Guest opinion: Longtime coach will vote no on fields
No one in Menlo Park has agitated longer for more soccer fields than I, both as an AYSO coach and also as a CYSA coach. Field limitations have restricted play ever since I began coaching U-16s 30 years ago.
Residents may, therefore, wonder why I oppose Measure J for development of fields at Bayfront Park. Folks should know that my opposition is not based on preserving the park as parkland. As a soccer person, I would sacrifice 10 percent of the acreage in a heartbeat if I thought it was feasible to construct fields there.
My opposition is based instead on my training in civil engineering and my fiscal conservatism. The cost estimate of $17 million for Bayfront Park fields is fantasy, even in 2006 dollars. The cost by the time any fields were built is likely to be twice as much.
In current dollars, the proposed turf fields alone would cost about $500,000 per acre. Imagine the additional cost of excavating the existing cap and the necessary underlying refuse and disposing of it; redoing the methane collection system; installing a system to prevent leachate from reaching the Bay; obtaining earth for, laying down, compacting and grading a new cap adequate to support the proposed fields without subsidence; and constructing the appurtenant facilities.
Alternates are available, at least for soccer, for a minor fraction of the Bayfront cost.
Local AYSO and CYSA leaders both signed off on a design for renovating Burgess Park that included a full-size soccer field. Unfortunately, the city and its consultant (who, incidentally is also the city's current sports field consultant) deviated from the approved design by carving a segment out of the northeast corner for landscaping and a few parking spaces. This error could be corrected for $200,000 or less with the result we would have a full-size field at Burgess.
Similarly, all that Kelly Park needs to accommodate a full-sized field is some regrading, together with the elimination of 10 or fewer parking spaces and the removal of two picnic tables and three trees, another modest construction project.
Add on the cost of installing artificial turf, if you want, and even lights if they would be tolerated, and we are still talking far less than the cost of a single field at Bayfront.
Former City Council member Chuck Kinney proposed acquiring land at St. Patrick's for an emergency water reservoir and building a soccer field on top. Some of the cost would have been borne by reservoir funds, which would have resulted in minimizing the cost of a field.
If St. Raymond's, St. Joseph's and Sacred Heart were to see their way clear to give a little back to the community by sharing their fields, four or five more full-sized fields would be available.
What's more, while full-sized fields are needed for teenage and adult play, we should not lose sight of the pressing need for cut-down fields to accommodate the majority of our players, who are younger and play on teams of fewer than 11 each.
Spending a disproportionate share of our Measure T bond money on Bayfront Park would preclude the much-needed renovation of various school sites, such as Encinal, Hillview, Las Lomitas and La Entrada, on which our younger players depend. Renovation of Encinal might even yield another full-size field, and the Terminal Avenue site would also be suitable for fields for younger players, as would the former Hoover School that is currently leased out for the German School.
It is no answer to say that La Entrada is not part of the Menlo Park City School District and that Las Lomitas is not even within Menlo Park. Joint powers authorities could deal with that issue.
In short, my view is that we should remember our priorities and spend our limited funds prudently.
James R. Madison lives on Holly Avenue in Menlo Park