MODESTO — The promise of Mary Grogan Park was in full bloom during the last weekend of September, when it was home to the biggest soccer tournament Modesto has seen in more than 20 years.
The Modesto Youth Soccer Associations Ajax United tournament drew several thousand players, coaches and family members. About half were from out of the area and stayed in local hotels and ate at local restaurants, said Frank Cousineau, MYSA-Ajax Uniteds board president and interim executive director.
This tourism bonanza was one of the goals MYSA and Modesto hoped to realize when the two teamed up this year on the park.
But MYSAs first season at the park has come with growing pains, from parents complaints after MYSA started charging $5 for convenience parking to having to close the four grass fields on weekdays because the Bermuda grass has not taken hold enough to withstand the rigors of daily play. The three other fields are artificial turf.
MYSA may ask the city to modify its contract to ease its financial commitments.
Cousineau said no decisions have been made. He said a committee is putting together MYSAs revenue and expense projections for park operations and reviewing the contract. The projections and contract should be discussed during the MYSA board meeting in mid-November.
Cousineau said some board members want to ask the city to modify the contract, but he has not made up his mind. He said he wants to wait for the committee report to see if concessions are warranted.
Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Director Julie Hannon said she couldnt comment on modifications because MYSA has not requested any. She said MYSA has been operating the park for just four months and that growing pains are to be expected.
But Hannon said she believes MYSA has lots of potential for revenue by bringing in more soccer tournaments and clinics to meet its financial obligations.
Modesto spent about $10 million in development fees and fee reserves to build the first phase of the 42-acre park next to Enochs High School in northeast Modesto. The phase includes seven lighted soccer fields, a concession stand, an office and a paved parking lot with more than 500 spaces.
The city does not have the money to operate the park, so it entered into a partnership with MYSA. The agreement is for five years and started July 1. It includes three extensions of three years each.
It calls for MYSA to operate the soccer complex at Mary Grogan Park and pay much of the maintenance costs in exchange for 4,000 hours each year of free use of the soccer fields. Other contract details include:
• The city will maintain the park and estimates its annual maintenance costs at $209,000. MYSA will pay $169,000.
• MYSA will raise the $169,000 through the profits from the concession stand, charging for parking for tournaments from outside the area and other measures.
• 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.
Modesto and MYSA see Mary Grogan Park as a source of civic pride and a tourism driver as more teams from outside the area come to town for tournaments. Cousineau said the September tournament was the biggest one his group has held in Modesto in at least 20 years.
Before Mary Grogan Park opened this summer, the roughly 3,000 players in MYSAs recreational leagues and its competitive Ajax program played their games in more than a dozen city parks, schoolyards and other sites throughout Modesto.
MYSA also is increasing its programs. Its first mens league will start within a couple of weeks. There also are plans for a womens league, adding a spring season for the youth teams and starting a soccer program for disabled youths called The Outreach Program for Soccer.
I think we did the right thing, Cousineau said about MYSAs partnership with the city. Im still very optimistic that this is going to be a tremendous benefit for MYSA, for soccer and the city.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.