By Sean Tubbs
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Two years since softball fields at Charlottesville’s McIntire Park were last threatened with elimination, the city’s park plan continues to call for their replacement with rectangular athletic fields.
At a recent budget work session, the City Council learned a study of the matter, which they requested in 2009, remains incomplete and council members are currently split as to how to best allocate McIntire’s fields in the future.
Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110316-CIP-Work-Session
That came as news Tuesday night to Ivar Dowell, a city resident who is playing in his 15th season in the Charlottesville Adult Softball League.
“I am pretty sure if you ask anyone around here, [they will say] these are going to stay softball fields,” Dowell said as he waited for his turn at bat. None of his teammates knew about the impending change, nor did anyone on the other team.
Elsewhere in the park, city resident Mary Katherine Barnes said she thought the issue had been resolved, especially after the city renamed the softball complex for World War II veteran Carl “Chubby” Proffit last year
“Why would the city pay to put up new signs if they are going to remove the fields?” she asked.
That was the same concern raised by City Councilor David Brown during the work session on the city’s capital needs. He is a proponent of the rectangular fields.
“I had some concern that we were dedicating softball fields to Mr. Proffit when we [haven’t] actually made a decision whether to keep softball fields,” Brown said.
A master plan adopted by the council in May 2008 continues to call for the replacement of the softball diamonds with a rectangular field to support soccer, lacrosse and other sports. The plan was developed through a needs assessment conducted by the city and Albemarle County.
“Many user groups, particularly those who play rectangular field sports, expressed the need for more fields,” Brian Daly, the city’s parks director, wrote in an email.
However, members of the softball community felt they had been left out of the process. On their behalf, Mayor Dave Norris asked fellow councilors in June 2009 to amend the plan to preserve the fields, but that action was deferred. Instead, the council directed staff to conduct a field allocation study.
Norris said he was told the study would be finished by the end of that year, but Daly said it has been delayed.
“Work was done with [Albemarle] County in the fall and winter of 2009 and 2010, including meeting with user groups and conducting surveys of each user group to determine the level of satisfaction with the allocation process,” Daly said.
Daly added his department was busy renovating Forest Hills Park and building the new Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center, but said the study should be presented to the council within two months.
In an interview Tuesday, Norris said he continues to support keeping softball at McIntire Park and wants to use the results of the study to determine where a new rectangular field might be located.
“I’ve long believed that we should not be pitting needs of various recreational users against each other,” Norris said. “Let’s work to expand the size of the pie so we can keep softball at McIntire and expand fields elsewhere.”
However, the ongoing study may not yield the results Norris is hoping for.
“The purpose of the allocation study was to determine the community’s satisfaction with the process by which athletic fields are allocated [and] not to examine the need for new fields,” Daly said.
“As for the future of the softball fields at McIntire Park, ultimately that is a decision that will be made by the City Council once all the facts are presented to them,” Daly added.
Bob Fenwick, a former council candidate who wants softball to continue to be played at McIntire Park, said he was not confident the diamonds would remain.
“The softball fields are lost,” Fenwick said in an interview. “There will be a rectangular field unless there is a change in the City Council.”
Councilor Satyendra Huja said he is waiting for the study to be completed before he makes up his mind. Councilor Holly Edwards said she supports the rectangular field. Councilor Kristin Szakos could not be reached for comment.
In addition to the two fields at McIntire Park, league softball games are played at Darden Towe Park, Washington Park and Piedmont Virginia Community College.
In October 2008, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors took public comment on a proposal to install lights so softball could be played at night at Darden Towe. The board decided not to do so because of concerns about the impact on the nearby rural area.
Without the ability to play at night, and with a loss of fields at McIntire, the softball league would likely have to shrink in size. Two baseball diamonds for Little League use would be retained at McIntire under the adopted plan.
City Manager Maurice Jones said it was still appropriate to name the softball complex after Proffit.
“We said we would name [the field for Proffit] but that we would do so in such a way that we could change the [use of the] field,” Jones said.
Increased spending for bicycle infrastructure
In other business at the city’s recent budget work session, Council asked for the amount of funding for bicycle infrastructure to be doubled from $50,000 to $100,000. Jones said he would like Council to have some idea of what that might pay for before committing the funds.
“If we add another $50,000 it’s nice, but we don’t necessarily have a plan to use that money just yet,” Jones said. “Quite honestly it’s going to be a lot more expensive once we get past striping [new bike lanes] because we’re going to have to do some other things that we haven’t done thus far.”
Additional capital budget initiatives included:
- $500,000 for a project to adjust the entrances of Edgewood and Harris Streets when the Meadowcreek Parkway interchange is built.
- A decrease in allocations to the Economic Downtown Fund in order to increase the FY2012 contribution to the Charlottesville Housing Fund to $1.41 million.
- Transfers into the capital budget of $4.4 million from the general fund, $2 million from the fund balance, $750,000 from UVa to contribute to the Fontaine fire station, and a scheduled bond sale of $15.6 million.
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
- 01:00 - City Manager Maurice Jones introduces discussion and the general overview of the budget
- 03:00 - Budget director Leslie Beauregard begins going through the budget
- 05:00 - Beauregard taking questions about CHS artificial turf field
- 10:40 - Discussion of Charlottesville Housing Fund
- 12:30 - Discussion of CIP Revenues FY2012 - 2016
- 17:50 - Discussion of Bonded Projects FY12 – 16 CIP
- 20:00 - Discussion of additional state funds to city
- 23:50 - Discussion of schools lump sum
- 26:10 - Beauregard explains difference between bonded and non-bonded projects
- 38:50 - Discussion of economic development initiatives
- 45:30 - Discussion of transportation & access programs
- 51:00 - Discussion of parks & recreation projects
- 57:00 - Discussion of “Percent for Art Program”