Funds sought for park soccer fields

OCEANSIDE — The city is seeking funds to construct two soccer fields at Joe Balderrama Park.

The goal to put in soccer fields follows community organization of a youth soccer league for Eastside neighborhood kids who want to play, but cannot afford to join formal city leagues.

The neighborhood league began when a dad went to the park to practice soccer with his kids. Soon others asked if they could join the game, eventually another dad pitched in to help coach and an informal league was formed.

Players in the grassroots league vary in ability and skill level, and include some of the top regional players.

Currently teams practice on uneven grass, which is not ideal for playing and can lead to injuries.

The city applied for a California Youth Soccer and Recreation Development Programs grant that funds the construction of soccer fields in urban communities. City staff recently learned its grant request was denied.

During the application process the city secured some matching funds and developed a water conservation component. All in all, Oceanside was well-qualified to receive the grant, except for neighborhood employment criteria.

“Low unemployment rate was the only factor criteria that the application was not able to complete,” Maria Yanez, housing program manager for city Neighborhood

Services, said. “All other cities had higher unemployment rates for their communities.”

Eastside neighborhood has an 8.1 percent unemployment rate, which is considerably lower than most other applicants for the grant.

The state received 166 applications that requested a total need of $134 million for soccer fields.

Twenty-five agencies were granted a sum of $16 million. Awards were based on community challenges, project benefits, demographics and other set criteria.

Oceanside is now pursuing a Housing-Related Parks Program grant to help fund the fields.

Installation of two small fields for kids recreational play is estimated at $500,000. The fields would include turf, goals posts, lighting, irrigation and painted boundary lines.

Oceanside is awaiting word on the HRPP grant, and readying its wish list in the event funds are awarded.

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