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.