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Santa Maria to Seek State Grant to Add Soccer Fields

The Santa Maria City Council this week agreed to apply for a $1 million grant to develop more soccer fields. Click to view larger
The Santa Maria City Council this week agreed to apply for a $1 million grant to develop more soccer fields. (Contributed)

With an overflow crowd filling the audience, the Santa Maria City Council this week agreed to apply for a $1 million grant to develop more soccer fields, but the proposal fell short of a complex sought by many local soccer fans.

Council members voted 5-0 to allow city staff to apply for The California Youth Soccer and Recreation Development Grant targeted at cities with youth-violence issues. 

California State Parks has set a Nov. 1 deadline for applications from agencies seeking some of the $16 million.

“I think this project is a first step in addressing the concerns we’ve had from the community,” Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada said.

The city is eyeing 19 acres west of the railroad tracks, between Stowell Road and Battles Road, but would have to acquire the land, which had been used for growing strawberries plus temporary parking for key events at the Santa Maria Fairpark.

“From a staff perspective, we tried to look at what was available land-wise, and this was one of the best locations,” Posada said.

The site would allow the city to install seven soccer fields, parking, restrooms and a maintenance facility in three phases, Posada said.

The first phase likely would cost $1.3 million, not including purchasing the land, which is near an area designated for a new junior high school.

Some initial environmental work already has been done since the land had been designated for public space, Posada added. 

“This site popped up immediately as the one that made the most sense to move forward,” Posada said. “Our goal, and I’ve had this discussion with the soccer community at the meetings we’ve had, is we’re not going to be able to build a huge complex immediately. 

“We’re going to have to try to eat the elephant one bite at a time. This is one of the bites, the way I look at it,” he added.

However, the audience filled with supporters said the city needs many more fields.

“It is very much still just putting a Band-Aid on a head wound,” said Mike Borges, Coastal Valley Soccer Club. “I could fill those fields tonight.”

The new soccer fields would be located near existing fields at Adam Park storm-water basin, Adam Elementary School and Minami field. 

With the new site developed, the area would have 13 to 15 soccer fields. 

Councilwoman Terri Zuniga echoed comments of audience members who have lobbied for the city to create a soccer complex with 24 fields to attract tournaments.

“Having soccer fields sprinkled all over doesn’t seem like its going to draw that kind of tournament,” Zuniga said. 

“To have a tournament, you don’t need a 24-field complex,” Posada said. 

Soccer supporters have complained about the poor quality of some existing fields spread across the city, but Posada said the city is working to address the condition of the existing fields.

Soccer supporter Cynthia Gudino urged the city to include the vast soccer community in helping make a soccer complex a reality.

"Tell us what you need," she said. "We're here to help you. We know people out there that are willing to donate money, that are wiling to sponsor this idea, this vision for us, because they know they kids need it. They know that the kids want it."

Members of the soccer community have the connections to help the city get the land and funding for the project, she added.

"You just put us in touch with the people that have land or money, I'll be at their door with you," Councilman Bob Orach said, noting he was involved in forming the first soccer league in the community 40 years ago. 

The need for more soccer fields arose from a grassroots group, One Community Action, that formed in the wake of a spike in violence that left several teenagers dead in the past year.

“Every kid we put on the field is one less kid running the streets after school and that’s our number one goal here,” Borges said. “That’s why the soccer community is so aligned with One Action Coalition.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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