Betz Park construction to begin at 50-acre site —

Betz Park construction to begin at 50-acre site

By Becky Thomas
Cheney Free Press

 

Fourteen years later, Cheney will have fields at the 50-acre park site.

Despite threats to wipe out funding, Cheney has secured a $500,000 grant as part of $42 million in Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition funds allocated in the newly approved state budget.

The WWRP is part of the state Recreation and Conservation Office, the same group that awarded Cheney a grant in 1997 to purchase the 50 acres on the north side of Betz Road. Back then, the city saw a need for more field space as youth sports and recreation programs grew. The issue of crowding on current fields has only grown more acute in recent years.

“The idea and vision for this park has been in place for over 10 years,” Parks and Recreation director Paul Simmons said. “Everyone’s been trying to find a way to fund an initial phase for this property.”

Now, finally, the funds are secured. So what’s next? Simmons said tentative plans have been discussed, but he stressed that nothing is set in stone until the city park board and City Council approves it.

“Before the budget passed there were a lot of unknowns,” he said. “Our next step is putting a game plan together.”

While the city may not move until this fall—when final design work will likely begin -- residents will see work begin at the site this summer.

The WWRP grant is a 50-percent matching grant, which requires the recipient to put up funds or work valued equal to the amount of the grant. Since the city had no money budgeted for the park construction, they offered $500,000-worth of work on the park, including infrastructure installation to be completed by contractors for EaglePoint Apartments owner Lancze Douglas and soil to be transported and deposited at the site by the Cheney School District, which plans to construct its own fields a short distance south of the 50-acre site this summer.

Both these matching projects will be completed in the coming months. Public Works director Todd Ableman said contractors hired by EaglePoint had a June-August window to complete extension of water and sewer pipes from the apartment complex to the future park. He said the school district planned to complete their field construction within that period, which coincides with summer breaks from schools.

“You’re going to see a lot of construction activity in that small area,” he said, adding that the infrastructure installation and transporting of soil from the school district’s site would likely impact traffic on Betz Road, but dates for the work have not yet been set.

Simmons said that the current conceptual design for the first phase of the park would be fleshed out sometime this fall.

“There’s parameters with the grant. We do need to design and build what we applied for,” he said.

The grant will fund construction of one baseball field, one softball field and one smaller “Challenger” field as well as a restroom/concessions building and a parking lot with a driveway connecting to Betz Road. Simmons said final designs would include all the field sizes, grades and exact locations within the park.

Simmons said a contractor would likely be hired sometime early next year with construction beginning in the late spring or summer 2012 to complete the project within the 2011-13 biennium.

Simmons said that while the funding for the first phase has been secured, long-term goals of developing the full 50 acres are being pursued. He said staff members were working on several grants to fund upgrades for the planned fields as well as additional amenities like soccer fields, more baseball fields, basketball courts and more.

“We’re going to look for any and all grant funding sources,” he said. “Once you get the first large grant it’s much easier to get more grants.”

Simmons said the grant award was thanks in part to community members, local businesses and government leaders who wrote letters, sent emails and called state legislators to ask them to fund the WWRP.

“This is the start of something really, really big for the community.”

 

Becky Thomas can be reached at becky@cheneyfreepress.com.

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