It’s hard not to cry foul when the “Beach Bum” movie trucks are parked on one of the few usable sports fields in Key West. Unfortunately, Irma’s aftershocks keep affecting the community and lately, the kids’ AYSO soccer league. From Dec 3-10, the city gave permits to the movie production to use the Fort Street/Gilleran Field at Truman Waterfront as a parking lot. Coaches, parents and kids were upset to lose another week’s worth of practice, especially since the field had already been permitted to Goombay and Powerboats. Here’s the catch: AYSO’s season was supposed to be over and the field’s schedule free.
“It’s not the city’s fault,” said volunteer AYSO coordinator, Dana Ring “We (AYSO) have no dedicated field space, but the city is working with us and making a plan to move forward.”
The biggest challenge is for AYSO, the largest youth participation sport with over 600 kids playing, who has to vie for space with baseball, football and the youngest league, lacrosse. The past few years have seen definite growing pains and public discontent in scheduling sports, maintaining fields, and general communication among parents, city officials and league coordinators.
“We are not going to give up soccer time,” assured Marcus Davila, city director of community service. “But it’s a matter of scheduling, especially for the younger kids who need to play before 7 p.m.” Davila cites the loss of Gerald Adams, which is under construction and will offer a new field but not in the foreseeable future. Bernstein Park, also slated to be used for soccer, also suffered Irma setbacks and poor field maintenance and won’t be usable until after April. That leaves scheduling spring soccer clubs, lacrosse and football among Fort Street/Gilleran Field, HOB and Poinciana fields. But Davila said, “There is a future eventually and we will have enough field space, but just not yet.” Davila apologizes for the night lighting at Fort Street. Thanks again to Irma, a pole was struck by lightning, and special bulbs are required to fix the problem.
“Fort Street field has always been a temporary field,” said City Manager Jim Scholl, who assures that signing off on movie trucks wasn’t intended to conflict with sports programs. AYSO is funded by taxpayer dollars and Scholl does recognize AYSO’s important role in the community. “There are challenges with all the leagues but the capacity is there.” He is referring to the future of Bernstein Park and the new FIFA regulation field (lights included) destined to be built at Truman Waterfront. The design phase has already been budgeted in 2017 and building the field will be budgeted in 2018-19. As for the future and viability of field space at the Hawks Missile Site (Little Hamaca Park), he said, “So far it doesn’t look very economical.”
Commissioner Sam Kaufman is also looking to strengthen the day-to-day communication between the community and the city in regard to parks and recreation. He is inviting parents, leagues, and community residents to City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m., to voice their needs and concerns regarding shared field space. Kaufman said, “The goal of our meeting is to start the discussion about the needs of the various youth organizations such as football, soccer, lacrosse, softball etc. and discuss the park and recreation policies and policy-making process in the City.”
Meeting hosted by Commissioner Sam Kaufman
Discussion of parks and recreational space
Dec 19, 6 pm, Commissioner’s Conference Room