Council Leery of Fiscal Costs, Moves Forward on Long-Range Planning of Sports Parks

Council acknowledged it was a strange item to take up in the middle of the slowdown due to COVID-19, nevertheless, the need for sports parks remains acute in the community and council was at least willing to continue to facilitate long-range community planning.

The Sports Complex Task Force met back in 2016, surveying and talking with sports groups and families.  They “identified significant deficiencies in the existing facilities needed for games, tournaments and practices.”

The short-term solution, they found, would be to reconfigure and improve “existing maintenance of a select number of existing fields to facilitate flexibility in their use with the goal of supporting a wide range of underserved and growing sports.”

The city also solicited RFPs “to conduct a market demand analysis and feasibility study to determine the need and viability for a multi-use sport facility in Davis.”

While Will Arnold and Dan Carson, who have worked on this issue in various capacities, acknowledged the need, finances are a concern.

Councilmember Arnold explained, “We found some pretty compelling information at that time that went not just to the quality and quantity and availability of fields… but it went straight to access of these opportunities to individuals in town.”

One group lacked facilities to host practices in town and ended up hosting practices in Woodland.

“That was pretty shocking to us that obviously goes straight to access,” he said.

Councilmember Dan Carson said, “One of the really striking findings for our work on the task force was that there are needs for adults of all ages as well as for kids, if we had the appropriate facilities in place today, we found that hundreds of kids would be able to play in comer type leagues that don’t screen out kids… that’s very important because there are serious issues of obesity for our youth.”

But council received consistent pushback on the issue from the public commenters.

Eileen Samitz urged council to not move forward with any more funding on this.

She argued the city could not afford these costs before the COVID-19 pandemic, “the idea of this coming up now is a bit inappropriate.”  She said when the issue came up before, “it was very clear that none of the neighborhoods wanted any sports complex anywhere near them because of the significant traffic, noise from public address systems, crowds and the high costs of night lighting.”

Colin Walsh argued that given the fact that our sports leagues are suspended right now, we don’t know when they’ll re-start.

He said, “We don’t know what the appetite will be for large tournaments in the future.”  He argued, “The findings presented tonight are already dated.”

Will Arnold suggested, “We should upgrade existing facilities rather than look at new facilities.  But no one wants lights at the existing parks.”

He said, “I’m not satisfied that we should just throw our hands up and say sorry I know we’ve been looking at this for a decade now… Very little has been done to address it (over that decade).”

He said that he wants to see the proposals on paper so that costs can be assessed “with minimal or no city investment.

“I’m telling the sports user groups… there’s probably no money here from the city,” he said.  The proposals therefore can’t assume that the city will have a pot of money to spend on this.  “This has to be a proposal where public-private partnership is not even a fair word.  This has to be something that the user-groups themselves… figure out without the city investing a ton of money.”

He said that was the case before COVID-19 devastated the city’s tax base.  He suggested staff come back with what a “non-binding RFEI” might look like, “so we can at least see what proposals are out there.

“That will require very little in terms of expense from the city,” he said.

Councilmember Carson said that the best approach is “just see whose out there and is willing to partner with the city.”  He said they should have a public process, put ideas on the table, but urged them to “have a capacity to do what they are proposing and would like to see evidence of support from the sports organizations.”

Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida noted, “It’s not lost on us that it may seem like a strange agenda item” but she noted that the process was already in the works.  Moreover, “we have to also think about the future.”  She noted that right now we are pausing to deal with the current crisis, “that doesn’t mean that we stop planning for our future altogether.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for a very long time,” she said.  “This is something that is needed and only will become more needed as time moves forward.”

She cited “the inequities that are out there for gender and other items are very compelling.”  She argued, “if we don’t go forward with this, you can imagine that the kids that are disadvantaged will be that much further back.”

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs saw this as a worthwhile effort and noted, “These things take years, not months.”  He said he doesn’t support the notion of stopping everything during a COVID-19 world.

“I think we still have the ability to think about a world post-COVID-19,” he said, again noting that this process will take a number years, so “we can proceed cautiously.”

Councilmember Arnold added, “I want to move this forward while being cognizant of the reality here that there’s not an appetite to be spending significant city funds.”  He said, this “informs what could potentially be other steps beyond that.”

Mayor Brett Lee said, “These are uncertain times regarding our finances.  I don’t think I would be comfortable continuing the consultant study as proposed at this moment in time.”  He did support a small piece of it—moving forward with about a $15,000 process to outreach to potential developers and operating partners.

“These expressions of interest might be helpful,” he said.

The motion was made by Gloria Partida and seconded by Will Arnold.  It passed on a 5-0 vote.

—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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25 Comments

  1. Richard McCann

    The claim of concerns about fiscal prudence are ironic given that the Council voted to give away millions of dollars in the BrightNight solar lease deal. Penny-wise, pound foolish…

  2. Ron Oertel

    “He did support a small piece of it—moving forward with about a $15,000 process to outreach to potential developers and operating partners.”

    “These expressions of interest might be helpful,” he said.”

    I’m sure that it could be “helpful” to developers.

  3. Bill Marshall

    Drifting?

    Drs Salk and Sabin ‘developed’ a vaccine against polio… therefore, they were ‘developers’…

    The overall context is pretty clear… sports groups and supporters being asked to ‘develop’ a plan for providing the sports fields… if they do, they are ‘developers’… to some, more evil than Satan…

    The term ‘developer’ has many meanings, nuances… context is important.

    The need/want/desire, and financing are the key issues.

  4. Tia Will

    I still believe our community should be prioritizing our actual needs above our wants or nice to haves. But that argument will probably fall on deaf ears with this counsel just as it has with previous councils.

      1. Tia Will

        Bill

        People avoided obesity and diabetes via a more active lifestyle for eons before such things as sports parks were invented. I would posit that simply getting out of the car and walking or biking to one’s destination is both free and a more effective strategy for disease prevention.

    1. David Greenwald

      But what is a need? The fields in Davis are lousy for the most part. Having been across the region for soccer and gymanstics competitions, I realize how lacking we are and if we do this right, the sports groups fund it and it becomes a huge revenue generator with tournaments and people eating at our restaurants and staying in our hotels.

      1. Ron Oertel

         “. . . the sports groups fund it.”

        Yeah, right.  The land costs, the development costs, etc.

        I recall something similar regarding the Covell Village development proposal.

        But what is a need? 

        Probably not car-reliant “regional tournaments”.

        1. David Greenwald

          Not sure there would be land costs. The sports parks options at this point are either on existing parks or existing city owned land. No one is going to buy land for this.

        2. Ron Oertel

          As you know, a developer can provide land (and/or a “contribution”) toward a sports park, to “buy-off” support.

          I understand that the new sports park/community center in Woodland receives (both) one-time and ongoing funding from Spring Lake. Of course, that also increases the cost of the housing.

          (For sure, the developers don’t end up with the tab, in the end. One thing they’re not is “stupid”.)

          1. David Greenwald

            That would require there to be a development of sufficient size to do that. And no, they aren’t putting a sports park in ARC.

        3. Ron Oertel

          That would require there to be a development of sufficient size to do that.

          That’s right.  Where in the “existing parks” or city-owned land (as you put it) would they put such a facility?   And, who would pay for it – initial and long-term costs?

          As noted in the article, no one wants this in an existing park (e.g., lighting, noise, traffic, etc.).

          And no, they aren’t putting a sports park in ARC.

          As with Affordable housing, perhaps they’d make a “donation” to put it elsewhere.

          Regardless, who (other than you) is suggesting that ARC is the only potential peripheral development? And on a related note, wasn’t there a similar proposal within Covell Village?

        4. Alan Miller

          they aren’t putting a sports park in ARC.

          Maybe they should . . . might buy ’em some R votes . . . they could call it, the “The Davis Sports P-ARC”.  Davis could donate those 25 or 1000 acres or whatever it is, and instead of open space we could have Friday night lights.

        5. Ron Oertel

          might buy ’em some R votes . . . they could call it, the “The Davis Sports P-ARC”.

          As I understand it (from reading another blog), there’s already an informal “skate park”, there.  Which is apparently much more popular than the “official” one.

          Likely to be demolished, if ARC is approved.

    2. Alan Miller

      I still believe our community should be prioritizing our actual needs above our wants or nice to haves. But that argument will probably fall on deaf ears with this counsel just as it has with previous councils.

      Did you steal my comment?

  5. Ron Glick

    “The fields in Davis are lousy for the most part. Having been across the region for soccer and gymanstics competitions, I realize how lacking we are…”

    As the Cowardly Lion asked “What do they got that we don’t got?” 

    Growth.

    1. Alan Miller

      As the Cowardly Lion asked “What do they got that we don’t got?”

      Growth.

      I was going to guess either a heart, a brain, or courage . . . but growth works, too.

  6. Bill Marshall

    I can think of only two parcels of land, large enough to accommodate large sports fields, etc., that would have easy access, particularly, particularly bike/ped… the latter important particularly for youth, and important to minimize VMT.

    The southerly portion of what was known as the Covell Village site, and the area under the “Mace curve”… there are still possibilities for grade-separated crossings to either/both, from existing or proposed development.  Utilities to serve either are available, but not without costs…

    The other is the Nugget Fields site, but that is owned by DJUSD, and the District sees that property as a potential source of Capital funds, if sold off for development. It is already being used, in the interim, for sports fields…

      1. Bill Marshall

        Actually, as I said, there are two… but neither without “issues”… ownership and development potential being the two greatest… and neither are within city limits…

  7. Bill Marshall

    Ahhh… by not refuting, by not disclosing which CC member you spoke to (an honest question), you point to the truth…

    And the ‘hidden’ epithets are in violation of VG protocols, as I understand them…

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