Soccer parents worried about space on new fields

"Soccer's challenge to 'step up to the plate'In hopes of putting more money into the South Whidbey Community Park's ball fields, the South Whidbey Youth Soccer Association announced Wednesday night that the organization will sponsor up to $5,000 in matching grants if any other athletic organizations put up an equal amount. Association president Jon Jelinek said he hopes that in offering the grant more organizations will step up to the plate in supporting field improvements for sports such as football and baseball. Both the soccer association and South Whidbey Little League have put thousands of their own dollars into field improvements over the past 15 years.Concerned that soccer players may not get enough practice and game space on new soccer fields currently under construction, parents and officials from the South Whidbey Youth Soccer Association told the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation Department board of commissioners Wednesday night to guarantee fields aplenty for their young kickers.Responding to a discussion that sparked angry words from both soccer and Little League baseball parents, the commissioners tried to reassure both groups that there will be no cuts in field space during the next year as the district finishes building three new soccer fields on property adjacent to Langley Road. Speaking for his association, youth soccer president Jon Jelinek told the parks commissioners that his organization is concerned about soccer's priority as the district builds the new fields. Specifically, Jelinek pointed to $40,000 set aside to build a baseball diamond on an existing soccer field in the park. That $40,000 comes out of a $1.3 million bond approved by voters last may. The bond issue was backed and promoted heavily by the soccer association. Jelinek said he was curious as to why the district would give any priority to projects other than the new soccer fields. Referring to the planned baseball field, Jelinek said other organizations using the park should put time and money of their own into the facilities before they can expect more field space. We think, maybe, they should step up to the plate, Jelinek said.Joe Murphy, who is both a soccer parent and a member of South Whidbey Little League, caught Jelinek's meaning. He didn't like it.I really resent the inference that Little League has done nothing to help pass the bond, he said.Jelinek also wondered if the three fields under construction would be available for practice and play once completed in 2002, or if they would only get limited use because of park maintenance policies. Parks director Jerry Cole said the extra fields will keep more play space open because the wear and tear will be spread out. As it is now, the district periodically closes some of the grass fields to reseed them. Linda Cotton, another member of the soccer association, also had a complaint. She said that if the soccer fields in the Maxwelton portion of the park are converted to other uses, soccer players will be separated from the playground and other parks facilities. We don't want to be separate but equal. We want to be part, Cotton said.The comments from Jelinek and Cotton left parks commissioner Jim Porter somewhat confused. He said the district is building more soccer space on its new property than was envisioned when the bond issue was planned, a fact that he believed would please the soccer association. As for the separation issue, Porter said input from the soccer association and Little League convinced park staff to move soccer and baseball apart because the two types of field uses are often incompatible. Soccer players will still have a foothold in the Maxwelton portion of the park, he said, because the new upper field will always be a soccer facility.Commissioners Dave Haworth and Tara Barlean sought to reassure the soccer association, saying that they recognize the association's efforts during last spring's bond campaign.We understand that not all the other participants at the park put that kind of effort in, Haworth said.Barlean added that the association should know there is no ambiguity about the park's facilities priorities.We are focused on soccer right now, Barlean said.At the end of the discussion, both Jelinek and Cotton thanked the commissioners for their time and said they are, on the whole, pleased with the new field space. "

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