Lindsay City Council votes 3-2 in favor of developing a soccer sports park with previously allocated Housing-Related Parks Program grant dollars
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
LINDSAY – Lindsay youth soccer got kicked up a notch at last week’s City Council meeting. On a 3-2 decision, the Lindsay City Council voted to reallocate $330,000 worth of Housing-Related Parks Program (HRPP) grant monies from the Olive Bowl/Kaku Park to the plot that will soon be formerly known as the Lindsay Golf Course.
Lindsay youth Soccer League director Fautino Perez, along with his more than 400 registered soccer players, will soon have five separate soccer fields to play on. This is a considerable upgrade considering the 37 team league did not have access to adequate field space at the high school practice area. Unfortunately for some, the new Soccer Sports Park comes at the expense of the long standing golf course and improvements to the Olive Bowl/Kaku Park.
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 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 and I think our biggest problem [with the sports park] is going to be parking.”
According to city manager Bill Zigler the golf course costs the City roughly $44,000 to maintain as is and is not a cost they can continue to bear. If the land becomes a sports park the City will take over mowing the grass instead of contracting it out. Zigler said the cost would likely be just south of $20,000. And converting the golf course into a soccer sports park will save the City on personnel costs.
Before, the City would have to dedicate a staff member to let the league in and out of the high school practice stadium, but according to Zigler if someone from the league has the requisite insurance and reservation they can come on to the field as they need. According to Perez they have trouble getting onto City facilities and school facilities. Having a dedicated soccer park would help solve that problem.
A fee structure has not been established yet on using the field; the City hopes the park can become revenue neutral. Between the youth league, the City can also open the park for tournaments where other leagues pay to reserve the field as well. But for any of that to happen the City need to okay the reallocation.
“I’ve seen the golf course get used less and less and I think what most people talk about is memories, but memories are not going to get us where we need to go,” councilmember Laura Soria-Cortes said before voting yes with mayor pro tem Danny Salinas and Watson.
Members of the public in favor of the sports park emphasized the number of kids playing soccer in the community. Salviana Andrade mentioned the fact that students from Lindsay High School’s soccer program have gone on to get scholarships for soccer.
“You have all these wonderful kids and I want to have field for them…and you guys have seen how many of our kids have gotten scholarships…they are making a difference,” Andrade said.
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 notes 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.
City 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 Bowl. Plans changed though when finances began to become untenable for golf course maintenance.
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.
What is not solved is the issue of lighting. Some parents spoke up and said their kids have had to practice in the dark, saying the only light they get is from the stadium lights when a high school game is being played. Zigler said during the council meeting lighting is a tremendously expensive cost, and later he added there is not enough room in the budget for them. However, he mentioned parents can raise the money and the league and City can apply for grants.
The total cost of the conversion including demolition, grading, irrigation, equipment and other costs totals $315,040. In all renovations will create one mini soccer field for young players 8 years old and younger, three practice fields and two full sized fields. The remainder of the $330,000 HRPP grant can be allocated to other improvement at the Olive Bowl and Kaku Park, Zigler said.