. – The image of the typical soccer parent usually involves a minivan filled with kids in uniforms on their way to the soccer fields. In the case of the Penn FC Youth employees and volunteers back in July, that image was flipped as they kayaked to Keller Field.
Central Pennsylvania received between 7 and 11 inches of rain from July 21-26, swelling the Susquehanna River and many of its tributaries -- including the Swatara Creek which extends through Hershey and Hummelstown. The resulting flooding caused significant damage to the area, and left Keller Field, a longtime home field complex for Penn FC Youth teams, underwater.
Previously, Tropical Storm Lee left parts of Keller Field under 30 feet of water and made the field unplayable for more than a season. With the onset of the continual rains in the forecast, there were concerns that the July storms would have similar effects. Penn FC Youth Director of Coaching Austin Sidlowski and Field Manager Pete Murray along with a group of recruited volunteers went to Keller Field to prepare.
In the days leading up to the rain, they worked to secure and anchor soccer goals together, pulled equipment from inside the field sheds, and stowed field paint high in the rafters of a separate building on site.
Once the rain came, it was a waiting game.
Keller Field flooded as anticipated and was only reachable by kayak as the water levels continued to rise. As the waters receded, a quick survey revealed that the goals were preserved but two field sheds were destroyed in the flooding.
In the weeks following the flooding, soil samples were taken and are being tested to make sure the fields are safe to use before teams can practice and play games there. While testing continues, the club has been working overtime to secure practice and game locations for the 17 teams in the U9 through U12 age groups in the competitive brackets, as well as the more than 300 players in the intramural division of Penn FC Youth.
Club officials are keeping their fingers crossed that the test results will allow for the reopening of Keller Field within a month.