Council kicks in city money to upgrade sports fields

July 28, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Since Issaquah Youth Lacrosse was founded in early 2004, teams have played on fields in Bellevue and Sammamish — but not in the organization’s namesake city.By next spring, however, founders Matthew Balkman and Scott Wiley could be scheduling games on new all-weather, lighted fields in the Issaquah Highlands.

City Council members approved a finance package to improve a second sports field at Pad 3 in the highlands’ Central Park July 20.

Balkman and Wiley asked council members to vote for the measure.

“We are part of the fastest-growing youth sport in America, and Issaquah has become a dominant force in that,” Balkman said. “We need fields.”

Lighted, all-weather fields for lacrosse and soccer leagues could materialize by spring 2010. Crews will replace soggy, grass fields with artificial turf and install sports lighting.

City Council members accepted a $100,000 donation from the Issaquah Soccer Club and a $500,000 state grant to help pay for the $1.9 million project. The council also agreed to kick in about $166,000 of city money to improve the field.

In addition, the project received a $50,000 King County youth sports grant.

City dollars for the fields come from a parks bond overwhelmingly passed by Issaquah voters in November 2006.

City Council members voted in October to spend about $1.6 million of park bond money to design and develop a single lighted, all-weather playing field at the highlands park.

City staffers then successfully sought state grants to pay to overhaul a second Central Park sports field.

On July 20, officials awarded a construction contract to A1 Landscaping & Construction, of Snohomish, to complete the field improvements. City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said work could begin as early as next week.

After the measure passed with a 7-0 vote, applause erupted in the meeting chamber packed with youth sports organizers, parents and city parks officials.

Before the vote, Issaquah Soccer Club Vice President Ed Evans encouraged the council to kick in city dollars to pick up the amount not covered by the soccer club donation and grants.

“We know that there is a shortfall, but we don’t think it’s too much of a shortfall,” he said. “We deeply, deeply want you to move forward with the second turf field on Pad 3 in Central Park.”

After the meeting, Evans presented Mayor Ava Frisinger with a $100,000 check. Balkman told council members Issaquah Youth Lacrosse would donate and maintain lacrosse goals and nets for the overhauled Central Park fields.

Talus resident Danielle Githens, a mother of two young boys, said she looked forward to the arrival of new sports fields.

“Our community has been talking about building turf fields for so long now,” she said. “We’re so close when you look at the dollars, the fact that construction costs have actually gone down recently, the grants that have come in, the pledge from the soccer community. We’re just so close and it would really be a shame to walk away.”

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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