Future of Sports Fields Is a Stinker of a Problem

By Mike Lednovich

Where will kids play soccer? That question was mulled by the City Commission last Tuesday.

The future of the Ybor-Alvarez Sports Complex located on Fernandina Beach Airport property currently has no long- term plan for accommodating  soccer and softball fields.

The future of the fields is in doubt because a developer is proposing to build airplane hangars and storage units on the 20 acres that currently are the fields’ home. The Federal Aviation Administration gives first priority for airport land to aviation-related use. That means the soccer and softball fields might have to relocate.

“At Ybor-Alvarez, we have 750 kids who want a place to play soccer,” commissioner Chip Ross said, “and there are basically seven options:”

  • Do nothing and hope the problem goes away.
  • Keep everything the same and lease it.
  • Spend $4 million to buy the land.
  • Move one soccer field to the baseball fields at a cost of $2 million.
  • Cut down six acres of trees that the city owns on the golf course.
  • Buy a parcel nearby.

The Parks and Recreation Department has suggested cutting down the six acres on the city golf course near Simmons Road. Vice Mayor David Sturges agrees. “It’s property we already own. It’s the easiest property to convert. And from what I’ve heard, the county is not in the process of building any soccer facilities in the next 10 years. Maybe we can talk to the county about helping us out in some manner.”

Interim City Manager Charlie George said the city is waiting for appraisals on the property where the soccer fields are currently located. Then, he said, with that information in hand, staff will want direction from the commission.

Mayor Bradley Bean asked about meetings with the county regarding the soccer fields.

City Attorney Tammi Bach said the city and county have agreed to try for a five-year lease on the current property, with the city and county splitting the $400,000 annual cost. “But what the county wanted to know before they even voted to pay for even one year … was what the long-term plan was and then have an inter-local agreement.”

Bean said he favors trying to buy the land from the FAA.

Ross called all the options “stinkers” because of their cost. “All I really want to know is how we are going to pay for it. All these options are big numbers.”

City staff will research what a soccer complex concept would look like at each site, George said. “That way we can estimate the construction costs. That would give you more information to make your decision.”

Sturges closed the discussion stating that Parks and Recreation impact fees, which are at $3 million-plus, could be used to build a new soccer and softball complex.

The commission will discuss the long-term soccer field plan at its June workshop.

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Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet (@guest_69164)
4 months ago

Just another Fallout of the wonderful promotion of Amelia Island by The Powers That Be. Face reality people, PLEASE. Land on Amelia Island has just become way too valuable for a soccer complex. It’s off island you go if even that is anymore a choice. For the past week I’ve read all the articles about County residents using City facilities how’s about all us Amelis Island County taxpayers who pay COUNTY taxes now use some county facilities, i.e. existing soccer fields in the County. Please do not reply with what I am sure will be the reply” they are already in use”. Well people, schedule and plan vs. another $4 million down the drain. When does the “I want it NOW” with a 5 minute drive to viability mentality s.t.o.p.?
It doesn’t …..who do I write my check to?

Don (@guest_69168)
4 months ago

Put it off island. 75% of the kids are non city residents why does the city need to solve this problem?

Living on the island outside of the city limits is a great deal pay zero city taxes, use city parks, don’t have to pay to park downtown or at city beaches, and if you don’t live in a HOA you can use your property as a short term rental. What’s the benefit of being a city resident? The only thing was we got our trash picked up twice a week and now that’s going away.

Diana Herman
Diana Herman (@guest_69169)
4 months ago

Keep it the same and lease it. The last idea of cutting six acres of trees–YIKES! Has anyone seen those golf course trees? Those trees are beautiful and at least 200 years old. You better not cut those trees!

4 months ago
Reply to  Diana Herman

Diana to lease the two field properties at fair market value is $400k per year. Bean wants a 20 year lease. Take into consideration that the 10acres being used is already at full capacity. We should be looking at long term strategic solutions…this is not that.

Jeffrey Bunch
Jeffrey Bunch(@j-bunch)
4 months ago

Before you ruin the neighborhoods on Simmons “City Taxpayers” and clear out a wildlife corridor you should consider what you’re doing to our quality of life. I have lived within 1/4 mile of the airport for over 40 years and had no issues until the parachute planes and touch and go’s showed up and now make outside life miserable. I have no issues with jets or any other prop planes that actually land as they don’t circle all day.
Now you want to add soccer fields (traffic, lights, noise) between two established neighborhoods. The “recreation” land around Simmons is in the Runway Protection Zone and will definitely cause issues with the FAA if the city starts building on it. How about purchasing the “industrial park” land at the airport, nothing is going to happen there, or the 26 acres for sale adjacent to the ball fields? 10 acres at Hickory Park?

anonymous (@guest_69202)
4 months ago
Reply to  Jeffrey Bunch

Just imagine the lawsuits if they cut the trees in a Tree City of the World. It would contradict the Tree Ordinance: “The City of Fernandina Beach Tree Ordinance is dedicated to:

  • No net loss of trees.
  • Placing structures and all impervious surfaces in such a way as to protect the survivability and substantial growth of the healthiest trees on a property.
  • Maintaining the diversity of tree species native to Amelia Island.
  • Protecting and maintaining the existing mature-growth native trees important to the City’s tree canopy.
  • Preserving, enhancing, and restoring the unique aesthetic character of the City.
  • Preserving, enhancing, and restoring the natural environment through the protection and establishment of native trees and existing natural systems for the enjoyment of present and future populations.”

The cost of adding soundproofing to hundreds of homes in the FBH noise-sensitive zones would be ridiculous.

Noble Member
4 months ago

The better solution is to convert existing facilities into multi-use fields. Look at all the athletic facilities managed by the city and convert those. That will cost, but so will leasing a private facility or destroying yet another untouched piece of nature.


Richard Cain
Richard Cain(@richardcain)
4 months ago

I see this “750” number of the kids who play soccer there. So I would presume someone also has a number on how many are City residents and how many aren’t. If you don’t have that data the City ought to work on getting it. Then take that number to the County when negotiating for their assistance in paying for this. Why is the City in the forefront of paying for and handling an issue that appears to be … to a large degree … a benefit for non-City residents?

4 months ago
Reply to  Richard Cain

30% are City Kids. 100% are County Kids.

The County should be adding parks in District 1. They are not. They should be planning facilities, not just for the 750 kids we currently have but to plan for the growth they are perpetuating all over the County.

And under no circumstances should we be clear cutting Simmons park.

The “fiscal conservatives” on our City commission are on a spending spree and talking roll backs at the same time. The County has done nothing in this district to help off set what the City has subsidized for years.

If you live in the City, you pay County taxes too. We should hold them all accountable.

Richard Cain
Richard Cain(@richardcain)
4 months ago
Reply to  Sheila

Yes, of course they are all county kids. But in negotiating with the County you should be able to clearly show the level to which the programs being serviced are benefiting non-City residents. The County ought to be paying for all of it but if not … if you have proper data you are in a better negotiating position to get a bigger County contribution … or any County contribution. If the County won’t pony up … consideration should be given to withdrawing City support or putting in procedures to exclude non-City residents from participating or requiring them to pay some kind of extra fee. Cruel perhaps. It might get their attention. But continuing to roll over and make City residents foot the bill is unacceptable.

Vince cavallo
Vince cavallo(@grandvin)
4 months ago

Please tell the mayor the city owns the land, not the FAA or the Airport Authority. The FAA controls the air space. The city decides what gets built on its land. It is a city airport. How many city residents and businesses want planes stored there. I agree with everything mr bunch said before me alas I have only been here 30 years. I write this as some yahoo is circling about with what sounds similar to a lawnmower. So unless the city wants more storage and hangers or wishes to kowtow to a small group of hobbyists, don’t build them.

Robin Wells
Robin Wells(@rocknrobin12gmail-com)
4 months ago

What is wrong with these commissioners! I’m really glad I didn’t vote for the two head clowns.

The Casual Observer
The Casual Observer(@betsie-huben)
4 months ago

If we can find funding for lighting and courts for pickle ball for the grownups, we should be able to find funding for the children. Yes, some of the children come to play soccer here on Amelia Island from across the bridge. Please recall they are children who live off island but are attending their assigned schools here including Southside and Emma Love! They are here to play with their friends. Nassau County should have a role in providing a solution to this issue. If nothing else, they should provide funds to help resolve this.

Michael Carabetta
Michael Carabetta(@kt22mike)
4 months ago

I asked Chatgpt who controls the land the airport lies on. Here is the answer….

The Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport is owned by the City of Fernandina Beach, Florida. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides funding for airport improvements and has certain regulatory oversight responsibilities, the ownership and management of the airport remains with the city.

Les Marshall
Les Marshall (@guest_69215)
4 months ago

If I own a car but have to get permission from “someone” else to sell it, lease it, paint it, etc., then “owning” it is a bit disingenuous. Still need FAA approval to do a lot of things at the Airport—including leasing ball fields. The City has been using this land for years (w/o reimbursing the Airport or rezoning it recreational). Why didn’t they get a lease in the beginning or any time since??? Answer: because they were doing it without FAA approval and without paying anything for it. Now they want to make it legal. Give me a break.

4 months ago

It’s a little more complicated than that. Take a look at the meeting in March or April where Nate Coyle did an excellent job of explaining.

Vincent Cavallo
Vincent Cavallo(@grandvin)
4 months ago

“The mayor suggested buying the land from the FAA.” The city OWNS the land. If the city wishes to build hangers so be it. If the commission wished an impartial advise on the matter, they should get an independent opinion of their options from an unbiased source, not from those whose livelihood depends on the airport or the airport “commission” which has a vested interest. The city of Vero Beach was involved objecting to an FAA demand to remove a non airport residential trailer park. It was able to mitigate that demand. Might be a good place to start.

Andrew Curtin
Andrew Curtin(@bkdriverajcgmail-com)
4 months ago

The city needs a firm, agreed upon plan to replace the athletic fields before doing anything to the Ybor Alvarez complex. Mr. Bunch has some good suggestions. Whacking down six acres of trees, no matter who owns the property is sure to cause a stink.
The property is city owned airport land that was released for non-aviation purposes, not unlike the Amelia River Golf Course. It could , of course, be returned to aviation use, including hangars, for which there is a significant demand. It should be noted that projects such as hangars are usually funded by the State of Florida on a 50/50 basis with the city. The city recoups its costs from the rents charged.
To clarify a couple of points:
-There is no Airport Authority. The city has an Airport Advisory Commission which serves to advise city government on airport matters much the same as the Planning Advisory Board or the Parks and Re Committee.
-The aircraft you hear are not “circling overhead”, they are learning or practicing take offs and landings, very perishable aviation skills that require frequent attention on the part of pilots.
For the record, I am pilot and served on the Airport Advisory Commission from 1990 to 2010