As Little League baseball and spring soccer leagues begin their 2011 seasons, the familiar jostling for field space is back in full force.
“At times, even in the fall, we’ll have four teams practicing on one field,” said Tom Snider, president of the 200-kid club soccer league Belmont United. “It’s that tight.”
To help ease the athletic gridlock, city officials are hoping to follow the lead of other Peninsula cities and install synthetic turf at the Belmont Sports Complex, located just west of Oracle’s headquarters in Redwood Shores.
After two years of community meetings about the issue, the Belmont City Council green-lighted the project Tuesday by agreeing to hire a design team for up to $75,000.
“We have a lot more families in Belmont now,” Mayor Coralin Feierbach said. “My daughter, for example, has moved here. She’s got two kids. I think it’s important to have as much as we can for everybody, every age group, if we can afford it.”
Besides making the fields more durable, resurfacing the 4-acre complex’s three fields will eliminate closures due to soggy weather and save the city money on water costs, officials said. City officials believe turf would increase the fields’ 2,300 playable hours by 40 to 60 percent.
But where the city will get another kind of green — the $2.5 million needed for the upgrade — remains an open question.
Parks and Recreation Department Director Jonathan Gervais said the city plans to complete the fields’ design by the end of the year. With scant city funds available for the project, officials hope a “shovel-ready” project will attract funding from grants, private donations or bestowing naming rights.
“We need to be able to show we’ve made progress on the design and have something ready to go,” Gervais said.
The upgrades would include repairing collapsed drainage pipes beneath the fields, which currently cause flooding in some areas.
Synthetic turf would also eliminate the need for watering. The sand-based grass fields currently require about 12,000 gallons of water per day for irrigation, Gervais said, which is roughly equal to what 133 Peninsula residents use during a typical day.
Snider said he has heard nothing but support for the turf from parents in Belmont United and the Belmont-Redwood Shores AYSO league, which has about 900 kids.
“It’d be a tremendous asset,” he said.
$75,000: Cost of design for turf fields at Belmont Sports Complex
40 to 60: Percent increase in playing time from turf compared to grass
3: Fields at the Belmont Sports Complex
2,300: Hours of activities on complex’s baseball-soccer field
7,500: Families that participate in youth sports programs in Belmont during a soccer season weekend
Source: City of Belmont