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Sports field shortage looms

A new report by the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department says this city will have a greatly increased need for sports fields in the near future.

The main question is where the fields will be built, since there are not many options.

Kim Gilmer, director of LO Parks and Recreation, presented this matter to the city council at a meeting last week.

"There's no question we have deficiencies, and this report says why," said Gilmer of the Athletic Field Requirements Study 2011 Update done by The Sports Management Group. "The report recommends what we need to do for the short and long term."

The report also includes an extensive history of past efforts to assure a sufficient number of athletic fields for Lake Oswego - which include the passing of bond measures in 1991, 1998 and 2002. However, the history indicated that even diligent attention and strong action are not enough when the unexpected suddenly occurs.

For Lake Oswego, the unexpected has included a massive increase of youth participating in lacrosse and flag football.

The report states that there has been an increase of 1,500 youth playing these sports since the last sports field study in 2001.

The rise of lacrosse's popularity in Lake Oswego is stunning. The sport has enjoyed a healthy national increase in participation of 131 percent. However, Lake Oswego nearly triples that figure at 389 percent.

Combined with the displacement of seven softball-baseball fields since 2001 (for a variety of reasons, including construction of the LOHS girls varsity softball field, installing a new playground, developing a larger softball field and a JV soccer field, and eliminating two fields judged too small for safe play), this adds up to real crunch for meeting future athletic needs for city residents.

The Sports Management report listed serious defiencies in multi-use soccer fields, and made the following recommendations:

Two lighted 210 feet by 330 feet synthetic turf fields for current demand for soccer/football/lacrosse.

Two lighted 150 feet by 225 feet grass fields for soccer/football/lacrosse.

Two 100 feet by 180 feet grass fields for soccer/football/lacross.

Two lighted 65 feet by 300 feet softball fields.

One 60 feet by 180 feet grass field for baseball/softball.

The study suggested a variety of actions for the city of Lake Oswego, including working with the school district to obtain time on existing school fields.

One option is building more fields. But where? The report offered seven potential locations: Hunt Club, Rassekh Property, Lakeridge High School, Woodmont Park, West Waluga Park and Luscher Farm.

"Our committee looked at every potential site," Gilmer said. "There are not that many options available."

The most notable option is transforming some of the Luscher Farm property into three large multi-purpose athletic fields. But that would be controversial, since there is some intense support for continuing use of the farm for agriculture.

There is also wide public support for at least some urban agriculture at the farm. This was shown in a survey taken in November by the Parks and Recreation Department, which indicates Luscher Farm enjoys a high degree of support at 77 percent. Of that number, 44 percent said it was "very important" to keep the park looking like a farm.

The tightrope for city councilors gets tighter with the current county zoning regulations on Luscher Farm that require "exclusive use for farming."

Last week's council meeting was expected to be the beginning of solving this issue as the council ponders the report in the weeks ahead. Gilmer said it is hoped the council will have a recommendation ready by February.

"There is not one simple answer," Gilmer said. "We need a decision made that will determine where the other things in the parks master plan can occur. It's all about balance.

"The data from Sports Management Group is very objective. It will help us provide as much opportunity for recreation as possible for the citizens of Lake Oswego through 2025."




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