Field of Dreams
Talk of the Town: Ron White
By Brian N. Willhite
For many local children playing youth tackle football, the grass beneath their cleats will soon become a little greener. Golden Empire Youth Tackle Football and Cheer, with the city of Bakersfield and funding from State Farm, are working together to complete the second phase of the State Farm Sports Village master plan. The village will include four football fields and four soccer fields at 9001 Ashe Road, north of Taft Highway. More fields for various sports will be built with more stages, including areas for commercial development.
Ron White, executive director of Golden Empire — which has leased the football fields — is the liaison for all parties involved, has consulted on facility designs, and will play a role in operations management once the project has been completed.
White spoke to Bakersfield Life about the impact of youth tackle football in the community, and how having dedicated sports facilities will help grow the sport here. Golden Empire currently has about 2,500 youth participants in its tackle football and cheer programs. The second phase of construction in scheduled to be completed in September 2013.
What events led to the construction of the four new football fields in phase two of the State Farm Sports Village master plan?
In terms of the football section being added to phase two, it’s a matter of necessity. There’s really a field shortage crisis in Kern County — regardless of the sport. There are just not enough places for kids and youth to play any type of sport. The city saw that need, and we’ve been discussing our need with the city and the community for a long time. They have come to the table and we have come to the table and we’ve really put our heads together to figure out what we can do on both sides to service the families of the community. That’s really the basis and the origin of this project.
What does it mean for Bakersfield to have such a facility, and how can this improve local youth sports?
For me, it’s real simple: it reflects the growth of the community. It reflects the city knowing what its needs are, knowing how to serve various demographics, age groups and the growth of the sport. It’s also the difference between playing a limited, shorter season, to now, where we have the opportunity to make tackle football almost a year-round activity. The opportunity to have passing leagues, flag football, and then more importantly to be able to have post season play where you can bring revenue back into the city, and support the families and the economy by hosting a state or even national championship. That would be great for the hospitality community here. And being centrally located, it’s something long overdue, and I believe will be well-received.
GEYF Board and Area Reps
join Mayor Harvey Hall, Officials from the City of Bakersfield and
representatives from State Farm
at a Naming Rights Ceremony on Sunday 4/1/2012
Park change would speed up development of football fields
BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer
firstname.lastname@example.org | Thursday, Dec 08 2011 06:00 PM
Last Updated Thursday, Dec 08 2011 06:11 PM
Youth football groups may be able to take advantage of fields at the Sports Village park sooner than expected if a change in the city’s plans goes through.
The second phase of Sports Village was set to add eight soccer fields to the eight that were opened in the park last summer. But at a Community Services Committee meeting Thursday, city staff proposed building four of those as football fields and signing an agreement with a youth football group to maintain them.
In September, city council members voted to approve $2.5 million in funding for the second phase of the park, which is planned to eventually include baseball, softball, football and soccer fields; a community center; picnic shelters; lake; trails; concession stands; and commercial development on about 200 acres.
The second phase is expected to cost $3.2 million, and the city’s Recreation and Parks Department is working on funding sources to make up the difference, which would help pay for lights on the fields, parking and restrooms, said City Manager Alan Tandy.
Sports Village is located off of Ashe Road and Taft Highway.
In the meantime, Golden Empire Youth Football, a Bakersfield organization for football and cheering for children ages 7 to 14, has needed a place to play, said Executive Director Ron White.
The organization is planning to play on fields at Kern County high schools and Bakersfield College, but with no dedicated fields for youth football and with participation expected to grow, “We’re sort of bursting at the seams,” White said.
“Part of the challenge for us is (we’re) servicing about 2,500 participants,” White said. “We’re out of room. We play from sunup to sundown at six locations.”
White said he believes the organization will grow to 4,000 participants in two to three years. He added the organization would like to bring state tournaments and a longer youth football season, nearly year-around, to the area.
Under the proposed agreement with Golden Empire, which still must be approved by the full city council, Golden Empire would maintain the four fields in Phase II. The American Youth Soccer Organization Region 73 is in an agreement with the city to maintain the eight soccer fields that opened in Phase I and would maintain four of the eight fields in Phase II.
Tandy said he hopes Golden Empire will help, through fundraising, with installing lights on the fields.
The Phase II fields are expected to be open for players in September 2013.
Eventually, the four football fields in Phase II will be changed to soccer fields as was originally planned, and four football fields and a “stadium field” that could be used for soccer or football will be built when construction proceeds on the rest of the park.
Dates for additional phases haven’t been discussed and will depend on the housing market, Tandy said. The park is being built with park development fees from housing developments in the area.
Also at the meeting, city staff recommended that city council members approve an agreement with the anti-poverty organization Community Action Partnership of Kern to build a ball field behind the Friendship House Community Center, owned by the organization.
The agreement would use $151,000 of city park improvement funds for the multiuse field, which could be used for soccer, softball and other sports, said Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover.
Those funds were intended to fund a future park in a nearby area, northeast of Cottonwood Road and Watts Drive. Because there are no concrete plans for a park there currently, city staff recommended that the funds be used for the field at Friendship House.
“Southeast Bakersfield needs facilities like this,” said Jeremy Tobias, executive director of the Community Action Partnership of Kern. “It’d be a wonderful opportunity for the neighborhood and also for our increased partnership (with the city).”
Hoover also presented a summary of the city’s public pool usage in 2011, showing that attendance at the pools fell for a second year in a row. In 2011, pool attendance was about 91,500 visits, compared with a high point in 2009 of almost 115,600 visits.
Reasons for the decrease were the closure of two city pools in 2009, the summer pool season was one week shorter this year because of school schedules and there were fewer special events in the summer, among other factors, according to a report Hoover presented.
Finally, Planning Director Jim Eggert presented a proposal for the city to apply for funding to prepare a bicycle transportation plan. The city would apply to the Rose Foundation’s Kern County Air Pollution Mitigation Fund, a fund paid for by homebuilders to mitigate the effects of development on air quality.
With funds from the Rose Foundation, the city could hire a consultant to draw up a bicycle transportation plan. With that plan, the city could then apply for state funding under Caltrans’ Bicycle Transportation Account, Eggert said.
This would be for projects that are in addition to the bike routes currently covered by the city’s bikeway master plan. It would instead be for building things like additional bicycle paths and facilities and lockers for cyclists, said Public Works Director Raul Rojas.
Combined effort funds sports complex
Naming rights, partnerships with athletic groups cover costs
American City and County
Feb. 21, 2012 7:51pm
- Project: Sports Village
- Jurisdiction: Bakersfield, Calif.
- Agency: Recreation and Parks
- Vendors: Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm
- Date completed: Phase I: July 2011
- Phase 1 cost: $6.7 million
Plans for the 200-acre Bakersfield Sports Village call for 16 soccer fields, four football fields and 10 softball diamonds.
Bakersfield, Calif., opened the first phase of a master-planned sports complex last year that was funded by a combination of naming rights, partnerships, grants and park development fees. Once it is built out, the 200-acre Sports Village will contain 16 soccer fields, four youth football fields, 10 softball diamonds, a community center, paved walking paths and numerous picnic/children’s play areas.
Building on Bakersfield’s history of partnerships and naming rights with public facilities that began in 2004 with the McMurtrey Aquatic Center, city staff negotiated a five-year lease agreement with American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), Region 73 to maintain and operate the first eight lighted soccer fields of the sports complex. Phase I development began in November 2009 and included the eight fields with concessions, restrooms and a parking lot. In addition to maintaining the fields, AYSO, Region 73 agreed to complete the interior of the concession stand for their operations. To save maintenance costs, the city installed a purple pipe system that uses tertiary water from the adjacent water treatment plant for irrigation of the fields. Park development funds were used to construct the fields, which opened in July 2011.
City staff had sought naming rights for the complex since its inception, but no one would commit until the fields were completed. After opening day, State Farm agreed to a five-year naming rights deal for $500,000, to be paid in two equal installments early in 2012 to assist with construction of Phase II. Scheduled to open in 2013, the next phase will include four soccer fields and four youth football fields. The local youth football organization has agreed to maintain and operate the football fields, and contribute toward lights and goals. Once Phase II opens, more than 4,000 youth will be participating in active sports, in addition to various tournaments and adult sports leagues with year-round activities.