SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The City of Santa Maria is asking the public for help as it continues its effort to build a long-proposed new sports complex.
On Thursday, April 11, the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department will hold a public meeting seeking input as part of an ongoing process to earn a state grant.
"There's a Proposition 68 grant and there's a couple of rounds and so part of the input from the public is to really demonstrate all the different uses it could be use for," said Dennis Smitherman, Santa Maria Management Analyst I. "We are taking input on field layout, amenities for a future sports complex and different types of activities that could be handled at the complex, in addition to soccer, lacrosse, rugby or football. 'What else can we use this field for and what other amenities is the public looking for?'"
For several years, Santa Maria has looked into building a facility that would include somewhere around four to six playing fields.
In order to build the multi-million dollar project, the City is hoping to earn enough funding through state grant money.
"We've applied for one grant and it is a letter-of-interest type of grant, so that means we've submitted a proposal and should be we successful in that phase, then they'll ask us to write the full grant, so we're hoping to hear back in the next couple of weeks to hear if we can write the full proposal, and that's when community input is so important to make sure we're hitting the checked boxes in what the community needs," said Smitherman.
Right now, there's simply not enough space on existing city parks to accommodate all of the various local sports organizations that require field time.
It's estimated there are currently several thousand soccer players at all age levels throughout Santa Maria.
"There's not enough fields. We are definitely short on fields," said Juan Velasco, Chivas Soccer Academy president. "You see hundreds of players practicing and they're fighting for a little space just to practice done, but something like an open space for soccer would alleviate the city for having all the pressure to accommodate all these teams around town."
The Chivas club team currently has 115 players spread out over 10 teams.
As the sport of soccer continues to grow, Velasco emphasizes the need for more fields to help his teams have more access, but other teams as well.
"Soccer, I believe is the biggest sport in town," said Velasco. "It's taking over slowly in the United States, but here in town, it's big."
Currently, the city is looking at a couple of locations should funding be acquired.
For the past few years, existing farm land next to South Depot Street, in between Battles and Stowell Roads, has been an option.
There is also interest in leasing land from the Santa Maria Cemetery District, which owns unused vacant land along College Avenue, directly across the new Enos Ranch development.
In order to move the proposal along, the city needs funding.
"A couple million dollars would cover the cost of an entire sports complex and that would hopefully look at four to six fields potentially, for both adults and youth and provide amenities, such as a playground or a nice restroom facility, snack bar, things along those lines," said Smitherman.
Smitherman added one of the criteria used in the competitive grant approval process is by having robust community support.
"What the grant is requiring us to provide is to show community support, so through community meetings, we are possibly able to get an edge over these bigger cities," said Smitherman. "We're hoping we can put together a really strong and competitive grant proposal if accepted and the community input is a big part of that."
People interested in offering their input can attend a meeting next Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Veteran's Memorial Community Center.
Velasco said he is hoping the soccer community will rally around the project and come out in full-force.
"Make some time," said Velasco. "I know it's a busy schedule, but this is for the benefit of their kids and the future of sports and soccer."
With the outcome of the current grant application still to be decided, Smitherman is optimistic the much-need new sports fields will eventually be built in Santa Maria.
"We will see this get done here in the city," said Smitherman. "It's such a priority for our entire community and for the tens of thousands of players every year. We'll make this happen, either through grant money, private donation and other various sources, we'l continue to try."