Sports park in Marana, AZ faces uncertain future ?

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MARANA, AZPima County is trying to determine the future of one of its most popular parks, the Mike Jacob Sports Park at West Ina Road and Interstate 10 in Marana.

It’s been the home to adult league softball, volleyball and flag football games and tournaments since 1983, but according to a Pima County Parks and Recreation study, tournament participation peaked in 2011 and has declined since.

Still, the number of teams, according to the park operator, Championship Sports, LLC, is the highest its been in the seven years it has operated the facility. But signs of age abound as the facility has deteriorated from a lack of attention and financial investment.

The county report says there has been, “chronic infrastructure deterioration” and the “infrastructure has aged.”

“With high volume, there comes wear and tear,” said Lou Ciurca, the park’s operator. “There are things that have been purchased 20, 30 years ago, that need to be replaced.”

The county has suggested four options for the park of which three include a permanent or temporary shutdown.

One is a permanent shutdown, which the county feels is the least desirable.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry will recommend to the board at its Dec. 13 meeting that the county use money received from the state to upgrade the park. The county received $1 million from the state for a land purchase necessary for the Ina Road bridge construction.

He also wants to allow Championship Sports to continue operations on a month-to-month basis for six months until an RFP proposal can be used to find a permanent, single operator.

At present, there are two operators which split the duties for scheduling, concessions and fee collection while the county performs maintenance.

According to the county memo, the business model has “resulted in recurring conflict.”

The county would like to pare that down to one operator that would also be willing to invest in infrastructure improvements. But complicating that, is the Ina Road bridge project which is scheduled to last another year and a half to two years.

Entrance to the park is already limited because of construction but Ciurca says he’s seen no drop-off in people using the park.

“The community has been great,” he said. “Our numbers are at an all-time high.”

The other options require the park to close for a period of time while improvements are made.

Still a fourth option is to allow Championship Sports continue operations, which it says it’s entitled to do.

“The courts say we have four more one-year options,” Ciurca said. That would take it up to 2020.

But he said he’s hoping the sides can work out an agreement “that’s in everyone’s best interest.”

“We’re trying to find some solutions and viable options to keep the park open,” he said.

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