Lincoln Park deal is a go

groundbreaking -- Pacific University sets Tuesday ceremony at city-owned park

Pacific University officials, who just got the go-ahead to build an athletic complex in Lincoln Park, aren't letting any turf grow under their feet. They hope to fence off the park and get their contractor's construction trailer on site later this week.

'We'd be out there tonight if we could,' Ken Schumann, Pacific's athletic director, said Monday after the Forest Grove City Council authorized the city manager to sign a pair of agreements which have been in the works for nine months.

An official groundbreaking ceremony has been scheduled for next Tuesday on the north side of the Pacific Athletic Center, which abuts the south end of the park (see box).

The unanimous council vote paves the way for Pacific to spend more than $6 million to turn the park into a world-class athletic facility, complete with a nine-lane, Olympic-quality track ringing a FieldTurf multi-purpose soccer and lacrosse field, plus brand new baseball and softball complexes with permanent grandstand seating, press boxes and other amenities.

Schumann said that if plans proceed as expected, the track, turf and walking trail will be opened to the public this fall. The stadium and natural grass fields will follow in 2008.

'We've got to wait for the grass to grow,' he said.

The only glitch in the project occurred last month, when the university was unable to purchase 3.1 acres of private land abutting the north boundary of the park. As a result, the city and university had to find a new home for three recreation fields that had been planned there.

Both sides, with the city council's blessing, have settled on Thatcher Park, an undeveloped city-owned parcel that Forest Grove officials have long wanted to turn into a park.

The city estimates it would cost $1.3 million to put the recreation fields there. Pacific, however, wants to conduct its own study before agreeing to a dollar amount.

Darlene Morgan, Pacific's vice president for finance and administration, assured councilors that the university would pay its fair share.

'Until we get bids it's hard to see what those numbers are,' she said Monday night. 'But the university is absolutely committed to this agreement.'

City Manager Michael Sykes said he hoped that the deal could be signed before the groundbreaking.

Aside from the uncertainty over paying for the Thatcher Park improvements, city parks director Tom Gamble said he was pleased with the proposed contract, which retains city control over the facilities.

He said officials from the various recreational sports organizations are backing the plan.

'We met with them and they are more than satisfied with the way that this part of the agreement works,' Gamble said.

Mayor Richard Kidd, who will be at the groundbreaking ceremony next week, said Pacific's plans are a great deal for city residents, particularly with the development of Thatcher Park.

'We're gaining a lot and losing nothing,' he said.

Schumann said Pacific officials feel the same.

'We're ready to move forward with improvements to the park that the community can be proud of and that will increase the use of the park,' he said.