MODESTO — Modesto soon will finally and we emphasize finally have a soccer complex to meet the demand of its thousands of youth and adult players.
The first phase of Mary E. Grogan Park will open June 1, featuring seven lighted fields in a 20-acre complex big and attractive enough to draw regional tournaments. It's a feather in the community's cap and comes at a time when we could use an injection of positive news.
Work, under way since May, isn't very visible, even to those driving nearby on Sylvan Avenue. The soccer complex sits at the back of the 40-acre site, just east of Enochs High School. Although there's been a lot of work involved grading, installing drainage and sprinkler systems, laying down the turf and building a 500-vehicle parking lot it hasn't changed the skyline. The most noticeable elements: Fencing and lights, which are designed not to annoy nearby residents.
Temporary access is through the Enochs High parking lot until Litt Road is completed on the east side of the site.
The Bee's editorial board and photographer had a tour this past week, and it's an impressive place, especially for anyone who has stumbled in a gopher hole or slid in the mud of the penalty box at one of the grass fields around town.
Three fields have a synthetic surface Sprinturf which means they are usable in every kind of weather. The surface is surprisingly soft because of an infill mixture of sand and granulated rubber. The city received a $150,000 state grant to go toward the shredded tires that are used in the material.
Otherwise, the $10 million complex is being paid for from developer fees collected when home building was flourishing. Those funds cannot be spent to add police officers or for other operating expenses. By law, they have go to to capital improvements, such as parks, fire stations and new streets.
Although the price sounds high, it includes the large parking lot and grading and other work for when the rest of the park is developed, to include a playground, water feature, etc. The timing will depend on when home building resumes, generating more fees.
The first phase does include an appealing feature for non-soccer players and fans: a one-mile lighted walking- running path around the perimeter.
While Modesto has opened a number of five-acre neighborhood parks over the last 20 years, this is the first community park since Beyer opened, also in phases, starting in the late 1970s with six lighted tennis courts.
The city's first community park was Davis, built on 20 acres adjoining the high school. The concept adopted by the City Council in the mid-1960s was for community parks to be located next to high schools and to offer recreation for adults as well as children.
Modesto High was built long before this concept was in place and it is surrounded mostly by houses. Land was purchased around Downey High for its community park. Land was purchased for a park next to Johansen High as well, but Sutton Park has languished because of limited home building in that area. Gregori High is not located within the city, so there are no plans for it to have a community park.
While city crews will maintain the Grogan complex, much of the maintenance cost will be borne by the Modesto Youth Soccer Association, which will use the fields for its recreational and competitive teams. Several other area leagues also are expected to rent the facilities. The City Council will set the rates this spring.
When it comes to hosting regional tournaments, Modesto will compete against soccer complexes in Turlock, Ceres and Ripon. But Modesto is the first to have synthetic turf. Because of that, FCBescola, a school affiliated with the famous Barcelona team, has scheduled a clinic at Grogan in June.
While the city and the Modesto City Schools have had their political battles of late namely over the pool proposed at Enochs High city officials say the two entities have cooperated well in this park construction project and the school district has indicated it would make its Enochs fields available for very large tournaments. Likewise, a large school tournament might end up on the city fields. Regional sports events like these translate to more income for Modesto restaurants, motels and other businesses.
Modesto has long needed more soccer fields to provide a safe and inviting place for this healthy form of recreation. Grogan Park goes a long way toward achieving that goal.