PenMet Parks designates Gig Harbor park as future site of athletic field complex

Harbor Soccer president Jeff Wenrich watches his son’s team practice at Goodman Middle School in Gig Harbor on Monday. Because of a lack of field space, the U14 and U16 teams were practicing together, creating an unwieldy player-to-coach ratio, said Wenrich.
Harbor Soccer president Jeff Wenrich watches his son’s team practice at Goodman Middle School in Gig Harbor on Monday. Because of a lack of field space, the U14 and U16 teams were practicing together, creating an unwieldy player-to-coach ratio, said Wenrich. dperine@thenewstribune.com

An agreement between the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District and Harbor Soccer Club would transform a 38-acre forested park in unincorporated Gig Harbor into an athletic complex, complete with lighted synthetic fields for various sports.

That is, if Harbor Soccer can raise $5 million.

The Gig Harbor nonprofit that offers recreational and premier soccer to roughly 1,500 young athletes has agreed to tackle the bulk of the fundraising to build the fields. Harbor Family Park, at the corner of 32nd Street Northwest and 70th Avenue Northwest, is the chosen location.

“The ball is rolling, no pun intended,” said Harbor Soccer board president Jeff Wenrich.

Harbor Soccer hopes to partner with community sports organizations, civic groups and foundations to raise the money, Wenrich said. That includes applying to the U.S. Soccer Federation for grant funding.

“We want to put as many soccer fields on there as we can, but we also have to understand it’s not just a soccer complex,” Wenrich said. “It’s going to be an athletic complex.”

That means sports like lacrosse, football and possibly baseball would have access to the fields, he said.

The number of fields hasn’t been finalized, but the preliminary agreement with PenMet proposes developing a minimum of four lighted fields in the same area. The largest field would be 80 yards by 120 yards, the other three a minimum of 75 yards by 110 yards.

The largest field would be dedicated to soccer, the other fields to other sports.

PenMet leaders have plans for other, nonsports-related development at the park, too, said PenMet executive director Terry Lee. Those include a handicap-accessible playground and even a spray park if there is enough community support. The park district would finance those projects, not the soccer organization, Lee said.

“It’s a park property that we want to build a community park on to serve an area that is underserved for parks and recreation,” Lee said of the nearby Artondale, Arletta and Fox Island communities.

“There’s a real shortage of soccer fields on the Gig Harbor peninsula.”

Harbor Soccer and PenMet discussed the fields in 2015, but never reached an agreement. New leadership for both organizations resulted in the tentative agreement this summer, Lee said.

Presently, Harbor Soccer rents fields from PenMet and the Peninsula School District for practices and games. The organization competes for the fields with other community sports organizations.

The only lighted fields are at Gig Harbor High School and Peninsula High School, narrowing the selection during winter months when the sun sets earlier, Wenrich said.

“Trying to get everybody in there and giving everybody equitable time and the time that everybody needs is extremely difficult,” he said.

PenMet officials looked at two other sites as possible locations for the athletic complex before landing on Harbor Family Park. They were the Performance Golf Center along state Route 16 near the Tacoma Narrows bridges, and the former Peninsula Gardens location off Wollochet Drive Northwest.

Harbor Soccer proposed the Harbor Family Park location, Lee said.

The park has a history in the community. Roughly a decade ago, the nonprofit Greater Gig Harbor Foundation raised $500,000 through community donations to save the forested land from residential development. After voters approved formation of the park district, the district purchased the land from the foundation.

A few years ago, the park district purchased the second 19 acres from the foundation to create the 38-acre site. The heavily forested property is a passive park with a network of trails. The trails would remain even if a complex is built, though some would need to be rerouted, Lee said.

“The next steps for us, for the park district, will be to begin to have community meetings,” Lee said.

A conceptual design will be drafted after meeting with interested parties, including the community, he said.

PenMet has agreed to begin a master plan for the park when Harbor Soccer raises $1 million. The conceptual plan would be the basis for the more detailed master plan.

After raising $3 million, PenMet will prepare the site for development by clearing trees, adding entrances to the property and creating parking to accommodate two fields, according to the agreement.

Under the initial agreement, PenMet will be in charge of designing the site with input from the soccer club. Once built, Harbor Soccer will be given the opportunity to use a minimum of 60 percent of available field time, subject to field fees.

The soccer club has committed to purchase a minimum 2,500 field hours a year for 10 years. It also agreed to hold at least two tournaments on the fields, generating at least 150 hours per tournament.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley