Monday Morning Thoughts: Slow Down on the Sports Park Vision

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I must admit I was caught off-guard when I saw the bold headline in the paper yesterday morning (Wolk’s ‘Renew Davis’ Resurrects Sports Park Vision). I would soon find out I was not the only one getting several messages about it.

Aside from the article and especially the headline reading more like a campaign promotion than an objective news article, the question is where this idea came from. The council has not discussed a sports park vision during its recent goal-setting conference. Nor has the council approved it as some sort of a goal.

And yet the article informs us that “Mayor Dan Wolk, as part of his “Renew Davis” philosophy, will recommend that a 100-acre site on County Road 102 be considered for a multi-field complex; a site that would host AYSO soccer, Davis Youth Softball Association and Little League teams.”

The community has had a number of discussions about a sports park. Most recently the city has focused on city-owned land off of I-80 at Howatt Ranch, however, concerns were expressed about the location being far outside of town and precluding kids from being able to walk or bike to the location.

Other efforts to move the sports park concept to alternative locations have fallen apart. Mayor Wolk told the paper that the project was put on the back burner because “it didn’t have a champion on the City Council and because of the economic downturn. … Davis needed to prioritize.”

At the same time, the city appears to be moving ahead with plans for soccer fields to the east of town.

The Mayor told the paper that he has met twice with various league officials “to assess their needs and discover levels of support.”

He told the paper, “We talked about what works: eight fields at minimum for AYSO, according to them; Little League is looking to expand from the current fields they have; the Davis Youth Softball Association is looking at six total fields.”

He also said the costs: “Improvements to the Road 102 site, adjacent to the PVUSA photovoltaic farm and the Blue Max go-kart track, were estimated to cost $25 million in 2010. Wolk says the city will have to refigure current-day costs, money that, he says, could come from four sources.”

The kicker however is this: the city of Davis has put on the backburner for now the idea of a parcel tax to fund roads and other infrastructure repair. At the time the conversation came up there was talk about including perhaps more than just roads and other infrastructure but a swimming pool complex.

The idea of putting a swimming pool complex in with critical road repair needs was controversial a year ago with many objecting to mixing necessities with optional expenditures.

As Councilmember Brett Lee put it last June, “It’s nice to split the need to have versus nice to have. Road and sidewalk – need to have. Swimming pool upgraded facility – that’s a nice to have.”

But Dan Wolk’s proposal goes a lot further. He told the Enterprise that the sports complex, “would be part of an infrastructure (ballot measure) that would finance roads, a rebuilding of the Community Park Pool and, possibly, the sports park… That would help fund a good chunk of the sports park.”

This is the first evidence that we have that the parcel tax has not dropped completely off the council radar.

The Enterprise reports, “That ballot measure, Wolk continues, could come as early as June 2016 in the form of a utility users tax. Wolk says an advisory measure would accompany the effort, which if passed, would ask voters “how do you want that money spent? Roads, pools, a sports park …””

The question I think a lot of people are probably having right now is where did this proposal come from. There have not been any public discussions by the city council in the last year.

When the proposal came up last June, only Dan Wolk appeared in support of expanding the parcel tax to include swimming pools.

The roads issue is a huge issue – that alone could cost the city over $100 million even with the city pumping in $4 million a year from the general fund and even if the figures get downwardly revised due to a leveling off of pavement costs.

The city has been analyzing other infrastructure needs as well – the costs of parks and greenbelts, which are existing infrastructure that does not have adequate funding levels at the moment. We have yet to see an assessment of the costs for building repairs and other infrastructure of that sort.

But now in addition to a new pool facility, we see the discussion emerging out of nowhere about a new sport complex.

There is a prevailing sentiment from the people I have spoken too that we should not be building new infrastructure, if we have not paid for the infrastructure that we have already.

It is critical to point out that as of now, it is not clear where the other support on the city council will come from and moreover it has not been discussed publicly.

As Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, who was not yet on the council last June when these discussion took place, told the Vanguard this morning: “I do not recall this being discussed during Council goal setting nor was it approved as a goal of this council. I question the wisdom of using a utility tax or innovation park development agreement funds to fund it.”

He added, “I also question the wisdom of building new infrastructure if we are not paying for the infrastructure we already have. I have been consistent in calling for an identification of all current infrastructure replacement costs and beginning to intentionally budget for them. That should be our focus in my view: pay first to maintain what we have.”

However, the Mayor has jumped started this conversation and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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37 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Slow Down on the Sports Park Vision”

  1. Mr. Toad

    “The question I think a lot of people are probably having right now is where did this proposal come from. There have not been any public discussions by the city council in the last year.”

     

    Its called leadership. That is what mayors are supposed to do, identify a community need, provide a vision and make it happen. Before you try to take his dream down perhaps you should give him the chance to see if he can make it happen.

    1. Davis Progressive

      in a weak mayor system, i don’t think go outside of the goal setting structures of the council is leadership.  it seems like he is going over the heads of council and more likely raising a political issue.  if this was a priority, why not at least bring it up during their goal planning.

      our city staff is stretched too thin anyway – do you really want each council member demanding staff time for their own initiaves.  the mayor does not have added power.

  2. zaqzaq

    If the mayor wants a sports complex why not put it in the ag land to the east of the Cannery project?  That would make more sense than the recent proposal so far out of town.  Supposedly this is a bike friendly community and locating the fields so far out of town is not bike friendly.  It would result in more driving for parents to get their kids to practice or games.  That road would require major improvements for safety.  If you want to generate revenue for the city putting something right on freeway where parents can easily go to West Sac, Dixon or Vacaville for lodging or meals makes no sense.  Wolk’s proposed fields are not even located in the City of Davis.  What does the board of supervisors  think about this as it is in the county on land designated for ag use?  This is just Dan pandering to certain Davis groups for when he tries to run for higher office in the future.  He just wants the swimming, soccer, softball and little league communities supporting him in the future even if this proposal fails.

    On the other hand I do believe that all of the sporting opportunities that our youth and adult communities have helps keep up the value of our homes so any improvement in sports facilities could be looked at as an investment in our homes.  Quality schools and youth activities are two of the things that prospective home buyers that are parents or soon to be parents look at when deciding where to live.  It was definitely something my spouse and I looked at when we decided to buy a home in Davis.  We actually factored in the cost of private schooling in the homes we looked at in Sacramento.  We also looked at the crime rate in Davis as a positive, especially violent and gang related crime.

    Our mayor needs to keep his eye on the ball on basic infrastructure like roads and solve that issue before wandering into campaign slogan items like sports complexes, default drinks in children’s meals and the Davis Song.

  3. Topcat

    There is a prevailing sentiment from the people I have spoken too that we should not be building new infrastructure, if we have not paid for the infrastructure that we have already.

    Yes, that is certainly my sentiment. As I have said before, I would like to see “living within our means” as a guiding principal for city government.  Is this idea too out of fashion for anyone to take seriously?

  4. keithvb

    Why not put any money we have/will get into repairing and maintaining existing roads, bike paths, parks, etc? Besides a new sports park will just mean we’ll have to further cut residential water use.

  5. wdf1

    I don’t follow city issues as closely as I do those of the school district, but I have some views on this.

    It appears that this sports facility significantly will serve youth sports in Davis.  Personally I think that is great.  I think organized sports is a key and often under-appreciated component of development for youths.  But I question how accessible these facilities will ultimately be to lower income families.

    Davis High School has a very successful athletics program that is built on an extensive system of private development — Little League, Aquadarts, and other private clubs/leagues in basketball, water polo, tennis, golf, softball, lacrosse, and volleyball.  But it costs time and money to participate in these development programs, and that money, especially, screens out many lower income families from participating.

    Here are specific questions to ponder:  How many families from the Royal Oaks neighborhood show up as participants in Davis High School athletics teams, especially varsity teams?  Would building a sports park in any way improve accessibility?

  6. ryankelly

    I do not support paying additional taxes to build a sports complex in Davis, unless the City Council finds a way to repair our streets and bike paths without asking for the community to pay additional taxes to do so.  Renovate and repair what we have – upgrade the softball fields if that is a problem.  Change the soccer field at Playfields Park to two softball fields.  I hit a pot hole on my bike on a well-used city street and almost crashed.  I’m surprised that my bike wheel wasn’t damaged or that I wasn’t seriously hurt.  Focus, Mayor, focus on the real pressing issues.

    1. Topcat

      I do not support paying additional taxes to build a sports complex in Davis, unless the City Council finds a way to repair our streets and bike paths without asking for the community to pay additional taxes to do so…. Focus, Mayor, focus on the real pressing issues.

      Yes, I see it the same way.

    2. Davis Progressive

      i go further – i think even if we find a way to repair our roads, we should be reluctant to carry out a large project using city / taxpayer resources.

  7. Davis Progressive

    my view is this:

    i have process concerns about the way we have gone about doing this.  council had a discussion last year about a parcel tax, dan was really the only one supporting it for a swimming pool, now we are looking at a sports park as well.  can we take a look at our needs first?  our priority are roads.

    i’m not opposed to a sports complex, but not on the city dime and not with groups that currently lack the resources to deal with ongoing costs.

  8. DavisBurns

    I am still waiting to see city streets being repaired. I agree with Robb Davis; we need an inventory of all infrastructure repairs needed, a schedule for the repairs and set aside funds for those repairs.  Since the conditions of the roads was a popular topic last year, I have watched Covell Blvd continue to deteriorate.  With the Cannery being built we will have more congestion, more traffic and it will deteriorate faster.  With more congestion, repairs will be more disruptive.  If a city plans ahead they fix the road now not later.  We were told funds were available for road repair.  What the plan for this summer? Which roads will be repaired? And what’s the long term plan?  Seems like a good topic for a column.

    As to the new sports complex, in addition to the other objections listed above, Pole Line Road/road 102 isn’t in good repair either and more stadium lights will add to our light pollution And help the lighting industry meet their goal of 6% increase in sales every year forever.

  9. TrueBlueDevil

    Did street repair go to the back burner because they want to give staff pay raises, or they are afraid to deal with a thorny issue? It seems to me that roads would be the number one priority, unless Wolk thinks he can pass a tax that covers the whole wish list.

    Instead of this whole piecemeal approach, has anyone compiled a full list of need to have and nice to have items?

    Roads – $50-100 Million

    Pools – $5-10 -20 Million

    Sports Park – $30 Million

    Wastewater Treatment Plant – ??

    Downtown Parking – ??

    Do we really need all of these fields, and all of them bunched together? This seems like a Donald Trump wish list.

  10. Don Shor

    What are the ongoing maintenance costs for sports facilities of this sort, and how are they usually funded?

    How often are these facilities financially self-sustaining, or do they typically become an ongoing expense to the city?

    Would there be near-neighbor issues of traffic and night lighting? I’ve driven by the South Davis site early on Sunday mornings, and there are dozens and dozens of cars lining the road.

    Are there toxicity issues building play fields on old landfill sites?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I spoke with one of the councilmembers this morning who said that one of the concerns they have is that one of the current sports groups pays for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs, but the groups working right now to push for the sports complex have no such trackrecord and haven’t shown a capacity to raise the kind of funding needed. The fear is that the city could get stuck not only for the one-time construction costs but the upkeep costs.

      1. Mark West

        This is a bogus argument.  The City leases the Little League property to Davis Little League for a nominal cost with the agreement that DLL maintains the property, which for them generally means using volunteer efforts and donated or discounted services.  They also have the funding stream provided by their ‘snack shack’ to help pay for necessary expenses.  The soccer and softball fields on the other hand are not leased to the organizations and are therefore not under their control.  All of the  maintenance on those fields must be performed by City employees or paid for at ‘prevailing wage.’  These organizations are not allowed to do volunteer work to maintain or upgrade the fields.

        There is no ‘track record’ because the City has not allowed one to be developed.

         

        1. sisterhood

          We had wonderful experiences with Davis Little League. Parents were very supportive and helped maintain the program. Dixon Little League was another issue. Coach (circa 2001,2002, 2003) was cruel, parents were afraid to speak up because he was one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Dixon. We spoke up, (many of the other parents thanked us, privately) But afterwards, our son was ostracized! It’s all good now – I think it actually made him a stronger, more compassionate young man. But another child may have been devastated. Competitive sports can be a wonderful experience that teaches children to all get along and support their team and each other, or it can be a nightmare.
          I believe all youth sports programs should be free. One of my son’s friends did not participate in soccer due to the fees. I urged his mom to apply for aid, but she did not want her kid known as the charity case. I get that.

    2. Mark West

      “Are there toxicity issues building play fields on old landfill sites?”

      Yes, and there are Federal monies available to pay for the required remediation. We are several years away from having a functioning sports complex even if the CC approved the proposal at their next meeting. This is a long-term investment in our community’s future, and one that should be seriously considered and not simply dismissed as a political ploy.

      1. sisterhood

        Re: toxicity issues:

        Are the pools’ water cleaned with chlorine or salt based chlorine? How are the residual chemicals disposed of?

        It would be nice for the city to offer free swimming classes to everyone. I remember my kids used to attend free classes through North Davis Elementary, and C.D.C, at Community Pool. (Although on one occasion, the C.D.C. staff forgot my son at the pool! Luckily, the lifeguard watched him until staff was called.)  We also paid for classes at the Slide Hill pool.

        The regular chlorine based chemicals must be disposed of properly.

  11. Barbara King

    Would this proposed sports park be close enough to the police shooting range on Road 102 for the sports park to close when they are doing bomb training at the shooting range, as the go-kart and paint ball places do now?

    http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/briefly/tsa-bomb-training-may-be-noisy/

    TSA bomb training may be noisy
    By Enterprise staff
    From page A3 | October 01, 2014 |

    Davis residents may hear explosions north of the city just before noon and just after 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, because of bomb squad training classes being held at the police shooting range on County Road 102.

    The Yolo County Bomb Squad, together with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad and other regional bomb squads, are conducting explosives training for Transportation Security Administration personnel from the Sacramento International Airport.”

    Two separate volleys of explosions will be conducted as part of the training. Depending on the weather conditions, the small explosions may be audible in the city.

    The training is not open to the public and the nearby go-kart and paintball facilities will be closed during the training.”

     

  12. Gunrocik

    This is just another attempt by the Wolk camp to avoid the heavy lifting of fixing our budget and addressing our unmet needs.

    Fixing existing things doesn’t mobilize interest groups like new and shiny things.

    This is pure coalition building on Dan’s part — he wants this on the ballot at the same time he is running for higher office — and is hoping that the soccer moms and the rest of the helicopter parents turn out a higher rate than normal for a primary election and vote for the sports fields and Wolk for Senate or Assembly.

    This is so incredibly transparent — but Craig and Mom are betting on the fact that most folks aren’t privy enough to inside Davis politics to see through this naked attempt to gain votes.

    Not only is he doing this for all the wrong reasons, this is not a proposal consistent with Davis values.  The only place to ever put a sports park is where it could be within biking and walking distance to of our youth.  These sports park developments on out in the countryside are sprawl at their worst!  They are growth inducing and traffic inducing and ensure that  children will spend lots of times in automobiles sitting in traffic out in the middle of nowhere.

    If he wants a sports park, have him talk to Wickham about the land across the street from the soccer fields in Wildhorse. That is at least an infill site with a fighting chance to have ped/bike access.

  13. Barbara King

    Will the sports park be close enough to the police shooting range  to need to close down when there is bomb training going on at the shooting range?  (The go kart and paint ball places do close at those times.)

     

    =======
    TSA bomb training may be noisy
    By Enterprise staff
    From page A3 | October 01, 2014 |

    Davis residents may hear explosions north of the city just before noon and just after 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, because of bomb squad training classes being held at the police shooting range on County Road 102.

    The Yolo County Bomb Squad, together with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad and other regional bomb squads, are conducting explosives training for Transportation Security Administration personnel from the Sacramento International Airport.

    Two separate volleys of explosions will be conducted as part of the training. Depending on the weather conditions, the small explosions may be audible in the city.

    The training is not open to the public and the nearby go-kart and paintball facilities will be closed during the training.

     

    ==========

  14. Alan Miller

    When in doubt, blind ’em with a sports complex.

    A ticket right out of Sacramento politics.

    Keeping within our means ain’t sexy.

    Road repair ain’t sexy.

    Budget balancing ain’t sexy.

    A sports complex is sexy.

    Doing it for the children is sexy.  (That sounds wrong, but you know what I mean)

    Sexy buys a ticket to the next level.

    Sexy leaves behind a big bill to add to our debt.

    But who cares?

    It’s sexy.

  15. Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald

    Council members please drive down Olive Drive and (insert name of other streets in need of serious repair) and then tell me that a sports complex is a priority.

    Don’t get me wrong. The idea of a sports complex is in fact a very good idea, but not when there are other priorities that have still not been addressed.  And, a different location would be desirable as opposed to the border or outskirts of town. Priorities like our streets, sidewalks and  bike paths just to name a few need to have some attention before spending $$$$$$ on other “toys.”

    There are so many pot holes on Olive drive that the kids have made a game out of it whereby they open their mouths and make a funny sound as we drive over the  potholes and bumps. They then ask “When are these streets ever going to be fixed?”  “Ask the council,” I tell them.

    They see sidewalks in need of repair and ask, “When are these sidewalks going to be fixed?” “Ask the council,” I tell them. They recently said they wanted to go to a meeting and ask about the needed repairs, but I encouraged them to write a letter. We’ll see if they do.

    1. sisterhood

      I agree. Maybe the council could notice some of the homeless folks while on that drive. Perhaps priorities could be: homeless shelters, aid to battered families, free sports/after school programs (tutoring comes to mind) then road repair.

    2. Topcat

      Don’t get me wrong. The idea of a sports complex is in fact a very good idea, but not when there are other priorities that have still not been addressed.

      Yes! the Mayor should take a look around town at the condition of the streets.  There should be no more talk about “nice to have” facilities until the critical infrastructure needs are addressed.

    3. Alan Miller

      Council members please drive down Olive Drive

      Seriously!  The irony of this is that the staging area for the repairs to First Street and several other streets was on . . . . Olive Drive!  For months residents of Olive Drive had to put up with all-night dust, noise, lights, back-up beepers, while someone else’s street was spruced up.  But when the City was done, Olive Drive remained the same.

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