Who wants to play ball?

"Although the Kitsap County Commissioners adopted a resolution to create a Public Facilities District on May 15, it might be awhile until any projects are built.Questions of how to get funds and how to spend them will face the Public Facilities District when it is appointed next month by the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Committee, a group comprised of the three commissioners and mayors of Kitsap's four cities. The Public Facilities District, which was proposed by the county-appointed Public Facilities Advisory Committee last summer after months of studies and presentations, must now convince the voters of Kitsap County to come along. If this was free, no one would be complain, said Nancy Whitaker, a Washington Mutual loan officer who was a member of the Public Facilities Advisory Committee. But, nothing is for free.The new district will have the authority to build, acquire land and operate facilities for public use. It will also have an independent taxing authority to raise funds for the facilities.Several possible projects, including a baseball stadium, indoor soccer facility and more, have been proposed. The district will be run by a seven-member board of directors, with each county commissioner appointing one member and each city appointing one member. Rick Smith, a former member of the Public Facilities Advisory Committee who has applied for the district board, said that although the district will have three taxing options, there is only one viable way for the district to raise money. The county already charges the maximum hotel-motel tax allowed under state law and imposing another property tax would strain public services like fire and school districts.That leaves a sales tax increase as the district's likely fundraising avenue.The problem is we don't have the tax base of other places, said Smith, a Silverdale attorney and longtime advocate of bringing minor league baseball to Kitsap. Smith said joint public and private ventures also are possible. If the county agrees to put up the land, a private party could take care of the building costs.Despite the problems in raising enough money, the Silverdale lawyer remains optimistic about the chances of bringing a baseball team to Kitsap County. Although professional teams are available in Tacoma and Seattle, Smith thinks Kitsap needs a minor league ball club. He said recent studies by professional baseball leagues have put Kitsap County high on the list of prime territories for expansion. The people who live in Kitsap County are not like the Microsoft millionaires in King County, Smith said. These are places where you can take the whole family for $20.Smith said the Navy is backing the district as well. Since Kitsap County has little to offer the single, enlisted sailor in the way of wholesome entertainment, Smith said Navy officials are in favor of bringing more entertainment facilities to Kitsap County. Kitsap is a great place to raise a family, but for the single person, there is not a whole lot, Smith said. With a stadium, they'll have a place to go in the summer evenings.With something to do, Whitaker said the quality of life would go up and more people would be want to come to Kitsap County. It's overwhelming to look at what other places have and we don't, Whitaker said. That's why we started the study.The study conducted by the advisory committee found that Kitsap County ranks 37th out of the 37 counties in Washington when it comes to public facilities. Former advisory committee member Hank Mann-Sykes said Silverdale lacks a sense of community and that public facilities are desperately needed.We need to have activities for our youth, they are so under-represented, Mann-Sykes said. The skate ramp (Rotary Gateway Park, located on Silverdale Way) is the only thing we have for kids in town. We don't even have a boys and girls club.Mann-Sykes, who is involved in numerous other community projects, is not yet certain if he will run for a position on the district board.I don't want to dilute my other efforts, Mann-Sykes said. Whitaker, too, is unsure whether she will apply for the district board. The determining factor is whether she believes she can accomplish anything. When Whitaker went in, she was campaigning for more hiking and biking trails - a drive that might wane as the inevitable strains of community service start to press.I think everyone had an agenda going in, Whitaker said. But once you get involved, you lose it."

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