SANTA MARIA, Calif. - An ambitious plan to build new soccer fields in Santa Maria to keep up with growing demand for more facilities has suffered a setback.
The California Department of Parks and recreation has notified the City of Santa Maria it was not selected to receive a $1 million grant to help kick-start the proposed multi-field complex.
The million dollar grant was seen as vital seed money to start the soccer complex project that includes up to seven soccer fields with parking on a 19 acre strawberry field at the southwest corner of Depot and Stowell Roads.
"This is disappointing news", said Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada in a prepared statement, "staff members from many City departments and members of the community, as well as the property owners of the proposed site, spend many hours working to meet the State's criteria and deadlines for this particular grant."
The project has been more than a year in the making and is designed to address the need for more soccer fields.
"Its sad but we're going to be using whatever parks we have available", says Anabel Colores who has three sons playing club soccer in Santa Maria, "I've got them in different leagues and its always a challenge to find a different practice field. You see everybody practicing every day of the week, you see games on Saturdays and Sundays."
Most in the community agree soccer, and youth sports in general, is the most effective way to keep kids busy in a healthy way and out of trouble.
At a recent community meeting in Santa Maria for the Mayor's Task Force on Youth Safety, soccer and the need for more facilities topped lists of suggestions from the public on how to keep kids on the right path.
"We don't have enough", says local soccer dad Victor Sierra, "there's a lot of kids that like to play soccer so I think we need more."
Local youth soccer coach Carlos Reyes says the community needs to keep trying to find the money to build more soccer facilities in Santa Maria saying there's too much at stake.
Without the million dollar state grant, getting the soccer complex started, let alone paid for with an estimated price tag of between $3 and $4 million, will be a challenge.
"We need an investor to invest in the youth of our community because that's probably the only way its going to happen", adds soccer mom Anabel Colores.
The City of Santa Maria says it will now seek other funding sources to keep the soccer complex project moving forward in the near future.