Howard practices at Kirkwood Park

Howard football players warm-up before a 2015 preseason practice at Kirkwood Park

Wilmington City Council's 7-3 vote to lease a portion of Kirkwood Park to Howard, that the school was already using, could have wide-ranging impacts for the school.

Howard, in coordination with the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District, plans to install an artificial turf practice surface on the land. Howard Athletic Director Dan Ritter, who is also the school's Head Football Coach, said there should be immediate impacts.

"It obviously gives the football team the ability to practice in all weather, but it also gives us a durable surface so we're not constantly going from spot to spot. It gives us lines on the field so we can line up and not be off-sides and be correct in formations."

The team had been using a portion of the park that was fenced off from the playground equipment and gazebos, and Ritter said the artificial turf will go a long way, especially in bad weather.

"Towards the end of the season, that field gets pretty beat up. The weather changes, and you're battling mud, and then when it gets cold, you're battling rock hard ground."

The field won't solve all of Howard's problems.

While it will give them a practice surface, the geography of the park limits the length of the surface.

Needing to wedge it into a footprint that's surrounded by Stubbs Elementary, Howard, and the Brandywine Creek, the school plans to build about a 70-yard-long field, which is too short for a full-field football or soccer game.

The football team had been using Baynard Stadium, but will use Caravel's field this fall as they await Salesianum's Abessinio Stadium to be built in its place for the 2020 football season.

Their girls soccer team is using the new 76ers Fieldhouse indoor surface, and will transition to the outdoor field when it's completed later this spring.

The school's varsity athletes are the only ones who will benefit from the new field.

After football season, the Kirkwood field had been seeded, aerated, and then covered with a tarp until late March or Early April.

The school's footprint made that the only grassy surface the school had, meaning one class that could benefit from going outside once in a while, couldn't.

"On a beautiful day like today, 6 or 7 of the gym classes could use the field as well. But with those tarps on the field, spring time was not a time we could use it for gym classes."

Seeing how projects have been green-lighted at Salesianum, Saint Elizabeth, and P.S. duPont within the last year, Ritter was thankful that Howard at least got a chance to improve their athletics situation.

"I just want to thank City Council for approving the lease, so we can get this project started."

If all goes well, Ritter said the team hopes to be practicing on the field by late September or early October. In the meantime they're looking around at various locations to get them through the first two months of the season.