City still considering new turf fields

The idea of installing two new turf fields – likely at Keizer Rapids Park – created a buzz in Keizer recently, and prompted the city to take up the issue formally and look at funding options.

This past January, Marion County offered Keizer $2 million from their American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation if the city could provide a matching amount toward constructing two all-weather turf fields. County Commissioners Danielle Bethell and Colm Willis both made appearances at a city council meeting on April 11 to advocate for the project.

This offer came about as a result of a prior request from the city to Marion County for $4.2 million for the fields. While the city hasn’t allocated any funding for sport fields at Keizer Rapids Park, it is in the Parks master plan.

Advocates for the project were not hard to find at the April 11 meeting. Local athletic clubs as well as representatives from McNary High School and Salem-Keizer School District took time to speak to the council about the project.

“The reason why turf is important is because we have really rainy winters,” said Commissioner Willis. “Our fields turn into big mud puddles and they don’t let the kids play in the winter because they don’t want to destroy the field.”

“Our community is growing and we do not have enough resources to support our growth,” said Commissioner Bethell. “So these two fields are going to have a significant regional impact to our community.”

A work group was formed at the May 2 City Council meeting to determine next steps. Mayor Cathy Clark, City Manager Adam Brown, and City Councilors Roland Hererra and Kyle Juran were assigned, and met May 12 via Zoom. The primary issues discussed were whether or not the ARPA funds should be set aside for the project in the short term and what sort of revenue streams are available to offset the long-term costs to the city.

The $4.2 million just covers the cost of installation – things like site preparation, the turf itself, and goal posts. The long-term costs to the city, such as electricity for lighting and regular field-maintenance are as-yet undetermined, as are any potential revenue streams it may provide.

In order to get a better handle on these issues, Brown offered to help put together a pro forma which would determine what sources of revenue might be available in terms of advertising and space-rental. The work group will re-convene on May 25 to review and make recommendations.