But when the presentation included mock-ups of various residential developments replacing the athletic fields, it gave the impression that city staff had already charted a way forward.
Poster boards drawn up by a consultant showed house and apartment arrangements in place of the iconic sports fields gifted to the city by the Ritter family in 1944.
According to the presentation, the athletics practices for youth teams at Tracy Ballpark could be moved to the Holly Sugar Sports Complex. Everyone would be happy.
Everyone except the many residents caught completely off guard by the proposal.
It even surprised the City Council. At least some members had no idea the rudimentary plans had been drawn up. The council understandably put the brakes on the process Tuesday.
City Hall described Monday’s meeting as a first step — a chance to gauge the feelings of neighbors and the community about the best ways to use the Tracy Ballpark property. City Manager Leon Churchill said it was a move consistent with council direction regarding previous projects.
Churchill insisted it was part of an honest effort, albeit a clumsy one, to gather input about what the preferred options were surrounding the seen-better-days Tracy Ballpark. Nothing has been decided at any level, he said, adding that it will be the residents of Tracy and the ballpark’s neighbors who have the biggest say in its fate.
If that’s the case, the parks and recreation presentation jumped the gun in a serious way. It gave the impression that the public’s voice was an afterthought — a surefire way to taint a project and kill it in the court of public opinion.
It also raises questions about who stands to benefit from such a project, and why it’s being considered at this time.
Let’s hope that the less-than-graceful start to this discussion doesn’t end it.
The park is an asset to the city, and a city that seeks to improve itself should constantly examine whether its assets and plans are living up to potential. There are good reasons to consider changing the use and purpose of the Tracy Ballpark, just as there are valid reasons to preserve and restore it.
However, this discussion shouldn’t begin with a consultant’s vision. It should begin with a vision from the people who call Tracy home.