Lindsay intends to renovate, expand Olive Bowl and Kaku Park with $3.7 million from California State Parks grant
By Paul Myers
LINDSAY – The Lindsay City Council and staff rejoiced last week when they announced they will have an extra $3.7 million coming their way to renovate their Olive Bowl and expand Kaku Park.
“Challenging bit of news to hold in, but we got word late last week that Lindsay was a part of the award process for the Olive Bowl and Kaku Park project,” interim city manager Mike Camarena said.
In a press release last week the city said that community leaders have worked extremely hard during the last two years to search and apply for grant opportunities to remodel and upgrade Olive Bowl and Kaku park.
“We are pleased to announce the city has received a California State Park’s Grant in the amount of $3,670,437 to completely renovate the park and baseball/softball fields,” the press release read.
Lindsay was one of just 52 California cities that were awarded parks grants.
“This is exactly what it takes to get something like this going. Yes we have employees that work on this. But without the community and the volunteers, people that invest so much time, this wouldn’t be possible,” mayor pro tem Laura Cortez said.
It’s also a major relief for Lindsay softball and baseball. For years the local sports community were playing on a dilapidated field. When they finally had some money to put towards a few improvements, the city reallocated it in 2018 and put it toward their sports complex where the golf course used to be.
In February 2017, the council was split over what to do with the failing golf course, and $330,000 in Housing-Related Parks Program (HRPP) grant dollars.
Giving way to the sports park and saying goodbye to the golf course was difficult for some council members.
“I like having a golf course there. It’s an asset but it’s underutilized…for me this is a heavy decision…I’ve been protective of it for a while,” said mayor Pam Kimball, one of the two no votes along with then councilmember Steve Velasquez.
“I’m not for this project. I don’t think we should do this to the golf course but that doesn’t mean I’m against soccer,” Velasquez said. “I’m for a recreation district that will generate the funds we can use to provide the facilities we can use in the future.”
Other council members ultimately sided with the evidence the golf course wasn’t being used enough to pay for itself. According to statistics accumulated by former finance director Bret Harmon, half of all the 900 rounds of golf paid for in 2017 were attributed to one golfer.
“There are more squirrels than golfers…we have something special in regards to soccer, but what we don’t have is a facility that helps that growth,” councilman Brian Watson said. “This is an opportunity where we might be in the black for once.”
According to then city manager Bill Zigler the golf course costs the city roughly $44,000 to maintain and was not a cost they could continue to bear.
In 2018 Lindsay administration was aware of the improvements the Olive Bowl and Kaku Park were in need of when they received the HHRP grant. According to Zigler the city intended on using the $330,000 as a local match for a larger state local recreation grant. But the city was not likely to receive the grant over larger more needy urban communities, which is when they ultimately decided on the smaller projects for the Olive Bowl. Plans changed though when finances began to become untenable for golf course maintenance.
For youth baseball and softball, the $330,000 HRPP grant dollars would have provided some minor improvements like handicapped bathrooms and a graded field. But Zigler noted the money would not have made much of a difference for the longevity of the field.
“You would have spent $330,000 but the place was still going to feel rough and kind of tired,” Zigler said.
Another factor working against the Olive Bowl and Kaku Park was the unexpected passing of City engineer Jim Winton in December. Winton’s passing threw the timeline of the project into uncertainty because he provided the City with survey work on the project. The HRPP grant dollars were required to be spent by June 1 of this year, and the City was not given an exemption in light of the engineers passing. Instead they were allowed to reallocate the money to the soccer sports park project that could be met by the grants deadline.
But now that the city has received the multimillion dollar grant, Camarena hopes to get started quickly.
“Once we get the documents and agreements, we will get on construction as soon as we can,” Camarena said at last Tuesday’s meeting.
Neither Camarena, or new city manger Joe Tanner could be reached for further comment on this story. More details will be added as they become available.