Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/809078

Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 2, 2014

City may trade school's 90 acres of land

By Andy Hallman | Apr 13, 2012
Pascual Mendoza prepares to block a shot from entering the goal during club soccer practice in Washington last fall. Sidney Ryan, president of the Washington Area Soccer Club, was hoping to seed 10 acres of city-owned land on the northwest edge of town for soccer fields this spring. He said the seed won’t be planted this spring because the city has yet to determine a location for its wellness park. Mendoza is the son of Dinora Ortega.

The proposed soccer fields on the north side of Washington will have to wait at least another year before they are seeded. Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson met with members of the Washington Area Soccer Association during the Park Board’s monthly meeting Wednesday afternoon. Hinson said the city might trade the 90 acres on 18th street, known as the “school 90,” for land elsewhere in town.
Last fall, the city promised the soccer association that it could use 10 of the 90 acres for soccer fields. The plan was to build two adult-size and two youth-size soccer fields on those 90 acres and to have them ready to play on by spring 2013 or perhaps even this fall. The soccer association was to be responsible for raising the money to seed the ground.
Sidney Ryan, the president of the soccer association, said it would cost about $8,000 to seed and water the 10 acres. He said he had run into some difficulty fundraising because the association’s donors wanted to ensure the soccer fields would be there for several years. Hinson said at the meeting that the city could not assure the soccer association that the fields would be there for several years because the city might want to trade the land in the near future.
The city council has discussed building a wellness park on the school 90. Hinson said in an interview Thursday that the city is still up in the air about the location of its future wellness park. Hinson said there are a few locations in town the city is considering for a wellness park. He said the city is interested in swapping land for a wellness park and not as a means of increasing its income from farm rent.
The city agreed to a three-year lease of the 90 acres to the Washington FFA one year ago at a rate of $300 per acre. When the city designated 10 of those acres for soccer fields last fall, it compensated the FFA by giving it 10 acres to farm west of Elm Grove Cemetery on the former Bartholow farm.
Duane Van Winkle, Washington FFA advisor, said he and Hinson spoke Friday and they decided that the FFA could farm the full 90 acres as it did last year rather than farming 80 acres there and 10 acres on the former Bartholow farm.
Ryan said he is disappointed the soccer program will have to go another year without proper fields. He said the club is playing on private ground on the northeast edge of town on Highland Avenue. He said that only members of the soccer association can play on the fields because the club’s insurance only extends to club members and not the private land.
Ryan said he wanted to show potential donors a document from the city showing that the land would be reserved for soccer fields for more than just a couple of years.
“I don’t blame them (the donors) for not wanting to put money toward something that’s only going to be there a year,” he said.
Ryan said the spot reserved for soccer on the 90 acres, which would have been the northwest corner of the lot, would have been great for soccer. He said that area is already pretty flat. He said he would like to have the wellness park there and to start with the soccer fields.
That the school 90 is at the edge of town doesn’t present a problem to Ryan. He said many towns’ wellness parks are on the edge of the city such as in Burlington, Fairfield and Oskaloosa.   
Ryan said he’s frustrated that Washington’s soccer facilities have fallen behind neighboring towns of smaller size.
“It now sounds like Sigourney has a bigger soccer park than we do,” he said. “We’ll be going to Sigourney for training because that’s the closest place. All these kids from elite teams in the area are going to Sigourney.”
Dave Mitchell  is the co-chairman of the wellness park committee. He said the committee was not charged with acquiring land for the wellness park and that any sort of land-swap would go through the city council. He said the committee wants to incorporate soccer into its plan.
“One of the easiest things to develop in a wellness park is soccer fields,” he said.

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