It is as Palm Coast’s popular and well-maintained public sports fields are the victim of their own success: they’re so popular that there isn’t enough of them to accommodate growing and diverse demand. The Palm Coast City Council wants to change that.
Some time back Palm Coast’s Mad Dog Flag Football had the sort of issues other community sports organizations have had with the city’s sports fields: finding enough of them for its 150 participants to play on, and getting scheduled fairly, in the mix of tournaments and other commitments by the city’s Parks and Recreation division that runs the fields.
The conflicts were resolved. “I think it was much more about a lot more miscommunication rather than anything else,” Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland Holland said. “They just want to make sure they have access to fields, and lighting is an issue.”
But the issue, recurring with other organizations as it occasionally does, spurred a broader look at the city’s sports fields. “At one point we have to talk about capacity,” Holland said. “We know that Palm Coast Little League doesn’t have enough practice field, we know that because it’s growing every year.”
Tournaments that bring big-ticket organizations to town are fine–there were 38 such tournaments on the city’s fields last year, each bringing visitors who spend money locally, feeding into the sales tax that then gets recycled through local governments–but Holland the city council want to ensure that local organizations and individual residents who want to get together and play sports get to use and enjoy the fields–and that the city plans for expansion ahead.
“Right now, we’re limited,” Holland said. “All these different very valuable organizations that spend a lot of time with our kids, we need to have a conversation with them, much larger in scope,” to find out what their needs are.
That means adding lights to some fields to extend the field’s playtime. It means planning to add new fields in different parts of the city in the long run–a plan nowhere in sight at the moment. “We hear it every year. We’re a growing community, 90,000 residents, let’s really figure out if we have enough capacity to manage the different organizations” that want to use the fields, Holland said.
Between field use by so-called “sports tourism” (that is, big tournaments), Little League, flag football and soccer organizations, spring and fall seasons saw some 25,000 participants at the city’s fields, 2,750 of them local participants, all of whom use the fields repeatedly over the course of a season.
“The biggest issue we know is that tournament play, local play, always conflict,” Alex Boyer, the city’s parks and recreation director, said. “If we have a tournament, it displaces local play. When we have local play and there’s not a tournament, then we have no economic impact, which is fine. But we have to find the balance of when we can do local play versus when we can do tournament play.” The use of the fields isn’t the only factor. Fields have to have time to recover as well.
Those issues brought Boyer to the council last week with a presentation about what’s available now, how sports fields are managed, how scheduling is prioritized, and what’s not available, so the council can start planning for a an expansion of fields where necessary. And so council members have a better understanding of how the city’s Sports Alliance, created in 2013, is serving local residents and tournament play.
The Sports Alliance was created to spur tourism, using sports fields as a draw for regional tournaments that bring in athletes and their families who would stay in town for one, two or three nights. The city has criteria for organizations to become members of the alliance–civic, government, athletic organizations–so they’re not sidelined.
Members of the alliance don’t necessarily get preferential treatment. There are scheduling priorities. The city’s own uses have top priority, meaning that city events or events run through agreements between the city and other local governments, are first. Tournaments that have an economic impact (that is, that bring visitors who spend money locally) are next. Individual organizations or private groups are far down the list.
“As long as you’re a member you are given an equal opportunity,” Boyer said of the Sports Alliance, “and I’ll be the first one to say, there’s never been an organization that’s got everything they’ve asked for regardless of Sports Alliance, tournaments, that sort of thing. We do try to do our best to figure out what they’re asking for.”
The frequent worry is that the city and the county’s tourism office, both of whose administration have been pushing hard for tournaments, are edging out community organizations.
“They can’t come in last minute and kick our sports alliance people out, correct?” Holland asked about tournament organizers.
“Correct,” Boyer said. Those groups may book their time a year out. That’s a change from previous practice, when such an organization could ask for a field a month ahead of time, pre-empting more local organizations. When Indian Trails is used for a particular tournament booked well ahead of time, some local leagues are moved to Holland Park or Ralph Catre Park, which doesn’t make too many people happy. But once a local organization is slated for the use of a given field, it’s not moved.
“Communication is the key, it’s got to be constant,” Holland said, so alliance members are aware of what’s coming up and to what extent their activities may be accommodated without disruptions. “Tournaments are fantastic, we get the value, the economic impact, but I think the real value for having amenities like the Indian Trails Sports Complex and the other parks that we’ve invested in, have tremendous value to our community and our residents.”
Still, the city does not publish its master calendar for all organizations to see who’s slated where, when, though it maintains it. (Holland agreed that such a calendar should be public.)
Council member Jack Howell wondered if the city was “in the black” with its sports fields. But the fields aren’t run to make a profit, or to recoup all dollars expended,” Interim City Manager Beau Falgout said. Sports Alliance teams, for example don’t pay to use the fields. “When someone comes in and spends sales tax dollars, everyone gets a piece of the pie, so we get a piece, school board gets a piece, county gets a piece,” Boyer said. Sales tax dollars also pay for the technology in students’ hands–laptops and tablets.
The more pressing, growing issue is capacity. “We are boxed in right now with the capacity we have, we’re not building new fields, there’s no discussion to build new fields,” Holland said. “The problem is we just approved how many thousand units of development. Where are those families going to go to utilize fields.”
To council member Nick Klufas, there’s another problem: if a group of 20 young people in their 20s and 30s want to go play frisbee somewhere, when it’s not Daylight Saving Time (that is, when natural light is makes many more fields available than just lit ones), they have no place to go, because the fields are all occupied. (It cost $800,000 to add six 100-foot light banks at the Indian Trails Sports Complex last year, more than initially projected.) Klufas pointed to Wadsworth park, a county park on the approach to Flagler Beach, as an example where there appears to be more diverse and accommodating uses of space.
Is there room to grow? There are 11 acres at the city’s tennis center off Belle Terre, suggesting some capacity there. Indian Trails Sports Complex is landlocked by wetlands. Holland Park is landlocked. Palm Coast Park has designated 12 soccer fields on the west end of the city, but that’s yet to come. And just adding a field here and there may not be a solution.
“It can’t just be two fields here, two fields there,” Holland said, noting how a single mom chauffeuring her children to various activities should not be made to run all over town just so they can be involved. Logistics that reflects young families’ needs must be taken into account, Holland said, along with a better understanding of what organizations and individuals may be wanting to use fields but can’t. There are, for example, just four baseball fields and two softball fields within the entire city limits. One softball field and three baseball fields are lit.
“That’s ridiculous,” Holland said. “I don’t know what the solution is, but to do nothing is not beneficial.”
I remember a Flaglerlive interview with Nick Klufas wherein he says it is vital that the city’s money losing Golf and Tennis clubs remain open despite a small number of residents that use them. Clearly, the well-used ball fields offer valuable sportstime to many residents mostly kids and teens, several sports. I’m not too worried about the 20-30 year old frisbee players who have more options to get around and find places to let loose.
Peter cerreta says
Before spending money on creating facilities as described, get commitments from the people organizations that would come to use them
Is this the same town council that wanted to raise taxes to pay for a new public works facility because they said the city didn’t have funds?
This would be a great opportunity for the city to purchase the 23 acres adjacent to the Seminole Woods park for expansion that currently will be in debate for re-zoning for multi-family/ high density housing that no one wants in single family zoned neighborhood. A park expansion would be welcomed.
The city owned Palm Harbor Golf course is not .longer a money loosing venue since city booted Kemper Sports and city turned the management to excellent Golf General Manager Timothy Spangler a city employee making it a revenue success. Also all golfers using the Palm Harbor Golf Course pay a good fee to use it and kids and teens use our Golf Course as well to practice and play: http://www.palmharborgolfclub.com/-junior-camps-and-clinics.
As reported the local leagues play free in the other sports mentioned…and as a tax payer I am okay with that then I think is also fair not to compare or criticize the Golf or Tennis Courses when those players pay a high fee for the use all the time, because in the past Palm Harbor Golf Course was not self sufficient as today is, except for the Tennis courses that that maybe still are not, but in exchange provide for use to kids future champions and then plenty justify its cost:https://flaglerlive.com/131732/opelka-isner-australian/.
So without pitching sports types courts or users against each other, lets tackle the real needs…First of all I sure appreciate the questioning of down to earth Councilman Jack Howell “wondered if the city was “in the black” with its sports fields. But the fields aren’t run to make a profit, or to recoup all dollars expended, Interim City Manager Beau Falgout said. Sports Alliance teams, for example don’t pay to use the fields. “When someone comes in and spends sales tax dollars, everyone gets a piece of the pie, so we get a piece, school board gets a piece, county gets a piece,” Boyer said. Sales tax dollars also pay for the technology in students’ hands–laptops and tablets”.
At this point what is needed is as these many outside sports events are held in our sports fields generating “so much sales and hotel bed taxes benefiting those businesses”, would be be logical and fair request that some of the bed tax collected yearly by TDC Tourist And Development Council (County) http://www.flaglercounty.org/visitors_and_amp_tourism/tourist_development_council.php is contributed to light more fields as Councilman Flukas said cost $800,000 a field or to build more sports fields. Also an idea for Flukas suggested frisbee occasional or other users at night off paid events and in need for lightening the courses a coin paid meter (if exist and can be done) could be installed for occasional user to light up the courts, this could be a solution if viable, not to overburden the residents taxes.
Fix the ROADS
I hope the environmental impact is part of the discussion. We are losing a lot of trees and we don’t have birds like we used to.
Concerned Citizen says
What about sharing with the county?
I drive Colebert Lane every day. That field at the corner of Colbert and 100 never has anyone on it.
We need more good paying jobs first
Close the golf course and make ballfields out of them
Plant more trees to suck up the water that is supposed to be scarce,
Build sidewalks where not needed and let little kids walk in the street from school
We need a real mayor
Excuse me Ms Holland… what about the single Dad’s who are chauffeuring his children to various activities should not be made to run all over town just so they can be involved. It is not just single moms….
@Concerned Citizen, there is NO field at the corner of Colbert and 100. Its woods,. You talking about Roberts RD and 100. .
Little league has asked for money to build more fields for years. How about spend money that is used for making unnecessary buildings and use them to create more fields at locations such as next the firehouse by Indian trails sports complex.
next election says
Should be a lot of sports teams going to palm coast now that the sheriff and Chief Brant screwed PAL up because Brant found someone he couldn’t” bully and got rid of her. Karma will always win! Come on 2020
The original woody says
Stop funding the tennis and golf coarse’s that lose hundred of thousands of dollars every year.That would be a good start to fund new fields.
Alphonse Abonte says
How about street lights, sidewalks, better swale management,and traffic light control and coordination?
Stop Airhorns says
More lights and longer play mean the neighboring homes have to deal with the loud noises the teams bring… Mainly the annoying AIR HORN!!! I’m half a mile from the Indian Trails fields, and even in my house I can hear it O_O
Can’t the coaches just use a whistle?!
Born and Raised Here says
GIt wouldn’t hurt looking into another Golf C ourse. Palm Harbor is so busy, it’s hard to get on at a decent time. I hear there’s an abandon Golf Course on the northside of town, that was once one of the top gof golf course in the State , and held monot one , but two PGA final Q Schools. Matanzas Woods would be a great fit for a growing sport craze city,
Frank ross says
Cut all the rest of the trees down for fields that no one will use, (except for late night drug deals) more section 8 housing so the poor can inhabit all palm coast and turn into a huge ghetto!
Soccer mom says
How about the leagues that pay to use the fields, And the tax paying parents that pay for their kids to play in the leagues and we are told the city doesn’t accommodate our field needs..showing up for games and practices and the gates are closed, no lights at practice, last minute changes….figure it out… this city is growing and our kids need the services!!!
It’s all about the money, never mind the residents that pay taxes day in and out that want to use the fields but cant because the city is more interested in trying to make money from outside sources. Keep all tournaments and play local only. Then once you can afford to accommodate outside participants, you can let them back in. And I’m sorry but Miss Hollands comments on single mothers is despicable considering there are many single fathers, Aunts, uncles and grandparents doing the same if not more than single moms.