Field of dreams closer to reality

Field of dreams closer to reality

Michele Ellson
Estuary Park

Image courtesy of the City of Alameda.

A long-sought field of dreams for disabled youth has moved a step closer to reality. The Recreation and Park Commission will consider a conceptual plan for a refurbished Estuary Park on Thursday.

Plans for the eight-acre park include an accessible, synthetic baseball and soccer field that can be used by disabled players, along with the city’s first lighted, synthetic, regulation-size football field, which can also be used by soccer, rugby and lacrosse teams. Under the conceptual plan being considered, the park would also contain a four-acre community area with toddler and youth play areas, picnic and open spaces, a basketball court and a dog park.

Construction of the park could cost $4.5 million according to the city’s rough estimates, and would be undertaken in two phases, with fields and parking built first. Parks director Amy Wooldridge said Tuesday that the city is planning to start construction in the fall, “pending funding availability.”

“We have identified a significant portion of the funding and are working on finalizing all revenue required, including securing funding offsets from pro-bono contractor work,” Wooldridge said in response to an e-mailed inquiry from a reporter. She said city staffers are focused on securing funding for the first phase of the project and are applying for a state grant to pay for the second.

Revenue sources are also expected to include city money and private donations, contributions from youth sports programs and the Measure WW regional parks bond, a staff report to the commission says.

The park, which sits east of Alameda Point near Mitchell-Mosley Avenue, was once used by the Navy and the Coast Guard but has long sat dormant. The city, meanwhile, has been chronically short of fields.

Once completed, the park could serve up to 165,000 people a year, the report says. That number is expected to include new residents living at the Alameda Landing development under construction and in homes that could be built on the abandoned North Housing parcel.

Wooldridge said she’s working with Roberta Rockwell, a teacher who has long sought the development of a field that can be used by disabled children in Alameda, and with Alameda Little League, which is in the process of creating a Challenger League for physically and mentally challenged youth ages 4 to 18.

"This is a remarkable event in our baseball oriented community - and a big statement to neighboring communities that we care about all our athletes in Alameda!" Rockwell said.

Rockwell said she's "beyond grateful" that special needs athletes will have both a league and a field - and hopeful that money promised by Alameda Landing developer Catellus for a future "Miracle League" for those athletes can be applied to efforts to refurbish the park.

In addition to the Challenger League, Wooldridge said the parks department will also work with Special Olympics and nonprofits like Ala Costa to program the field for their use.

The Recreation and Parks Commission meeting begins at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. The meeting will be televised.

Related: City getting set to rehabilitate Estuary Park