Fresh start in the ‘Field of Dreams’

A local supporter of youth sports who wishes to remain anonymous has pledged a $1 million challenge grant to reinvigorate the final construction of the San Juan Island Community Sports Field, commonly called the Carter Avenue ballfields.

The project was first conceived in 2005 after the district decided that the 34 acres site would not be needed for a new high school. The economic downturn after 2007 made building the complex difficult, but Donny Galt, John Kurtz and many other islanders continued to nurture the project.

Brent Snow, President of the San Juan Island school board, praised the successful new effort by the district, Island Rec and the Friday Harbor Athletic Association to revive the project.

“The school district is exceptionally pleased that the athletic fields and other parts of the park can now be made available as a place for kids and the whole community to play,” Snow said after the school board and the athletic association signed a memorandum of understanding amending the original $1-per-year lease of the property.

The San Juan County Park and Recreation District, Island Rec, is expected to approve the memorandum soon, and may at a future date put a levy request on the ballot to fund maintenance and operation. M&O costs are estimated in the $50,000 to $70,000 per year range

Although the grant is not contingent on matching funds, Friday Harbor Athletic Association President John Kurtz estimates that about $250,000 to $300,000 in additional contributions (in addition to the $1 million grant) will be needed to finish construction of the original 2007 plan, which included six athletic fields, a children’s playground, a clubhouse with restrooms, a picnic area and additional amenities such as sidewalks.

So far, about $1.7 million in cash and in-kind contributions has been expended on the project. Much of the basic land-leveling work has been completed, along with two wells for watering the fields when finished.

Future plans for the 34-acre property may include construction of a small building for use by the school district or even a locker-room type facility. The school district now leases the property to the athletic association for $1 per year “and other considerations.” Opening of the large multi-purpose field for football and soccer use is planned for early August of this year, and Kurtz expects completion of the project over the following year or so.

The donor has agreed to immediately provide roughly $200,000 so the requirements of the town’s conditional use permit can be fulfilled. Only when the CUP is satisfied and an occupancy permit is obtained can Island Rec seek approval of a maintenance and operation levy.

Cliff Lowe, retired founder of Lowe Construction, has agreed to “come out of retirement” to oversee and manage construction of the Carter Avenue fields, replacing long-time project leader Donny Galt.


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