Central Park to get all-weather field

October 28, 2008

By Jon Savelle

Parks bond, other sources will  fund $1.6 million improvements

In an action sure to gladden Issaquah’s outdoor sports enthusiasts, the City Council on Oct. 20 gave the go-ahead for construction of an all-weather lighted sports field in the highlands.

The $1.6 million project would be built on Central Park’s Pad 3, where unlighted and soggy grass fields have proven less than ideal. Wiring for a second, adjacent field is included in the cost.

As hundreds of e-mails, letters, telephone calls and oral arguments to the city have made clear, there is a crying need for more sports fields in the city to accommodate the burgeoning numbers of soccer, football and lacrosse teams who want to play.

Existing fields are severely limited by wet weather and limited hours of daylight. Lighted, artificial-turf fields can be used in any weather the players can stand, and at any time of day.

The new field would be built in 2009. It was described as a good first step by council members and sports advocates, who agreed several more all-weather fields are needed.

“The field is a great proposal,” said Ed Evans, vice president of the Issaquah Soccer Club. “The club is in favor and is doing everything it can to make it happen.”

Evans also noted that on that very morning, he had to cancel soccer practice for 3,200 children because the fields were too wet.

Club president Dale Lockwood said the organization simply couldn’t keep up with the demand for facilities. Each year, the Issaquah Soccer Club spends $200,000 to maintain public grass fields, yet it is not enough.

“We simply are overtaxed to support the youth players in the area,” Lockwood said. “The need is now. It is not going to get any better.”

It is a message the council has heard many times, and none of the members disagree with it. So, when the moment finally arrived to take action on the issue the council had long ago committed itself to, its members were enthusiastic.

“I’m delighted to have an opportunity to meet that commitment this evening,” said Councilman Fred Butler. “It doesn’t solve all of our problems, but it is at least a step in the right direction.”

Other members echoed this assessment while thanking the public for its overwhelming involvement in the issue.

After the council’s unanimous vote for the measure, Matthew Balkman, of Issaquah Youth Lacrosse, was beaming.

“I’m thrilled that the city is taking steps to accommodate the growth of young families and the need for sports fields that can be played on year round,” he said.

According to Agenda Bill 5848, funding for the project was assembled from several sources: $1 million from park bond monies; $330,000 from the park mitigation fund; $133,000 from the capital improvement fund; $75,000 in park bond interest; and $57,000 from the city’s ending fund balance.

This is just phase one. Phase two would build the second field at a cost of $950,000, for which the Parks Department has applied for grants from the state Recreation and Conservation Office ($500,000) and the King County Youth Sports Facility Program ($75,000). Local sports groups have pledged $100,000 in cash and materials.

Other funding has not been identified for that field, or for future improvements to the park. These include restrooms ($120,000); parking expansion ($400,000); and lighting for parking, landscaping, a gate and other details ($100,000).

Money for sports fields may be forthcoming if negotiations with highlands developer Port Blakely Communities bear fruit. These talks are ongoing, with the objective of protecting forested land on Tiger Mountain, expanding the developable area in the highlands and vastly increasing the amount of commercial development there. Construction of sports fields is part of the package under consideration.

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

“The field is a great proposal. The club is in favor and is doing everything it can to make it happen.”

— Ed Evans

Vice president of the Issaquah Soccer Club

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