Sunday, June 17 , 2018, 4:33 pm | Mostly Cloudy 67º


Ron Fink: Is New Sports Complex Needed in Lompoc?

Recently, unbeknownst to the general public, Lompoc city staff developed a robust proposal concerning a new sports complex at Ken Adam Park on the north end of town.

The proposal was presented to the City Council on Dec. 6 and is an idea that reminded me of the failed plans to build a space center. How much time and effort (think staff hours) was spent on something the council didn’t request is unknown.

I checked the Parks and Recreation Commission agendas for the last year and there is no mention of this ever being discussed by the commission. So, this appears to be another one of those projects put together by an anonymous group of citizens meeting secretly. These well-intentioned people may not even be aware that other venues, with approved projects, are available but haven’t been built out.

According to the staff presentation on Dec. 6, the park would contain four baseball and seven soccer fields; concession stands and a restaurant. A deck and viewing stand also are associated with the restaurant.

This is reminiscent of an earlier plan, which was never completed, for Riverbend Park. That plan envisioned some 49-acres would be developed and about 2.5 miles of bike/walking trail would be built. The bike trail was built for about $1 million, which came from a federal transportation grant, but that’s the only part of the original plan that was properly constructed.

The north complex would have included nine soccer fields and allowed for five joint-use softball fields. Included would be an existing Babe Ruth League baseball field. The south complex would include four tennis courts, eight soccer fields and allow for four joint-use softball fields.

In total, this project would have offered 17 soccer fields, nine softball fields, a Babe Ruth baseball diamond and four tennis courts. More than 580 parking spaces would have been provided. This project was much larger than the “new plan” and would provide twice as many playing areas.

But, as is typical for grand ideas, this one fell apart when money feel short.

A team of volunteers tried to develop part of the north complex, but the city didn’t require any construction plans, it wasn’t built to industry standards and, of course, a plan meeting city specifications wasn’t required and no one inspected the work to see if it was done correctly. The good-intentioned volunteers simply graded a flat spot, installed a sprinkler system and planted grass.

Today, the soccer fields, although fully utilized on most weekends, are riddled with gopher holes because gopher wire wasn’t installed, the parking area is simply a graded spot with a ground-up asphalt covering that had no markings to tell folks which way traffic should flow or even where the parking slots were.

Once again, no plans were required and the current parking area does not meet city standards.

This parking area is overcrowded when soccer season is in full swing. Parked cars frequently spill out to the adjoining streets during events, especially when one set of teams is finishing their game and other teams are arriving.

The south complex wasn’t developed like the plan stated either. In 2013, a bike skills park was proposed and approved by the City Council which would occupy the space set aside for two softball and three soccer fields. Similar to the north complex, volunteers built this site as well, but unlike the north side this time plans were required and it was properly built to city specifications.

Do we need another plan for a new park? If the city could maintain existing parks, if Riverbend Park had been developed, professionally built and fully utilized, and if Ryon Park had been overhauled to achieve its maximum potential and all other venues were in good repair and fully utilized, it might be worth consideration.

During the presentation in December the last slide states: “Quality fields encourage sport participation and our youth need a safe and fun outlet for activity and physical exercise.”

I agree 100 percent, but if this is true, why have none of the previous plans been implemented? And, why wasn’t this energy applied to developing a plan to upgrade existing park venues?

I don’t mean to discourage “thinking big,” but earlier city leaders have thought big and presented grand plans which got the public excited and nothing happened. And, considering that the Riverbend Park idea was approved by the City Council more than 12 years ago, it is unlikely the new project would be completed in the next 25 years.

More thought, including an identified need that hasn’t been met with approved projects, is needed before the council allows this project to go any further.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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