Magnuson Park plan scales back athletic fields

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Magnuson Park proposed plans
A $60 million proposal to redevelop part of Sand Point Magnuson Park into Seattle's largest recreational-sports complex is being scaled back under a revised plan that reduces the number of lighted athletic fields from 11 to no more than seven.

The City Council's parks committee began crafting the revision yesterday, which the full council still must decide on.

Passions about Magnuson Park are intense, with a public hearing on the issue last month drawing overflow crowds. Since joining the council earlier this year, Council Member David Della, parks committee chairman, has been working on a solution that addresses the desires of both sides.

Council Member Jean Godden, who lives near the park, called 11 lighted fields a "complex from hell" that would put the park out of balance. But the surrounding neighborhood may consider even seven lighted fields a form of purgatory.

Diana Kincaid, president of Friends of Magnuson Park, said seven fields "will still have a tremendous impact on the park and on the neighborhood. We still have concerns that the fields will overwhelm the park."

But Ed D'Alessandro, fields advocate for the Seattle Youth Soccer Association, said he appreciates the committee recommendation. "It's not as much capacity as we were hoping for, but this still provides a lot of hours for youth soccer."

Supporters of the proposal for 11 fields, including Mayor Greg Nickels, said they were needed to address a shortage of places in the city where adults and youth can play soccer, baseball, softball and rugby. But neighborhood groups in Northeast Seattle and Kirkland led opposition to the project, saying traffic, noise and glare would lower their quality of life.

The parks department plan called for five fields for soccer, five for baseball/softball and one for rugby. The committee made no recommendations on how the seven fields should shake out, although Godden echoed the desires of the neighborhood that soccer fields be given priority over baseball-softball fields. Baseball diamonds require taller light poles that produce more glare, residents say.

Magnuson Park director Eric Friedli said lighted soccer fields may have an edge because they can also support games of ultimate Frisbee and lacrosse, and tend to get more use in winter than baseball fields. Friedli also said the synthetic-turf rugby field, which would be the only one in the city, also could get priority.

The council committee also recommended that two additional fields could be built, but without lights.

The committee intends to put conditions on the seven-field plan. The city has only $12 million committed to the redevelopment, which would pay for building, at most, four lighted fields.

Council Member Peter Steinbrueck voted in favor of the seven-field plan, but said he was hesitant to do so without first knowing the source of money for the additional fields. He also wants the city to closely monitor the impact of the first four fields before committing to others. "Wouldn't it make sense to allow this thing to develop and evolve over time?" he said.

Supporters say money for the additional fields can be raised through private contributions, and that a large chunk of construction costs can be covered by having members of the Washington National Guard help build the complex as part of member training. But no commitment has been made by the Guard, which has many members in Iraq.

In two weeks, the committee is scheduled to address the cutoff time for lighted fields. In the 11-field proposal, Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds recommended 11 p.m. for five of the fields, 10 p.m. for five others and 9 p.m. for one.