Delano, CA. Supervisor David Couch came before the Delano City Council on Sept. 17 and proposed a plan to work with the city of Delano to create a future Delano Sports Park.
Couch, who has been representing Delano and other north Kern communities for only about four months, included possibly offering up a parcel of land adjacent to the city’s soccer park complex, at Woollomes Avenue and Dover Street, to start the new park that could include baseball and softball fields where residents and groups, such as Delano Little League, could play games. The plan could also include improved parking for the area and lights for the new fields, as well as the current soccer fields.
“We haven’t gotten to the point of what exactly would be included,” Couch said. “We just found out the county has land near the city’s soccer fields, so we can expand what’s there with baseball, softball fields and even possibly an aquatic facility.”
Couch and Delano City Council member Joe Aguirre hatched the plan after being approached by Delano Little League representatives who were complaining about the condition of the current fields at Memorial Park. Quite a bit of work was done on the county portion of the fields.
“We were approached by Little League representatives about the poor conditions there,” Couch said. “So we started working on that. Then they told us they wanted to possibly have tournaments there, but they didn’t have the right lights. Then they mentioned the possibility of expanding in the area near the city’s soccer fields.”
To fund a future sports park, Couch suggested the city of Delano create an economic opportunity area, similar to plans Kern County has created in places like Lost Hills and Arvin.
Couch’s proposal would explore the potential development of a sports complex, combining the current soccer fields with a new Little League baseball facility, an aquatic center and other concepts. Couch said the county already owns additional land adjacent to the shopping center and soccer fields that could be developed for additional recreational facilities for the city of Delano.
Funding could come from both city and county coffers. The city could generate money by establishing a Delano, Sports, Tourism and Re-investment Zone. Other funding sources could include Proposition 68 grant funds, as well as possible city and county community development block grants.
At the end of his presentation, Couch asked Mayor Pro-Tem Ruben Hill to direct city staff to work with county staff and community groups to explore the feasibility of a sports park and/or aquatic center. Both sides would also explore funding mechanisms separately, and even jointly, when feasible.
Couch said an EOA could generate millions of dollars to be used specifically for recreational uses.
“Like many cities, Delano’s biggest money generator is sales tax,” Couch said. “Tournaments could be held at these fields, all year round, and the people who come to these games with their kids will spend money to eat and go to the movies and, for out-of-town visitors, will spend the night at various hotels.”
“That’s a lot of money being spent,” Couch said. “And then these people will go home.”
After Couch’s sports park presentation to the Delano City Council, Aguirre encouraged staff to review the plan.
“We can capture taxes from the new development,” Aguirre said, “and put some money aside to pay for recreational facilities.”
Aguirre pointed to future baseball and softball fields, lighting of current soccer fields and better parking.
“In five to 10 years, we can invest back into the community with this project and do it without hurting ourselves financially.” Aguirre said. “The community would certainly benefit. I know the kids would!”
“I would ask staff to investigate this proposal and get back to the council,” he said.
Couch’s proposal could define a boundary for the Delano region wherein the incremental property and sales tax growth generated from properties within the boundary is dedicated to reinvestment into the area to provide funding for the construction and ongoing care and maintenance of sports park facilities.
Adding a Little League facility, an aquatic facility or other sports facilities near a major Delano commercial area and close to a major north/south freeway would generate synergies that benefit all who participate in activities in this area.
Also, such a sports complex will add to the vibrancy and economic activity within this area. Players, families and fans would use the nearby shopping, restaurant and recreational facilities.
With such a facility so close to the freeway and in a central location in California, Little League and community leaders can tout their location, hotel rooms nearby and the area’s amenities to draw tournaments and other events to Delano.
This would positively impact sales tax revenue and transient occupancy taxes.
Meanwhile, the county has made major investments to Memorial Park, with more planned. The city of Delano is also considering adding an additional field at Memorial Park.
So far, the requests the county have completed include:
• Sprinkler work
• Scrape and level fields from rodent holes. Replace, replant grass. Using seed where fill is needed (ongoing).
• Dedicated existing restroom for Little League
• Repair stairs
• Backflow device
• Backstops repaired
• Dugout gates, roof, other repairs.
• Graffiti abated
Besides the city and county, local school districts could use the proposed new sports park facilities, especially a competition-size swimming pool.
Former Delano City Council member and current Delano Joint Union High School District board member Art Armendariz said having a pool would help all three high schools in the future.
School districts got out of the “pool-building business” because it’s so expensive, he said.
Armendariz said the key to the joint proposal’s success is the city and county working together, which hasn’t always happened in the past.
“We have David (Couch) as a new supervisor to our area and he comes in with his eyes wide-open,” Armendariz said, “looking to see where we can work together like other cities and communities have been doing across the county.
“He did just that, proposing to work with us, and is willing to help. Coming to join us, is a righteous thing to do. It’s all part of the collaborative effort.”
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