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More soccer fields on the way
The newly adopted master plan for Ceres River Bluff Regional Park adds enough soccer fields to bring state cup competitions to Ceres, and with it, dollars for the local economy.

Completing the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park to its entire 78-acre master plan -- formally approved on Monday - will probably take 10 to 15 years as the city awaits more money.

Last year the Ceres City Council modified the park design to add more soccer fields and parking but the Ceres Planning Commission didn't get to review and add its blessings until Sept. 16 to ensure it was consistent with the Ceres General Plan.

While the entire master plan could take more than a decade, new soccer fields will be ready for play by next fall. That will give the facility six soccer fields for competitive state cup tournaments that will draw people from throughout the area and give Ceres an economic boost.

Six soccer fields were originally included in the early design of Ceres River Bluff Regional Park, which also contained two competition softball fields. The softball fields were eliminated and only five soccer fields were developed because of the need for a large storm drainage basin. Because six soccer fields weren't built, Ceres has been unable to host larger state cup tournaments. The city is now planning for more soccer fields, which will go into design mode and ready by fall of 2014.

The Ceres City Council held a Study Session on Nov. 14, 2013 to look over the newest design concept which adds more fields and augments the 245-stall parking lot that already exists at the Hatch Road park. The design was preferred by the council because it places a future two-million-gallon water tank in the middle of the east side of the park, away from the back and away from the front as two designs originally proposed last month. City Engineer Toby Wells said the tank is not needed for at least five years when the regional surface water project goes on line.

The park master plan calls for the addition of two new championship soccer fields, two Under 8 youth soccer fields, a "TOP" soccer field for handicapped play, park amenities in the existing playground, a traffic turn around for drop-off traffic, and a new parking lot for 226 vehicles at the southeast quadrant of the park. The design allows the city to use an area along Hatch Road west of the current entrance for additional parking which could one day be converted for use as a row of commercial buildings for businesses that would complement park uses.

The new design also calls for a roundabout near the entrance to help vehicles flow in and out of the new and existing parking lot. At some time in the future the city wants to add a second ingress/egress for the park at Boothe Road.

Lou Toste, former president of Ceres Youth Soccer, said his organization recently introduced a new five-week The Outreach Program (TOP) that is designed to allow disabled children to play soccer. He anticipates it growing in size.

The city routinely receives a lot of complaints about the limited parking at the park, which has become a year-round facility.

The Ceres park is broken into two geographically different sections. The upper terrace, which is level to Hatch Road, is the recreational portion of the park. The lower terrace near the Tuolumne River, is being restored to its natural river habitat from its former use as a walnut orchard.

Wells said the city and CYSO will hammer out a maintenance plan for the fields that would allow a field to be shut down for a month or so for maintenance.