Fresno Football Club Assistant GM pitches 3-acre soccer complex for Visalia’s east downtown master plan
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – The City of Visalia has already held three work sessions this year, spent $1.2 million since 2005 and still doesn’t know where it wants to build a new civic center. About the only thing the council has given any direction on is that there is interest in locating some sort of sports and recreation complex on the city-owned property at Oak Avenue and Tipton Street. And if you are a soccer fan, the interest is kicking up.
Jeremy Schultz provided a goal for at least one of the 14 properties the city is considering for sale or development along Goshen and School avenues between Tipton Street and Ben Maddox Way. The Visalia native pitched the idea of a 54-foot soccer complex on 3.14 acres of land at the corner of Oak Street and the future extension of Burke Street across the street of ImagineU Children’s Museum.
“We want this area to be part of the fastest growing sport in America and the Valley,” Schultz said.
Schultz presented the council with a packet and slide presentation at its Nov. 5 meeting about his intent to locate an indoor soccer complex, dubbed Soccer City, complete with a beer garden and tap room, within the area designated for the city’s future civic center.
“The microbrewery district is what attracted me to development in the east downtown in the first place,” Schultz said.
Proposed floor plans for the facility include two indoor soccer fields, two street soccer fields, a beer garden and tap room, and two, 2,000-square foot retail lease spaces and two, 1,500-square foot retail lease spaces. The indoor fields would be similar to those found at McDermont X in Lindsay. The indoor courts would cater leagues were players can join for a nominal fee and play eight or nine games in a 10-week window.
The “street soccer” fields would be smaller outdoor facilities for pick-up 5-on5 games, similar to public basketball courts where the winning team stays on to take on the next challenger.
“Our goal is to create a community destination point,” Schultz said. “This would be a piece of civic pride that I think would fit in with what the city is trying to build in east downtown.”
Schultz isn’t just some soccer fan but rather an industry leader for the last 10 years. He is currently the assistant general manager of the professional soccer team Fresno FC (Football Club) and the former general manager of its predecessor, the Fresno Fuego. Branding his company as “1852 Visalia,” the logo represents the year Visalia was founded, four subtle diagonal lines representing the Four Creeks area surrounding the city, and an iconic Valley oak tree.
“It’s in its infancy and all very preliminary,” Schultz said.
At a Crawl
If Soccer City is in its infancy then the rest of the civic center complex hasn’t even sprouted legs yet.
The Nov. 5 meeting was the third work session this year on what the city should do with more than 36 acres scattered on 14 parcels, 11 of which are owned by the city’s former Redevelopment Agency, which were dissolved statewide by the Governor in 2012. Staff said most of the parcels are not spoken for except for the one garnering interest by Soccer City and a future aquatics center, which didn’t sit well with Councilmember Steve Nelsen.
“I’m tired of seeing a pool complex discussed with this facility when the council hasn’t given any direction,” Councilmember Steve Nelsen said. “At none of the meetings have we said to look at locating an aquatics center at this location. We never said anything except one councilmember.”
The one councilmember is Greg Collins, who has championed a city-owned aquatics complex since holding community forums on the subject beginning last summer. Collins said he was ready to make a motion that the city move forward with a master plan the city council approved in 2014, the fourth version of an east downtown design plan.
The City has already spent $1.2 million on developing master plans and design phases for the downtown area that center around some type of civic center and open landscaped areas. Harold Meyers, a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee, said he was frustrated by the amount of money the city had spent without any direction.
“We’ve wasted that money,” Meyers said during public comment. “Let’s stop building it at a piece at a time and let’s plan this thing all the way through.”
Councilmember Phil Cox said he wouldn’t sell any property right now while the market is climbing. Vice Mayor Bob Link agreed, saying that none of the properties will have any real value until the city has decided if and where it will build a new civic center. Mayor Warran Gubler summed up the work session by saying he thought there was a consensus to plan the new City Hall for the corner of School and Burke, but then followed up on a comment by Collins to leave the land for Soccer City open as to not obstruct the view of City Hall.
“We may have a whole ‘nother work session devoted to this topic,” Gubler said.