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Kitsap County ready to spend more than $1 million on project at Gordon Fields
Kitsap County will spend about $1.25 million on upgrades to a popular Bremerton ball field, but the money won’t cover the entire cost of the job and it’s unclear where the rest will come from.
Designs have been drawn, a bid is close to being issued and ground will be broken this fall on the field resurfacing project at Gordon Park Fields, a parcel of land on NW Fairgrounds Road that is used for soccer games and practices and other athletic events.
County officials say the project will make money over time and allow the fields to be used year-round. The work includes the installation of two artificially surfaced playing fields and 10 light posts, allowing the area to be used at night.
But the $800,000 allocated in the county’s construction fund and $450,000 made available by the Kitsap Public Utilities District won’t cover the costs for the installation of the second field or any of the lights, said Jim Dunwiddie, director of parks and recreation. The job also has been scaled back since the original designs were drawn, with the county deciding Wednesday to eliminate two backstop fences from the job.
Dunwiddie said that with no money currently going into the construction budget, the utility district “only generating so much money” from sales tax and the number of grants issued by the state for athletic fields down compared to years past, there’s no telling when the project will be complete.
“To get the money for the second field, it’s going to be a long time unless someone wants to come in and partner, or public facilities finds another pot of money,” said Dunwiddie, who became parks director in November 2009.
The lights, meanwhile, will be installed when money becomes available.
Dunwiddie estimated it will cost $220,000 to install the posts, lamps and wiring for five lights, the amount needed to properly light the first turf field. Currently, the county is about $150,000 shy of that total.
The project will go forward with the assumption that the lights will eventually go in. However, Dunwiddie said he doesn’t know where the money will come from.
In a time when county parks are being closed and county employees are having their hours cut or losing their jobs all together, spending more than $1 million on soccer fields may seem like a peculiar move.
But county officials say the money was reserved long ago for the capital projects fund and, by law, can’t be transferred or spent elsewhere.
“Some people are saying, ‘How can you spend a million dollars on a plastic-grass field and you can’t find someone to work in park maintenance?’” Dunwiddie said. “It’s just two different sources of money.”
Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said the money can’t be transferred because it came from a real estate excise tax, designated for construction projects.
Asked whether there is any possible way of transferring those dollars, Brown said: “The answer is you can’t.”
The county believes that with a turf playing surface, Gordon could become a host site for major tournaments. There will be no risk of canceling games because of poor field conditions and the new layout will allow grandstanded to be transported in and out of the area.
The new fields also will be bigger than standard high school pitches and could be used for lacrosse, rugby and football, Dunwiddie said.
Those features could draw teams from outside the area.
“That’s beds and heads and everything else,” Dunwiddie said.
There are currently three fields at Gordon — two for games and one for practice — and they are used by various organizations, including the Kitsap Pumas, Tracyton Soccer Club, Olympic and Central Kitsap high schools and Klahowya Secondary School.
Tracyton Soccer has about 900 players and more than 80 teams, said 23-year member Vicky Webb, the head girls soccer coach at Central Kitsap High School.
When construction begins — the original target date of Oct. 1 was pushed back — some teams will be forced to find somewhere else to practice.
But Webb supports the project, saying it will benefit the soccer community and, assuming the lights go in, give teams more playing time. Games won’t be canceled due to poor weather, either, since there will be no torn-up grass, mud or ankle-deep puddles.
“It’s been something we’ve tried to get done for a long time,” Webb said. “This had been our home field for many, many years.”
Administrators at the high school level also expressed support for the project.
Gordon serves as an overflow playing space for Olympic, Central Kitsap and Klahowya soccer teams when the turf field at Silverdale Stadium isn’t available.
Olympic High School Athletic Director Nate Andrews, whose soccer teams practice and occasionally play competitive games on the grass at Gordon, said another turf-field option would benefit the players because that’s the surface on which they’re accustomed to playing.
“It’s like a basketball player going from hardwood to concrete or rubber,” Andrews said.
Currently, the county rents the fields at Gordon for $15 per hour. Although an hourly rate hasn’t been set for the soon-to-be turf field, Dunwiddie expects it to be around $25, which he said is the going rate for turf fields.
Teams will continue to play on the grass, too, since there is no money now for the second turf field.
The turf should last between seven and 10 years, Dunwiddie said, and it won’t take more than a “couple months” for the first field to be ready, assuming the weather cooperates.
By spring, Dunwiddie expects the field to begin making money for the county.
“Anyone who wants to play on here, it’s going to be open to them,” he said.