Grand Park faces pumping predicament of historic proportions due to lack of precipitation: ‘The forecast does not bode well for us’

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WESTFIELD, Ind. — What began as one of the wettest summer seasons on record through mid-July has quickly taken a turn for the drier.

Since July 18th, Central Indiana has reported record low rain totals, setting new records since at least 1871 when weather keeping records began.

“We have never experienced this kind of dry weather, this time of the year since those records began back 150 years ago,” Meteorologist Brian Wilkes said. “And it doesn’t look very good to be afforded some real, organized rain chances as we see it, for perhaps at least another week… at this point.”

For some, in Westfield, that’s simply too long to wait. 

“The forecast does not bode well for us,” Grand Park Grounds Manager Ryan Fisher said. “We have a lot of ponds on the facility so we are trying to gather all those ponds into our pump house pond and so we are physically pumping water from one pond to the next to the next to get it to where we can then put it out on the fields.”

Perhaps nowhere is the lack of rainwater more apparent and crucial than it is at Grand Park in Westfield. The sprawling sports facility of 60 acres of live grass has resorted to consolidating their ponds on the property which is then pumped through sprinklers to water the grass. 

At 500,000 gallons a watering cycle, 3,000 gallons per minute, the park is running out of water.

“We have one of the largest, maybe the largest output systems in the state of Indiana,” Fisher said. “I think we have probably enough water for the next month… then we’re in some real deep trouble.”

By piping water from pond to pond, it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Pumping water through endless pipes, all the while praying for rain. 

“We won’t totally dry them up. We still want to keep our wildlife in them and make sure they’re still healthy, we’ve taken about four or five feet of water out of each and we have eight or so we can drain,” Fisher said. “After that… there’s really only one person who can help us, we’re praying.”

If you take a ride through the sprawling park, you’ll notice areas of priority. Brown grass marks areas of less concern, while focal point fields, for the Indianapolis Colts, the Indy Eleven and others remain green as Gumby. 

“We have to keep the fields as good and playable as possible for all levels of play that we receive,” Fisher said. “Typically, we water the fields about every two days for thirty minutes a cycle, we have had to scale that back a bit to conserve what we have. We’ve only had this problem once before, in 2018 and then we had to purchase water from our neighbors. We don’t want to have that happen again. We live in the Midwest… the rains will come back. It’s just going to take a little bit of time. It’s just a constant battle at this point.”

A battle which Wilkes says could end in a drought.

“We can’t prolong this cycle much longer. I would say within the next, within the next 14 days we’re going to start seeing drought conditions back in the state should we not get any organized rain,” Wilkes said. “What’s worse, we’re getting into considered what the driest time of the year typically.”

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