“This has been a dream of mine for years,” Mayor Brent Ives told the crowd of about three dozen people. “It is my distinct pleasure to be here today to put the shovel in the ground, to finally answer the question of, ‘How are we going to work youth sports here in Tracy?’”
The idea of a complex with multiple fields for baseball, softball and soccer dates back to 2001, when city officials proposed a sports park on Schulte Road, southwest of town, on a former Federal Aviation Administration antenna field. Natural gas lines crossing the property eventually ruled out that site.
When the city did its research six years ago on what would work best, it turned out that the city-owned land north of town, just west of the Holly Sugar plant, provided enough room to accommodate fields in the first phase for Tracy Little League, Tracy Babe Ruth, Tracy Youth Soccer League and Tracy Futbol Club. These leagues have agreed to lease fields in the park at the rate of $150 per-acre per-year.
Work was already under way before the groundbreaking ceremony. DeSilva Gates of Dublin is the general contractor hire by the city for the $11.7 million project, which will include the first 72 acres, enough for 20 fields, of the 150-acre sports park. When the contracted work is finished, which will include roads, parking lots and utilities, individual leagues will be required to install turf and other essential field components dictated by their sport.
“We anticipate our part of the project will be done by the end of the year,” city Parks and Community Services Director Rod Buchanan said. “(The leagues) could start (work) around the first of the year.”
Ponch Martinez, vice president of Tracy Babe Ruth, said the league is trying to cover the cost of constructing the fields.
“We still have to raise lots of money,” he said. “It’s hard to raise all that money when you compete against all of the other soccer leagues and baseball leagues.”
Lisa DeLeon, vice president of marketing for Tracy Babe Ruth, said the league envisions fields complete with stadium seating and lights, with Babe Ruth planning five baseball diamonds suitable for its younger divisions.
“We’re aggressively working to fundraise right now,” she said. “We’re estimating about $2 million.”
David DeLeon, vice president of Babe Ruth’s 13-18 division, said that the older players will eventually have two larger diamonds at the park but that will be part of a future phase.
Paul Zwicky, president of Tracy Little League, said that the league hasn’t nailed down all of its expected costs. His rough estimate is about $150,000 per field, but the league plans to do more than just raise money.
“Every dime is being held for these fields, but until we know what we’re dealing with we’re going to go out and find our grants,” he said. “A lot of it’s going to be sweat equity, a lot will be materials, and hopefully we’ll get a lot of it donated.