Issaquah Council committee considering new turf fields

It was the protest that wasn’t. Or, at least it wasn’t the scale that was expected.

It was the protest that wasn’t. Or, at least it wasn’t the scale that was expected.

Almost two dozen supporters of turf fields — members of football, soccer and lacrosse clubs and parents — showed up at the City of Issaquah Council Services and Operations Committee meeting on Thursday, April 17.

Although the turnout wasn’t as large as expected, city officials received about 150 e-mails in the days leading up to the committee meeting.

The Issaquah Soccer Club sent out an e-mail to more than 3,000 people urging concerned parents and sports participants to go to the committee meeting to show their support for turf fields being built at Central Park pad #3.

“This is a really complex project,” Councilwoman and committee member Eileen Barber said. “We’ve been working on this for an endless amount of time, it seems.”

The original goal was to construct two artificial turf fields complete with a security fence and new lighting at the park. Extended parking lots and restrooms were set to replace the gravel lot and port-a-potties.

The project would have cost $3.2 million as estimated earlier this year. However, the council only has $1.4 million available ($1 million of that left over from the parks bond), and the current economy and construction costs mean the price tag is increasing daily.

Parks Department staff members plan to apply to two separate grants for more funding, Recreation Manager Brian Berntsen said. The grants could potentially gain the project another $375,000, but it is not guaranteed money.

The committee is also considering scaling back the project, and staff will spend the next month looking at the costs of various options from the “menu” as Project Coordinator Gary Carlson put it.

Some of the options would include just putting in one turf field or not putting in the extra parking or bathrooms. The city staff is also looking at the cost of maintaining artificial turf fields as opposed to natural grass.

Currently pad #3 has not opened yet this year because the field is still too soupy to play on. Many sports teams have had to make quick changes to their schedules to find new places to play their sports.

The Parks Department does not know when they will be able to open the park.

“It’s challenging, because it is out of commission a lot,” Berntsen said. “It hasn’t opened yet this year. Normally it would open in the beginning of March.”

Council members have been coming up with some creative options for the needed funds, including Barber’s idea of putting corporate sponsors’ names on light posts and the bathrooms.

The city has also considered asking the sports teams for some contribution. However, many of the members said they felt that it was the city’s responsibility to take care of improving the park.