Thursday, March 08, 2012

TeWinkle Task Force Meeting Wrap-up

On your behalf I attended the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex Task Force meeting Thursday evening. The meeting, scheduled for 90 minutes beginning at 6:00 p.m. ran an hour long. Chairman Dean Abernathy finally wrapped it up and tossed us out at 8:30. But, it was a productive meeting.


Jeff Hopkins of Big League Dreams, the vendor representative chosen to provide industry perspective for the Task Force, once again dominated the meeting. He first presented a re-hash of the last meeting, which ended up with the Task Force requesting him to return with a "Plan B". His original proposal called for the removal of one of the current 4 fields at the site so that area could be used for parking. It would also include a batting cage and, maybe, a tot lot.

He then launched into Plan B, which seemed more like Plan A.2.0. In this modification the baseball diamond removed in Plan A remained off the plan. it, however was replaced with what amounted to an infield - allegedly to be used for infield practice - the batting cages and a couple lanes of pitching warm-up lanes. Most of the area remains as parking. And, from the conversation I heard, NO organizational changes were made. The three remaining fields would be utilized exactly the same way he proposed a month ago.

There were many more residents in attendance at this meeting, and most of them had something to say. Several were very concerned about losing the use of this area as a general recreation venue - for walks, etc. Because gates will be installed and those will be locked at specific times, those concerns were valid. Others were unconvinced that current plans will actually mitigate the parking questions. Members of the Task Force, including representatives of the various user groups, also provided excellent insights and questions.


remains the big issue. If it's not possible to create a plan that provides adequate parking this idea will likely fail. Late in the evening mention was made by one Task Force member that there is a move afoot to consider removing the barrier space between the Sports Complex and Davis School by eliminating the running track, which would be replaced with a soccer field. Eyes lit up and chatter ensued because that might just solve the parking problem. Take a look at that "Plan B" photo again, just behind the left head shadow (sorry about that) and you can see how that would work.... the running track would be eliminated, the two parking lots would be joined and the remaining grass area would become a soccer field.

I suggested that they might contact the folks at the Orange County Fair and Event Center - right across the street - because they, too, are wrestling with parking problems and there might be found a common solution to a common problem.

So, at the next meeting on April 5th, Mr. Hopkins will return with "Plan C", which will fold in the suggestion about that parking solution and members of the Task Force will move forward to gather information about this possibility. Progress is being made, but we're a long way from solving this issue. Once the Task Force completes its mission and presents their findings to the City Council, the next step is for the Parks and Recreation Commission to begin dealing with it. At some point, once the specifications for the improvements are nailed down - if ever - formal solicitations will be made and a vendor will be selected. I suspect that every person in the room Thursday night felt that Big League Dreams had the inside track.


I take that back... resident David Stiller - long-time community activist and former member of the Parks and Recreation Commission in years past - asked an uncomfortable question at the
beginning of the meeting. He had done some homework that seemed to reflect that Big League Dreams has lots of trouble around the country at their various other venues - contractual and other legal issues. He directed his observations to Gary Monahan and other members of the City Staff present, demanding that these issues be investigated before any deal is made. Of course, a thorough vetting of any serious vendors will take place before a contract is signed... or so we're told.

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