Carson City needs more room to play | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson City needs more room to play

Carson City is running out of room to play.

The city's three outdoor sports facilities — Governors Field, JohnD Winters Centennial Park, and Pete Livermore Sports Complex — are used at capacity, say Parks, Recreation, & Open Space staff.

More tournaments and groups are waiting for openings, and demand is likely to grow with new development.

"Increased growth will also contribute to an already existing shortage of recreation facilities, especially athletic fields," Jennifer Budge, Parks & Rec director, wrote in the department's comment for a recent review of the city's annual growth management ordinance, which sets limits on residential development. "The lack of sufficient athletic fields represents one of our most serious service challenges."

The three existing complexes provide flat fields for T-ball, softball, and baseball, used for football in the fall, and soccer.

The fields are widely used by teams in the Youth Sports Association, a consortium of local sports leagues, which gets priority scheduling at the start of the year.

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They're also utilized by 28 endorsed tournaments — tournaments brought in or approved by the Culture & Tourism Authority (CTA), which waives their fees and covers the city's direct costs in order to drive local tourism and hotel bookings. Recruiting more tournaments is a priority for the CTA.

There are other tournaments every year, too, including the district All-Star Little League, and big events such as Midnight Madness, an adult slow pitch event that takes over Centennial Park for the full 72 hours of Memorial Day weekend, as well as Junior Giants, a free, non-competitive baseball/softball program for kids sponsored by the San Francisco Giants run at Pete Livermore two nights a week in the summer.

And there's the softball game for Nevada Legislature when its in session, the Nevada Department of Transportation game, Lake Tahoe high schools, which practice in Carson City in the spring when fields at the lake are still covered in snow, and other occasional users who schedule a facility whenever they can.

"We have just enough space for formal leagues," said Dan Earp, recreation superintendent. "What we struggle with is space for church groups or pick up games. It is sometimes hard to find space for that."

But, demand keeps growing. The American Youth Soccer Organization, which has a chapter in Carson City, has contacted Parks & Rec about starting up an adult league that would need fields to play.

"Soccer is on a big upswing," said David Navarro, parks operation superintendent, but Pete Livermore, where there are 10 soccer fields, is already used to capacity.

Navarro said the department also gets calls for lacrosse, which can be played on soccer fields and is growing in popularity in the area.

Part of the problem is a good problem to have, according to staff.

Staff prepares the fields, chalking and lining them, and is on hand to drag them between each game during tournaments, something not done elsewhere in the area.

"If you asked around the region, they'd say the best fields are in Carson City," said Dan Kastens, parks operations manager. "We work with the majority of tournaments and they tell us we're the best in the business."

Lighting could be added at some fields to extend hours of use, but that increases maintenance and staff time.

Another idea is adding artificial turf to the mix, like Golden Eagle Regional Park in Sparks, that can be used year round.

Artificial turf fields cost more up front — roughly $1 million to install versus $400,000 to $500,000 for grass — but the cost evens out over time through water savings and less maintenance.

The Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which is now 12 years old, identifies land for expansion, specifically two to three more soccer fields or multi-use fields at Pete Livermore.

Parks and Rec staff said the lower complex at Centennial, which now has three softball fields and a soccer field, also could be redone to provide more useful multiuse fields.

All that costs money. The residential construction tax, which is up to $1,000 per house depending on home value, is specifically for parks and recreation use and can be used for fields. But, a development of 300 new houses, for example, each levied $1,000, would raise just $300,000, not enough to cover the installation of one grass field.

Still, Parks and Rec Director Budge thinks there's an opportunity for expansion in the next three to five years.

"There is definitely a need, not just for traveling tournaments, but for local use with more subdivisions going in," she said.