Monday, September 25, 2017     Volume: 18, Issue: 29
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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on July 12th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 19

State denies Santa Maria's grant request for proposed multi-sports field complex

By CALEB WISEBLOOD

“We regret to inform you” is the last thing anyone wants to read at the beginning of a notice—a phrase commonly found in rejection letters from universities. The city of Santa Maria didn’t apply for college this year, rather a $1 million grant from the state. 

Earlier this month, the California Department of Parks and Recreation informed the city it was not selected to receive the grant, which would have been used to fund a new multi-sports field complex in Santa Maria.


STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER?
The proposed site for the multi-sports field complex is a 19-acre strawberry field on the corner of West Stowell Road and South Depot Street in Santa Maria. The project would roll out in phases, including several fields, parking, and a recreation building.
PHOTO BY CALEB WISEBLOOD

Alex Posada, director of the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, lamented with the verdict.

“This is disappointing news,” Posada said in a release from the city. “But the city will continue to work with the community to identify other funding sources and opportunities so that this project can move forward in the near future.”

The possibility of a multi-sports field complex was first discussed at a Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Commission public hearing in September 2016. Many of Santa Maria’s sports groups were there to address the need for more fields in town.

As a result, the Recreation and Parks Commission established a Sports Field Complex Committee, which was tasked with preparing an action plan on how to move forward with the proposed complex. The committee was also tasked with strategizing what should be done with existing parks and school fields to address the immediate need for more space.

The committee’s top priority, though, is to make the proposed complex a reality. The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department worked with the committee as well as those who own the land for the proposed site, a 19-acre strawberry field on the corner of West Stowell Road and South Depot Street.


IMMEDIATE NEED
Santa Maria’s Sports Field Complex Committee was also formed to strategize what should be done with existing parks and school fields to address the immediate need for more space. Currently, parks like Minami Park (pictured) host several soccer league games at a time.
PHOTO BY CALEB WISEBLOOD

“Staff members from many city departments and members of the community spent many hours working to meet the state’s criteria and deadlines for this particular grant,” Posada said in the statement.

Had it been selected to receive the $1 million grant, the city would have used the money to move forward with the complex, which would ideally include up to seven soccer fields and parking.

“I hope it pans out so my son can play there some day,” soccer dad Kyron Csotya told the Sun. Csotya’s son, Jayden, plays for the Orcutt Tigers, which are part of the Orcutt United Soccer League.

“I think the proposed complex is a great idea, it would enable him and so many other kids to get out and play more,” Csotya said. “I’ll support anything that allows that.”

In addition to the need for more field space in town, the Sports Field Complex Committee brought up another important reason to move forward—an increase in sports opportunities could mean a decrease in youth violence.

Eddie Galarza is the outreach coordinator for the city of Santa Maria. The newly created position was designed in 2016 to reduce youth violence and juvenile delinquency in the city, and Galarza was chosen for his 25 years of experience working with local at-risk families.

Get involved
Want to voice your opinion on the proposal or suggest alternative forms of funding? Call the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department at 925-0951, Ext. 2260. More info: cityofsantamaria.org.

“Sports is a great deterrent from kids joining gangs and getting involved with drugs,” Galarza told the Sun. “They want something to do after school, that’s what most of these at-risk kids need. Some just need a way to get away from home, away from the type of violence that occurs behind closed doors. Playing a sport could be their getaway, rather than join a gang or start doing drugs.”

Although the future of the proposed complex is unclear, Galarza will keep rooting for it. He said that a solid sports program could have a huge positive impact on Santa Maria youth.

“Working at the Boys and Girls Club for over 20 years, I witnessed a lot of different sports programs,” Galarza said. “When kids really get involved, a sport can teach them about responsibility and how to be dependable because they rely on each other. It’s truly a great thing to see.”

Contributor Caleb Wiseblood can be reached through Managing Editor Joe Payne at jpayne@santamariasun.com.




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