The City Council voted unanimously to approve the 6-acre "Shoreline athletic fields" project on Tuesday, allowing construction to begin near Shoreline Golf Links on a Little League-sized baseball field with 60-foot base paths, and a Major League-size field with 90-foot base paths, along with a parking lot, bleachers, concession stand, picnic area and a playground.
"We're always trying to compete with everyone else" for space, said Mike Reelfs, president of the Mountain View Little League. "Anywhere we can have more fields for kids to play we're all for it and we really hope this gets passed."
Mayor Jac Siegel called the project a "major milestone for the city" and said it was good to see the project finally come to fruition. Council member Tom Means said he remembered discussing the idea eight years ago when he was a city commissioner.
The site, a former landfill that is currently used for city storage, is next to the south end of Shoreline Golf Links and is just across the street from Google's Garcia Avenue offices near Amphitheatre Parkway. Within the footprint of the two baseball diamonds there is room for anywhere between two and four soccer fields, depending on the size of the soccer fields and the age of the players.
A 2008 study found that the city had a 20-acre deficit in ball field space. That number is likely to be even higher, as city staff report that requests to use the city's ball fields have been increasing steadily over the past few years with the growth in popularity of soccer and other non-traditional sports such as lacrosse and rugby, which may also be played on the new fields.
The latest cost estimate for the fields is slightly over $10.5 million but the city has budgeted only $10,080,000 for the project. Public Works Director Mike Fuller said costs could be reduced by removing the playground and cutting the size of the 165-space parking lot, which requires a retaining wall against the adjacent Crittenden slope. Council members expressed some interest in reducing the parking lot, but no one wanted to remove the playground.
"We should not be cutting back on the playground," said council member Ronit Bryant. "If we need to find another $500,000 from somewhere to do it right, we need to do it right."
Bryant asked if the city had talked with nearby companies about the use of nearby parking lots during games, such as those across the street used by Google. Community Services Director David Muela said there had been no formal discussions with those companies, but said it was probably inevitable that people would use those lots. There would also be 25 parking spaces available along Garcia Avenue.
Using natural turf would save the city $675,000 in initial costs, but the council favored artificial turf in a study session the same night, with members noting that it would allow the fields to be used much more heavily. The artificial turf would have to be replaced every 10 years at a cost of $1 million, the city reports.
A handful of rare burrowing owls that like to live around the golf course will lose 6-acres of habitat where the owls are known to forage for insects and small rodents. To make up for that loss, the city set aside 9.7 acres elsewhere in the park for the owl, including 7.2 acres that were once freshwater ponds at the golf course, 2 acres near Shoreline Park's kite-flying area and a half-acre left on the southern end of the site. Those areas will be landscaped with grass, shrubs and rocks to attract small rodents and insects. The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, which has been working to save the owls, supported the plan.