There has been growing concern among the Gig Harbor sports community regarding the Gig Harbor sports complex project going forward with the new city council.
For now, the project remains safe.
The council voted unanimously on Monday (Feb. 12) to approve a $47,000 contract with local consultants for the sports complex’s master plan.
The city acquired the Gig Harbor Little League Fields last July, and purchased 11.5 acres of land north of the YMCA in December as part of its larger project to create a Gig Harbor sports complex.
The primary purpose of the park will be to have several significant multiuse, lit turf fields for active youth and adults, year-round. The city will have land north and south of the YMCA, and plans to partner with the YMCA, and possibly the Peninsula School District, to make all of the land into one, binding site plan.
City staff recommended approving the contract to get a head start on the plan, in hopes of submitting it along with grant applications in May. A portion of the budget for the complex, which would include lit turf fields, can be covered by grants from the state and federal government. Applications are due in May and if the city does not apply by then, some of the grant money will not be available again for a couple of years. The vote opens up an opportunity for the public to chime in on what they’d like to see happen with the site.
For new councilmember Jeni Woock, hearing from the public is the most important factor moving forward.
“I’m sure at some point, it will come to fruition,” Woock said. “Right now, we’re figuring out how all of it will happen, where the funding will come from, who the partners are. The nice thing, there will soon be a visioning opportunity for our citizens, city residents and anybody who’s planning on using a sports complex. The city will be promoting a visioning program so people can say what they’d like to have in that sports complex.”
The need for additional lit, turf fields in the Gig Harbor community is well documented, and is something the sports community has long clamored for.
“I think there’s a need for it, yes,” Woock said. “How many fields, will be up to the citizens. There’s several different options of plans that are in the beginning of being laid out. But I think it will go forward.”
During discussion, Himes and councilmember Jim Franich had concerns about letting the May grant deadline dictate the planning process.
“I am concerned the city may be moving too fast trying to develop a master plan for this project,” Himes said. “I don’t want us to be dictated by a hard deadline.”
Peninsula Youth Football president Jon Montgomery was in attendance at Monday’s council meeting. He, along with other leaders of the sports community, are making their voices heard.
“Personally, I’ve reached out to all the council members and the mayor,” he said. “I’ve been a resident here since 1974. It’s always been very limited field use. You go to any place else, they’ve got great fields and facilities. We keep building houses and bringing kids here — where is everyone supposed to? In PYF, we’ve got three different teams sharing an 80-yard field (at Gig Harbor High School). We’re constantly shifting teams around to find space.”
Councilmember Michael Perrow remains an advocate for the sports complex.
“It was really encouraging to have a unanimous vote,” Perrow said. “I know there’s apprehension from a number of councilmembers moving forward with this project. The outcome is far from certain. Engaging the public and coming up with a preferred option will help with everyone.”
Perrow said he thinks the plan makes sense for everyone.
“(Mayor Kit Kuhn) wants to support the school district,” Perrow said. “This is one way to do that, by taking the pressure off of their overused facilities and providing another outlet. They’re just cramming those teams up there at Gig Harbor High School. It’s hard to believe what those folks have to do. This is long needed. There were some really good comments from folks on Monday.”
Like from Gig Harbor resident Linda Foster, who Perrow said was his sister’s second-grade teacher.
“She spoke about how these fields keep kids busy and active,” Perrow said. “And that also, this is where a lot of adults have made friends, through these sports leagues. This is their community. They think of other families with kids in activities and sports.”
Councilmember Ken Malich was moved by the amount of support, and said he would like to take the idea a step further.
“Thank you for reminding me how important sports are to our children,” Malich said. “And in the future I would like to discuss how to light some of our existing parks for other residents.”
There will be an opportunity for public comment soon, likely later this month or March.
“We’re really excited to have this visioning process, get the views of citizens and get the views of folks who will be using this area,” Woock said.
Montgomery’s kids will likely be grown up and out of the house by the time the project is completed. Perrow’s, too. But to them, that doesn’t matter.
“Like with so many government projects, it’s painfully slow,” Perrow said. “I’ve told the council members, this isn’t anything we expect to happen in two years. It’s a long phase project. A lot of parents aren’t doing this out of self-interest. Their kids will be long gone. This will be helping the kids on tricycles right now. It’ll benefit them, benefit kids who aren’t born yet. It has the potential to be the greatest thing in Gig Harbor sports history, if it’s completed.”
Staff reporter Danielle Chastaine contributed to this story.