County PFD tackling sports field crunch

A $29 million plan could put fields in North Kitsap, for Bainbridge use.

An ambitious plan to build new athletic fields in North Kitsap could send convoys of mini-vans from the island to new soccer and baseball game sites across the bridge.

A $29 million proposal by the Kitsap Public Facilities District is a response to a shortage of sports fields across the county and will include use by Bainbridge teams, although no new fields will be built on the island itself.

Even so, John Sloat, vice president of field development for Bainbridge Island Youth Soccer Club, said there’s no guarantee it will alleviate the island’s own well-documented field crunch.

“It’s too early to know for sure,” Sloat said. “I’m happy it’s being built, but North Kitsap is as desperate for fields as we are. I could envision a scenario where those sites aren’t available to our players.”

A master plan for the proposed North Kitsap Regional Events Center and several other facilities was presented Tuesday at a public meeting in Poulsbo.

Representatives from the Public Facilities District, North Kitsap School District, Kitsap County and the City of Poulsbo agreed to coordinate funding efforts for the proposal, although specific funding sources for the projects remain undetermined.

The KPFD, a public agency established by the county in 2000 to improve recreation and conference facilities, has taken the lead on the project.

Past KFPD projects – including a conference center on the Bremerton waterfront and a large sports field complex at the county fairgrounds in East Bremerton – were funded by a non-voted sales tax. Private donations or voter-approved sales taxes could be sources for future funding.

Among the individual projects being discussed for North Kitsap are a 35,000-square-foot multi-use building, an aquatic center, a theatre and artificial turf or lights to several existing fields.

The 10-phase project, launched nine months ago, could include 10 soccer fields, four baseball fields and four softball fields.

“Everyone agrees this will benefit all of us,” said Dan Delaney of the North Kitsap School Board, as the plans were unveiled at an April 11 meeting in Poulsbo. “The challenge is in coming together to make it a reality. It’s like making stone soup. Everyone needs to decide now what they’re going to throw in the pot.”

Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island, who serves on the PFD board of directors, and Kirk Robinson, Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District board member, said the off-island improvements would benefit islanders indirectly, though it is unclear to what extent.

Rolfes said new fields at Kingston and North Kitsap high schools, along with a county project at Poulsbo’s Heritage Park, would provide additional venues for Bainbridge athletes to play on.

“There would be a peripheral benefit if the events center and Heritage Park projects were to come to fruition,” agreed Robinson, adding that soccer fields were particularly in need.

Bainbridge Island has faced a sports field “deficit” for some years, and youth soccer officials are working with the park district to install artificial turf fields at Battle Point Park.

Bainbridge players could be on turf as early as fall 2007 at one of the new North Kitsap fields, provided the new North Kitsap plan becomes reality.

PFD official Ann Blair of Bainbridge Island said the agency is applying for a $500,000 Interagency Commission Grant from the state.

Officials from each group must now individually decide how much to contribute.

“The unveiling of the master plan is just the end of the first step,” Blair said.

Stan Lokting of ARC Architects, one of the firms that designed the master plan, said one key will be integrating the projects in a cost-effective way. Turfing three fields at once, for example, is much cheaper than turfing one field at a time, he said.

Several people at this week’s presentation suggested adding lights to new fields with turf, and turfing existing fields with lights, so they could accommodate as much play as possible.

For Laura Sachs of the Bainbridge Island Youth Soccer Club, turf would be a godsend.

“I hope this will help people realize the benefits of this new technology,” she said. “A lot of people think of the old astroturf, which was horrible stuff.

“But the new synthetic surfaces are much better and would really be a great thing for the community.”

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