By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Discussion about the future locale of the Wellness and Youth Development Center turned into an emotional debate over the lack of quality sports facilities in Clovis at Thursday’s meeting of the Clovis City Commission.
Commissioners approved a recommendation from the center’s steering committee to locate a future aquatic and wellness education center at Play Inc. in a 5-3 vote.
Tentative plans for the wellness center at Play Inc. include an indoor and outdoor pool and administrative offices, according to Clovis Mayor David Lansford. The outdoor pool at Play Inc. would be demolished and a new one built, he said. Also proposed is razing the tennis courts at Play Inc., he said.
Play Inc. serves roughly 2,500 student athletes with its sports programs, and the city contracts for its services. Its building, however, is in disrepair, with a hazardous roof, flimsy walls and chimney that is pulling away from the wall, according to Clovis Commissioner Fred Van Soelen.
“If we combine the idea of a wellness center with addressing the faults of that building, we could kill two birds with one stone,” Van Soelen said.
The wellness center will cost an estimated $7.5 million to build, officials have said. About $620,000 in state money was allocated for the project in the last 30-day legislative session, and the city gleaned another $950,000 for the project in the last legislative session, according to the chair of the wellness center steering committee, Vincent deMaio.
The center is to be completed in phases, and its facilities, such as sports fields, would not necessarily need to be at the same location, officials said.
About $1.5 million has already been set aside for the construction of a baseball field on Martin Luther King Boulevard, the first phase of the project, officials said. The remainder, roughly $700,000, has been earmarked for the construction of an aquatic center and a wellness center for health education, the second phase of the project.
The third and fourth phases of the project — construction of an indoor recreation complex and an outdoor soccer field — are not yet funded.
About a half dozen people expressed fear that the first and second phases of the project have eclipsed the third and fourth.
Soccer players in athletic gear and concerned residents leaned up against walls and filled nearly every seat in a room that is usually all but empty during city meetings.
Some alleged the current soccer fields in the city pose a safety threat to soccer players, who often sprain their ankles on holes and divots in the ground.
President of the Clovis Youth Soccer Association, Edward Schaap, said the city pledged $500,000 for the renovation of soccer fields and similar amounts for the renovations of football and baseball fields in the city last year. That initial pledge was reworked and lumped in with the wellness center capital outlay requests, Van Soelen said.
“Soccer has been engulfed by the wellness center,” said Schaap, who lobbied for a 20-acre, regulation-sized soccer field in Clovis.
The proposed site for the aquatic and wellness center at Play Inc. has ample room and will serve the needs of the entire athletic community, said Van Soelen, addressing concerns that the site was too small.