No lights at Battle Point, at least for now

But fields will be renovated, as the question of lights now shifts to school fields.

The Bainbridge Island Youth Soccer Club won’t get the field lights it wanted at Battle Point Park, but the club did get a different sort of illumination.

“Something that has been a real benefit is the whole community is talking about the (sports) field shortage,” said Laura Sachs, BIYSC president. “It was a hidden need, and now it’s front and center.”

Having collected a folder of public comments three inches thick, the park board voted 4-1 Thursday to renovate the soccer fields with or without artificial turf. But the proposal for lights did not pass, for lack of a motion.

The focus then turned to installing turf at Bainbridge High School, which already has a lighted football field, as an alternate site for soccer play.

“I would really like to see that option play itself out,” park board chair Kirk Robinson said. “It’s in a central location, has lights already and is a greater benefit to the community. To me, that’s the logical place to look for putting down the first artificial surface.

“You have to look at the impact of something like (lights) on the (Battle Point) neighborhood.”

Board member Tom Swolgaard was the only vote against the field renovation, saying he favored taking more time to consider alternative sites.

The soccer club had hoped to boost field access for youth players by installing artificial turf on two fields at Battle Point Park and lighting them until 8 p.m. in the winter months.

But park neighbors and the Battle Point Astronomical Association said lights would render the nearby observatory unusable and ruin the rural character of the park with the nighttime light and increased traffic.

Robinson said he and park director Terry Lande had spoken with school district officials about turfing the high school field, but came to no agreement. The school district is still in the process of master planning for a capital facilities levy that may go to the ballot next year.

“It was disappointing,” Robinson said, “because the (high school) field could be lit there until 10 p.m.”

Robinson said the high school field needs to be addressed by the school in any case because of poor drainage. So an option might be for BIYSC to pay for the difference between reinstalling grass versus artificial turf, creating a field that could host maybe 350 events a year instead of just 70.

While turfing the high school facility would alleviate the field shortage, it would not solve it, Sachs said, since that field would be available to soccer only between the fall football and spring lacrosse seasons.

Still, she said, the club would support turfing there, as it would have “an impact” on the shortage.

Robinson pledged to work with the club and schools on scheduling to alleviate the pressures the soccer club has on field space.

“I want to get through the proposal with the school board to turf the fields,” he said. “I’m willing to reconsider light at Battle Point if that is our last option. The park district has to work with the school district on this.”

Harry Colvin, vice president of the Battle Point Park Astronomical Association, though, pressed the board to declare a permanent moratorium on further lighting at the park, which the board declined.

By meeting’s end, there seemed to be a general agreement to wait and see if the high school field could be turfed before returning to the question of lighting at Battle Point. Robinson urged attendees to make their opinions known to the school board.

Board member Dave Shorett pointed to past cooperative projects at Woodward and Sakai, where gyms or fields were built large enough to serve the community and not just the schools.

Battle Point resident Barry Peters, who was opposed to the lighting proposal, said he was satisfied by the outcome.

“I thought the board was very fair and reasonable in approach, and I’m pleased how they divided the issue between improving the fields and the lights,” he said.

Sachs said the club plans to work with the park district to come up with a budget and timeline for field renovations to present to the board at a future meeting.

“That’s a win,” Sachs said. “We’ve said for a long time those fields are dangerous. It looks like parks and schools are interested in solving the field shortage.”

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