When he looks around Gig Harbor, there’s one thing City Council member Tim Payne is sure of: There is a remarkable lack of quality, usable fields for youth and adult recreation here.
“This city is 71 years old this year and in 71 years, we’ve built two subgrade baseball fields and one subgrade soccer field,” Payne said. “To me, that’s shameful, especially when you consider the population that we have and the new neighborhoods coming in.”
Luckily, help is on the way. The city took the first step toward building the Gig Harbor Sports Complex by acquiring the Gig Harbor Little League Fields at the July 24 Council meeting.
Per the agreement, the city will take over the ownership and maintenance of the fields as a public city park and will be part of the future Gig Harbor Sports Complex.
“This was an enormous first step in what I hope will be a multi-step process to bring our community closer to recognizing active youth and adult sports in the way that we should,” Payne said.
For the city, this gets the ball rolling. The larger picture is a public-private partnership between the city, Gig Harbor Little League, Peninsula Light, the Peninsula School District, the Gig Harbor YMCA and Olympic Property Group to make the space a larger complex with turf and lit fields that will be able to be used by Gig Harbor Little League, the YMCA, Harbor Soccer, Peninsula Youth Football, local lacrosse clubs and more.
“There’s an extraordinary shortage of fields in our community,” Payne said. “Our weather, right now, is beautiful. But for roughly eight months of the year, it’s inclement. … We have roughly 700 little league participants, 1,200 to 1,300 in Harbor Soccer, 200 to 300 kids in lacrosse, 300 more in Peninsula Youth Football, another 200 or so in West Narrows Soccer. And don’t forget about the adult teams and active sports — for which there’s an enormous demand.”
Gig Harbor parks administrator Katrina Knutson said Payne isn’t exaggerating.
“He’s absolutely right: We don’t have enough fields for the amount of teams that we have,” Knutson said. “At the Civic Center, the big lawn area there is being used for soccer practices because we don’t have enough fields. It’s very much needed for this community.”
The city has submitted a $2 million state capital funding request to bring the multi-use complex to Gig Harbor North. The state has allocated $200,000 for the project in its budget, which is likely to be approved shortly. That means the state is $1.8 million short. But there’s little to no concern with the city’s employees.
“Our lobbyist has told us that a big project like this never gets fully funded the first time around,” Knutson said. “Hopefully we’ll get the remaining $1.8 (million) and get started on this.”
The city will likely know if that money will be allocated by the end of the state’s 2018 fiscal year, which is the end of June. In the meantime, the city will be working on a master plan in early 2018 to determine the specific vision for the complex, and will be inviting community sports groups and the general public for comment.
“We definitely want community input on that,” Knutson said. “We’ll have the concept and master plan ready by then so we’ll be a shovel-ready project.”
Gig Harbor Little League’s director of operations, Ron Brentin, who has been with the GHLL for 22 years, has been hard at work on making this transfer happen for the past five years.
“Basically, little league is an all-volunteer organization,” he said. “That’s the way it has to be run. Over the years, the volunteering goes down and it takes a lot to maintain the place. It’s time. There’s enough property there, now something can really be built out of it.”
The contract in place states Gig Harbor Little League will retain use of the fields during its season, which runs from March 1 to June 30 every year.
“This is something that has needed to be done in this town forever,” Brentin said. “All the complaints that I’ve heard are mostly, ‘We need turf fields.’ It’ll be a great thing for the community.”