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Council holds off on extra soccer fields at River Bluff Park
Parks master plan to be completed first to see how all undeveloped parks may be finished
The 2013 adopted master plan for Ceres River Bluff Regional Park adds enough soccer fields to bring state cup competitions to Ceres. The council decided to hold off on construction which means the improvements will have to wait until next year or possibly later.

The city of Ceres will not be adding additional soccer fields to Ceres River Bluff Regional Park this year to put Ceres in a position of hosting state cup soccer tournaments. During a Monday evening study session, the Ceres City Council decided to hold off on ordering the improvements until possibly next year.

Operating with only three members present - Mike Kline and Linda Ryno were absent - the council decided to proceed with the completion of a parks master plan first to see how the park and other unfinished parks could be developed in phases. The master plan will cost an estimated $200,000, said Acting City Manager Toby Wells.

He explained that the city doesn't have enough money to complete any of its parks.

The city has three other undeveloped parks, including Lions Park in north Ceres, Marie Neal Park and Eastgate parks in east Ceres.

Lou Toste, an official with Ceres Youth Soccer Organization (CYSO), said he understood the council's situation but expressed disappointment.

"We'll get your fields, just give us a little more time," Mayor Chris Vierra told Toste.

In 2013, the council updated the master plan for River Bluff Regional Park, calling for a new full-size soccer field, two smaller fields for children, additional parking and room for a new two-million-gallon water tank.

Wells said the city could build the soccer field improvements but would be hard-pressed to find a way to maintain the extra grass, as well as pay for electricity and water costs.

"We're afraid that without additional bodies... that we could not maintain this new facility," said Wells, who added that new park space would push parks staff "over the edge."

Wells told the council that he was ready to go out to bids to build the new soccer fields starting in May in order for the fields to be ready for use in August. The council's new direction stopped that.

The process of finishing the parks master plan would allow the public to weigh in on park priorities. Guillermo Ochoa, an Eastgate resident and former councilman, told the council on Monday he wants to see the city finish its 10-acre Eastgate Park "so I can use it." Ochoa even suggested that the park could be developed without grass.

Two acres of the site still needs to be purchased, said Wells.

The estimated cost of building a park is about $250,000 an acre, or $2.5 million for Eastgate.

Spending the money on one or the other would deplete the public facilities fees that have been set aside for park development, said Wells.

The city is trying to make the case that leftover redevelopment bond proceeds should be spent on the regional park since the extra fields would allow Ceres to host tournaments and, in turn, attract out-of-town visitors for more trade for local merchants. Wells said a reason why Turlock added its most recent two hotels is because of visitors generated by state cup soccer tournaments. However, City Attorney Mike Lyions said he remains unsure if use of any of the $12 million of redevelopment bond proceeds may be used because the Hatch Road park site falls outside of the original RDA boundaries.

Wells suggested that the city finish the parks master plan and ask the community what amenities are wanted before the council sets priorities for which parks get developed first and when.

Councilman Ken Lane suggested holding off on the soccer field additions until master plan is updated. He said putting off the improvements until 2015 may be "the best thing."

The plan would determine how to divvy up the $2.5 million pot of park development money among the various unfinished parks.

In answer to Ochoa's request, Mayor Chris Vierra suggested shelving Eastgate until the parks master plan examines the phasing-in strategy. But Vierra said he "definitely" understands Ochoa's desire to have a vacant lot to be developed.

The master plan would "set the model" for future parks fees, said the mayor. Vierra even suggested that the city may wish to require future developers to build parks in lieu of paying the city fees.

The council recently approved the addition of playground equipment at Sam Ryno Park in west Ceres but Wells said there is not much additional demand on city staff for maintenance because of it.