Limited soccer field space leads to City Council discussion

October 22, 2010
Santa Paula City Council

The city’s lack of soccer fields is preventing local children from playing close to home, the City Council learned at the October 18 meeting.

Councilman Dr. Gabino Aguirre, speaking on behalf of soccer advocates, told the council there were questions about a decision made by the Community Services Department to limit play to teams in the AYSO.

“Some comments forwarded to me are their children are not in the AYSO structure and still belong to leagues, they have rosters of children that are local children” that must have games out of town. Aguirre said staff should meet with representatives of such teams.

Councilman Bob Gonzales said he spoke to Brian Yanez, community services director. “I understand one group is not allowed to play” in the park, although their season lasts seven more weeks.

City Manager Jaime Fontes said he distributed a memo to the council in recent weeks detailing “overuse” of certain park areas that adversely affected playing fields, and some use was without city permission.

“It’s a very sad issue,” said Yanez. “The bottom line is we don’t have enough space” for the 800 AYSO members and “a handful of club teams” that have up to 60 local youth playing.

AYSO parents and coaches have told the city there is not enough room for allowed players, and Yanez said although the city “did scale back some of those playing not on our books,” Teague Park has “just too many teams on that field at one time.” Yanez said he has been trying to be fair to players, while also protecting city assets.

Councilman Ralph Fernandez asked if play could be staggered to allow more field usage, but Yanez noted space is limited. Limoneira Soccer Fields have no lights for night play, and the time change is coming.

Schools should be contacted, said Fernandez, and other options examined. Santa Paula is “114 acres short of parks for a community this size,” and Yanez said the issue is a difficult one.

City Manager Jaime Fontes said several issues come into play when working with the schools to provide play space for all sports. With private teams, he noted, the schools are concerned with insurance coverage. “With the remaining time left we’ll try to accommodate as much as we can,” but, said Fontes, “not all will be pleased.”

After more discussion Aguirre noted, “What a great problem to have,” more and more children being involved in sports. He said he suggested to several groups whose children belong to outside leagues to raise funds to allow local play and a Santa Paula-based league.

The council will revisit the issue at a future meeting.

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