City OKs leases for Holly Sugar sports park
by Bob Brownne
Aug 10, 2012 | 2518 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Three local youth sports groups took another step this week toward opening fields at the city’s new sports complex near the shuttered Holly Sugar Co. mill north of town.

The Tracy City Council unanimously voted Tuesday, Aug. 7, to approve lease agreements with Tracy Babe Ruth, Tracy Little League and Tracy Futbol Club. The three groups signed their respective agreements in July.

A fourth group, Tracy Youth Soccer League, is expected to sign but has asked for more time for a lawyer to look over the details of the lease.

Rod Buchanan, the city’s director of parks and community services, said he expected to complete that agreement within two months.

The council approved the agreements with little comment, except to say that the $11.7 million already spent by the city on the first phase to develop 72 acres of the 166-acre sports park, and the roughly $20,000 per year for upkeep and maintenance, are investments in the city’s youth.

“It’s been a long, long road, but we’re finally getting to where we can see this on the horizon,” said Councilman Michael Maciel. “With our eyes wide open, the subsidy we’re going to be getting into here is money well spent. It’s an example of how that pays dividends. It’s probably one of the best investments we’ve made to make something come to fruition here.”

The city will get back $150 per acre each year from the leagues. That adds up to $6,678 per year under the three approved contracts, which cover nearly 45 acres of the 72-acre first phase.

The first portion of the park to be developed, just north of city limits and west of Holly Sugar, has been under construction since April.

Buchanan said the contractor, DeSilva Gates of Dublin, would complete the city’s part of the first phase project by January, including roads, parking lots, water lines, utilities and initial grading of fields.

The leagues can then begin building their own fields. That process is expected to continue through the summer sports seasons of 2013, which would make these fields available in 2014.

Troy Camacho, the president of Tracy Babe Ruth, said his league would need to raise money first to build the fields.

Tracy Babe Ruth gets 14.65 acres for five baseball diamonds suitable for leagues up to the 11-12 division. Camacho estimates that each diamond in the plan would cost about $25,000, though that depends on what the league decides to build in addition to turf, backstops and dugouts.

“The way the plans are drawn up, we can start with a minimal amount to get us up and going,” Camacho said. “With the savings we have using these fields, we can put money into the fields every year to build on more and more and eventually get to the ultimate plan.”

The league’s old lease agreement with Tracy Unified School District for six diamonds at Monte Vista Middle School could cost $21,000 a year, according to Casey Goodall, the associate superintendent for business services. Goodall noted that in most years, the league would work off some or all of those costs with in-kind work to the fields.

The league will pay the city $2,197.50 per year for the five fields at the new sports complex. Camacho said the key to keeping those savings will be to recruit people within the league to maintain the new fields.

“As it is now, we have a lot of parents and a lot of managers in the league that really put a lot of time into maintaining our fields, but we were always maintaining fields that we don’t own,” he said. “Now we can put that time into fields that we do own, and I know that we have the parents out there to make these fields incredible.”

The group also has an option to add 8.85 acres for two larger diamonds. Until then, the 13-15 and 16-18 Babe Ruth age groups will play at Tracy Ball Park, Camacho said.

Harry Bourassa, the president of Tracy Futbol Club, said his group also plans to begin building fields as soon as the city makes the land available in January. Tracy Futbol Club will lease 9.55 acres, enough for four full-size soccer pitches, for $1,432.50 per year and will also have to raise money to build fields.

“We’ll start something. We plan to go in right away,” Bourassa said. “As far as laying sod and planting grass, we’ll do that to make them playable.”

He expects the grass will need all of 2013 to grow in, though the best-case scenario could have it playable by summer.

Even when the pitches are ready, the club will continue to play at Tracy Sports Complex and Plasencia Fields on 11th Street, so the space north of town will accommodate the club’s growth.

“It will take a lot of pressure off of us if we have our own fields and don’t have to work around everyone else’s events and practices.”

Tracy Little League is also part of the first phase. The league will lease 20.32 acres, enough for five small diamonds and two large diamonds, at a cost of $3,048 per year.

Shirley Thompson, the president of Tracy Youth Soccer League, said her organization is looking over the details of its agreement, which would include about 10 acres for four soccer pitches in the first phase.

“We have every intention of being a part of this, but there are things that need to be fixed,” she said.

The deal includes city-supplied irrigation water at no extra cost, but runoff from the fields would require State Water Quality Control Board permits, particularly during construction, and Thompson said the league wanted to know how much it would have to pay for those permits.

She said the league also wanted to review other details of landscape maintenance requirements in the contract to see what the city would cover and what expenses the league would have to bear.

• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or brownne@tracypress.com.
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