Community sentiment expressed over recent weeks regarding the future of the fields on Tracy Boulevard has caused Tracy’s city government to take a step back and reconsider how best to continue discussions about what will happen next at the park.
On Sept. 17, Tracy officials and a consultant suggested during a workshop that the 11.27-acre park, between Tracy Boulevard and Bessie Avenue just south of Grant Line Road, could be developed into homes or apartments.
New fields, the Sept. 17 presentation continued, at the Holly Sugar Sports Complex would in turn replace the baseball diamonds and football and soccer fields at Tracy Ballpark.
The concept was panned by the majority of the 12 people at the workshop and many residents of the surrounding neighborhood who later heard about the proposal.
Tracy’s Parks and Community Services Commission heard from many of the people who live in the neighborhood during the commission’s regular meeting Thursday, Oct. 4.
Though the item wasn’t on the agenda, many people addressed Tracy Ballpark’s future during the public comment session.
Tracy City Manager Leon Churchill led off Thursday’s discussion by reading a letter to commission Chairwoman Linda Jimenez.
In the letter, Churchill said the matter is on the Tracy City Council agenda for Tuesday, Oct. 16. He acknowledged that the timing of the Sept. 17 workshop was awkward, but the city still wants to talk with neighbors about the future of Tracy Ballpark.
Churchill expects future discussions will focus on Tracy Ballpark’s future as a city park, not as a housing development.
“We are clearly hearing the sense from a cross-section of the community the desire to preserve and honor history, and the existing facility of Tracy Ballpark,” Churchill said after Thursday’s meeting.
While city officials had cited complaints about the traffic, lights and noise the activities at the park create, Greg Welch, who lives on Whittier Avenue just south of the park, said he found no such sentiment among his neighbors.
Welch attended the Sept. 17 meeting and wanted so see for himself what other neighbors would think of the proposals put forth that night.
“I went home and thought about it, and two days later I started a petition,” he said.
Bessie Avenue resident Phillip Treat, who also was at the Sept. 17 meeting, agreed to help, Welch said.
“It snowballed from there,” Welch said. “I got all kinds of help from the neighborhood. I heard absolutely no complaints (about what I was doing).”
Melissa Sucrese, who lives on 22nd Street near the park, also went door-to-door and talked to parents at Tracy Buccaneer and Junior Bulldogs youth football practices.
“You would not believe the backlash that his has opened up in that neighborhood,” she told the commission Oct. 4. “I am telling you right now that this neighborhood will not lie down and let you do this. It is our park, and we want to keep it.
City Council candidates Charles Manne, Raymond Morelos and Roger Birdsall also weighed in on the issue during the Oct. 4 meeting, urging preservation of the park.
Councilman Robert Rickman also restated his position from the council’s first discussion regarding the park from Sept. 18.
“Holly (Sugar Sports Complex) is meant to supplement, not take away parks,” Rickman told the commission. “Tracy needs to provide a lot more things to do for families and their kids.”
Rickman added he would have preferred the ideas for the future of the park brought first to the commission and then to the City Council, rather than have the workshop introduce the concept.
Since the matter wasn’t on the commission’s Thursday night agenda, there was no action taken and no discussion among the commissioners.
Churchill said community discussions will continue, and noted that the city still faces a big expense — estimated at about $3.9 million — to bring needed improvements to the park as it is currently envisioned as a hub for organized sports.
“I hope we have another community process to get a better Tracy Ballpark,” he said. “We still should have a dialogue to get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.”
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