Modesto, soccer group strike park deal

kvaline@modbee.comMay 14, 2013 

EF

ELIAS FUNEZ/efunez@modbee.com A Modesto Youth Soccer Association emblem is emblazoned permanently into the synthetic turf installed on one of the fields at Mary Grogan Park in Modesto.

ELIAS FUNEZ — The Modesto Bee

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Thousands of Modesto youth soccer players finally have a home of their own.

The City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to approve an agreement between the city and the Modesto Youth Soccer Association that calls for the MYSA to operate the soccer complex at the new Mary Grogan Community Park, as well as pay much of the maintenance costs in exchange for 4,000 hours each year of free use of the soccer fields.

The MYSA has had to juggle play for its 3,000 members among more than a dozen fields throughout Modesto because the city did not have a soccer complex.

That is, until now.

Modesto spent about $10 million over the past year building phase one of the 42-acre park, which is just east of Enochs High School in northeast Modesto. Phase one consists of seven lighted soccer fields, a 500-space parking lot, an office and concession stand, and a lighted walking path around the park.

Phase two will include such features as picnic tables, a pavilion, a water feature and a playground, but there is no timeline for when it will be built.

City officials will hold a grand- opening ceremony for Mary Grogan Community Park on June 1, but the park won't be open for use until shortly after that.

Mary Grogan marks the first large-scale partnership between the city's Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department and a community group.

City Manager Greg Nyhoff said without that partnership, the park would not have been built. He said that while the city had the capital funding to build the park, it does not have the operational funding to maintain it.

The public "needs to understand how important MYSA's role is," Nyhoff said.

Mary Grogan is the first community park Modesto has built since Beyer Park opened, also in phases, starting in the late 1970s with six lighted tennis courts.

The MYSA and city officials said the state-of-the-art soccer facility, which includes three artificial turf fields, will drive tourism, drawing tournament players from outside the region, who will stay in Modesto hotels and eat in Modesto restaurants.

Modesto officials see the complex as a source of civic pride.

The soccer complex has drawn international attention.

MYSA Board Chairman Frank Cousineau said after the council meeting that a representative from Italian soccer powerhouse AC Milan will be at the June 1 grand opening. City officials said representatives from a Spanish soccer club will hold training at the complex in late June.

The agreement between the city and the MYSA is for five years and starts July 1. It includes three extensions of three years each. The agreement states:

The city will maintain the park and estimates its annual maintenance costs at $209,000. The MYSA will pay $169,000, and the city expects to raise $40,000 annually from soccer field and light rentals from other groups.

The MYSA will raise the $169,000 through means such as the profits from the concession stand and charging for parking for tournaments from outside the area.

The MYSA has to raise $2.1 million over 14 years for the replacement of the three artificial turf fields. It plans to raise the money through having businesses and other groups sponsor the soccer fields and through signage recognizing donors and sponsors that have contributed to the turf-replacement fund.

But Cousineau emphasized that the MYSA will run the soccer complex for all Modestans. He said the organization will start adult soccer leagues and will encourage more youths to join its programs. He said one field will be set aside for public use.

MYSA officials said they will still need to use a second facility for all of their soccer programs. Cousineau said the MYSA is talking to Modesto City Schools about using the fields at Enochs High School.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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