VISTA — Proposed renovations at Bub Williamson Park were a major topic of conversation at the Aug. 8 Vista City Council meeting. Neighbors living near the community park voiced concerns about a proposed soccer arena at the 9-acre park at the end of a residential street.
Councilwoman Amanda Rigby said that the idea to rehab the park, a culmination of longtime discussions, began back in February.
A few years ago, the City Council approved a $2.8 million renovation.
The proposed renovations included a new lit soccer arena, two playgrounds for different age ranges, ADA-compliant restrooms and two dog parks to accommodate big and small dogs.
“The soccer arena that was in the conceptual plan for that would take out the two existing ball fields, take down the fence that is from the ball field to the free, passive grass area that is used right now for a lot of pickup games in football and soccer,” she said. “That fence would come down, and the soccer arena would take over a vast majority of the park that would be lost.”
The original contractor opted out of the project. A new request for proposal is still on the backburner.
Rigby said during the lag timeline of this process, she was contacted by a community member who shared that some residents were gathering for informal meetings about the park renovations matter. They were very upset about the negative impact of a soccer arena.
Rigby attended one of those meetings.
“I heard a lot of the concerns,” she said, adding that one item expressed was the lack of community outreach.
“I have to say I agree with some of the concerns about having a soccer arena field there,” Rigby said.
A nearby resident of Bub Williamson Park, David Smelser shared his concerns. He opposed an arena soccer stadium at this proposed location.
“Building the arena converts about half of the usable green space in the park to artificial turf,” Smelser said. “It converts this area from multi-use to single use. I ask the city of Vista to stop any further planning, including any bids until community-designed workshops have been conducted.”
Matt Hall, the director of coaching for the Vista Storm Soccer Club attended the meeting and spoke about the positive impact a soccer field could have for the youth in Vista.
“I was very fortunate that my talents and ability got me to a scholarship in college — over half of my college education was paid for through soccer, and I have a college degree because of that process,” he said. “Playing the game in Vista has made me what I am today. So, I would like to talk about the opportunity that this park would provide.”
In Rigby’s opinion, a soccer arena would not be suitable for Bub Williamson Park.
Deputy Mayor John Franklin agreed with Rigby. He also pointed out Carlsbad is a city of 39 square miles, Oceanside is a city of 42 square miles, Escondido is a city of 38 square miles and San Marcos is a city of 24 square miles. On the other hand, the city of Vista is 18.68 square miles.
“It should not be a mystery to us or confound us why we are in this unfortunate position. We are landlocked, and we don’t have a lot of additional park land,” he said. “I’d really like to ask the council to direct the staff tonight to report back to us on the possibilities of new land that we might be able to acquire to create a totally new park for this (soccer arena) purpose.”
Franklin went on to say that neighborhood parks belong to everyone in the city. However, smaller parks are more of an amenity, he said.
“I think we really need to give some credence to that idea because, you know, in the future this could be the park down the street from my house or yours and I would be just as upset about it,” he said.
Rigby made a motion to continue with plans to rehab the Bub Williamson Park, hold community workshops, discuss new park designs and ask staff to come back with possible locations for a soccer arena. As for the RFP, it was suggested to suspend that until a new park redesign was agreed on.
“Nobody here doesn’t want soccer. We do want soccer, but we want to find the right place in the city that will benefit the whole city,” Rigby said.