New places to play

It’s no secret Kitsap County is short on recreational facilities.

Surveys, needs analysis and committee reports all have underscored a deficiency in gymnasiums, ball fields and entertainment venues.

Coaches, soccer moms and youth baseball players also have told the Kitsap County Public Facilities District (PFD) to focus its resources on this critical shortfall.

It seems those pleas finally have been heard — within the last two months it has been announced that three recreational projects will be located on the 129-acre Fairgrounds facility.

In late September, the Public Facilities District voted unanimously to award a .033 state sales tax rebate allowed by state law to a Fairgrounds renewal proposal. The money would fund improvements to the Fairgrounds, including installing artificial turf and a new stage in Thunderbird Stadium, improving ball fields and adding new equestrian facilities.

“Members of that body signed on with the primary purpose of of finding ways to expand recreational opportunities in the area. It was actually a member of the board that suggested the Fairgrounds submit a proposal,” said Cris Gears, the director of the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Department, of the PFD’s overwhelming support.

A little more than a week later Greg Meakin, the managing director of the Silverdale Ice Arena, announced that Joanne and Chuck Haselwood, owners of the Haselwood Auto Group, had offered to finance the project, worth just under $4 million. Meakin tentatively plans to locate the arena at the Fairgrounds.

A third boon was provided by the Silverdale Rotary, which soon will begin the process of collecting input from area children to aid in designing a $250,000-playground to be located at the Fairgrounds.

“I talked to my staff and we agreed that six months ago if someone would have said here’s $4 million, and we’re going to build an ice arena and a quarter-million dollar playground here we would have laughed,” Gears said.

The PFD money, which will be at least $4.5 million and as much as $9 million, will be used to fund several improvements.

Gears is in the process of collecting information from the public on which of the projects are most important to them. He said the parks and recreation proposal was based on what area residents have asked for.

“The project was based on clearly defined community needs — more recreational facilities for kids and families,” Gears said.

Gears said he is concerned that current Fairgrounds facilities serve a limited need.

“(Thunderbird Stadium) sits empty most of the year,” Gears said. “A 5,000-seat venue is used perhaps 12 times a year.”

He also has listened to the considerations of Fairgrounds neighborhood residents, including worries about noise, garbage and that the project would increase traffic without providing adequate infrastructure.

“The folks have legitimate concerns,” Gears said. “There aren’t safe sidewalks — there are issues that need to be addressed.”

Gears said he is looking to attract “small concerts, not EndFest-type shows” to Thunderbird Stadium and other family-related events.

“It’s clearly the plan to create a park-like atmosphere,” Gears said.

The works

The following is a list of the proposed changes to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. Cost estimates add up to more than the $9 million requested in the Fairgrounds proposal because the infrastructure requirements for several elements overlap — and because not all of these projects will be built.

Cost estimates include paved service roads, planting and landscaping, irrigation, outdoor furniture, sign demolition, water and sewer and public art.

• Thunderbird Stadium would be converted into an outdoor sports and recreation venue by installing artificial turf for outdoor soccer and other year-round sporting events. (Dirt would be hauled in to cover the surface for the stampede rodeo.) A new outdoor stage would be installed to replace the existing one damaged by the Feb. 28 earthquake. Additional bleachers would be installed. Cost: $2,445,000.

• The Pavilion would be converted into a field house with rubberized flooring suitable for athletic practices. Additional seating would be added as well as break-out rooms for community meetings. Cost: $1,695,000.

• The Presidents Hall would be equipped with room dividers to accommodate meetings; the building would be expanded to provide a location for food service operations during the annual fair. Cost: $1,780,000.

• There are several options for the Fairgrounds ball fields. An upgraded playing surface could be added to the baseball field, along with new restrooms and concessions stands. Cost: $915,000. Another option involves upgrading youth softball and soccer fields, and adding lights to the decrepit field five. Cost: $975,000. Lighting also could be added to Gordon Field, along with a paved parking lot with a curb and a new restroom. Cost $740,000.

• A covered 4-H equestrian area, featuring a new horse arena with corrals and upgraded horse barns, could be built. Cost: $660,000.

• A concrete skate park also has been discussed. Cost: $235,000.

• Event camping — aka “cowboy camping” — could be built for rodeo entertainers and other special event attendants. Cost: $295,000.

• Possible infrastructure upgrades include: paved parking lots, $1,240,000; two miles of paved walking and biking trails, $845,000; improvements to Fairgrounds road including crosswalks, sidewalks and trees, $665,000.

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