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City, school district team up on sports project

May 23, 2014

City Administrator Keith Caldwell (inset, left) and Bishop Unified School District Superintendent Barry Simpson (inset, right) have been working along with Jim Tatum, former school board member, on a project to construct a new multi-use sports field on this 10-acre parcel southeast of the Bishop Senior Center. Photo by Darcy Ellis; inset photos from file

City officials are teaming with the Bishop Unified School District to enable more sporting opportunities for the community and enhance the existing City Park campus.
In the next week or two, the city will be opening a public comment period for an environmental analysis of plans to construct a multi-use sports field on the long-vacant lot south of the Bishop Senior Center and east of the existing park.
According to City Administrator Keith Caldwell, the project would be identical to the effort in 2008 that replaced the buckling tennis courts at the corner of Spruce and Yaney streets with a grassy field where children’s sports leagues now meet to play soccer and T-ball. The field accommodates up to four separate games at a time for the youngest athletes.
The field is also used, of course, by park patrons of all ages wanting to play a variety of sports on their own time.
One of the goals of the project currently underway is helping to alleviate congestion at the school district’s sporting facilities and fields – which is why Bishop Unified School District approached the city with the idea about a year-and-half ago.
One of the driving forces was then-board member Jim Tatum, who remains involved today.
According to Superintendent Barry Simpson, it comes down to a safety issue.
Once the football season ends at Bishop High in November, soccer immediately begins with players having to use the same chewed-up, divot-pocked field.
“We’re concerned about injury,” he said.
The school district eventually wants to be able to use the new field at the park for high school soccer practice and games.
The district Board of Trustees has given its preliminary approval of funding the project, which has been added to the district’s facilities plan. But the board has yet to vote on the actual expenditure, since no exact dollar amount is yet known.
Additional support for the project is likely to come in the form of volunteer labor, Caldwell said.
“The funding will come from the school district … and in order to hopefully save money, several other parties have come forward to help on (construction of) this project,” he said.
The work will consist of clearing a roughly 120- by 80-yard portion of the 10-acre lot, planting grass and installing irrigation. If funding is available, Caldwell said, the city wants to tie existing water lines in to the project to provide that irrigation. The money could possibly come from Water and Sewer funds, but it’s up to the City Council.
According to Simpson, construction should begin in August, and the plan is to give the field a year to establish itself before the 2015-16 soccer season.
When complete, Caldwell noted the field will be a nice complement to the Pine to Park Path – literally a concrete path leading from East Pine Street, through an alley next to Sterling Heights, past the Community Garden, to the back of the City Park.
Ultimately, according to Caldwell, the city would like to build a paved walking path around the entire 10 acres that links back up to the Pine to Park Path. “It’ll be a nice exercise opportunity,” he said.
Speaking of exercise, just to the north of the field will be the outdoor exercise equipment installed last year by the Toiyabe Indian Health Project. East of that equipment, the city plans to create a parking area to accommodate additional park visitors.
Although the project is still in the environmental phase, the city – and Simpson and Caldwell in particular – are excited.
“Keith Caldwell has just been awesome,” Simpson said. “It’s been great working with the city, especially because they’re always interested in collaborating with the schools and working on ways to provide recreational opportunities for youth.”
“It’s a good project and we really appreciate the school system’s interest in taking this on because the whole community will benefit,” Caldwell said.
Plus, the city can be proud of developing the final, unused portion of City Park and, in the process, Caldwell said, creating a place where the public can feel comfortable enjoying a variety of use areas: “passive areas” for relaxing and enjoying the scenery like the pond, gazebo and arboretum; and “active areas” like the baseball fields, skate park, tennis courts, bocce ball court, pool, playground and exercise equipment.
“It’ll be a full-service park,” Caldwell said.

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