Preston park will beat darkness and rain soon

East King County kids from communities such as Preston, Carnation, North Bend, Snoqualmie and Issaquah will now have their own sports park for baseball and soccer. Located in Preston, the best feature of this park will be no more canceled soccer games due to rain or darkness, county officials said.

Celebrating reaching an agreement for plans to build and maintain the 14.2 acre sports facility were county park officials, area residents, youth sports leaders, community club members and volunteers who gathered together at the site on April 11. They took a final look at the land and with the help of an engineer's drawing on display were able envision the completed facility.

The park plans call for two new lighted soccer fields made of synthetic turf, plus one natural grass field, a baseball field and a playground.

"This means we will have a park of our own," Eastside Football Club President Jeff Pyatt told an audience of about 50 people.

Currently, local ball clubs go to local high schools or rent field time.

Ken Karlberg, Eastside Football Club board member, said most Eastside athletic organizations have to go to the local high school or travel to Tukwila for fields. The new park in Preston will provide field time for 39 local teams and 600 kids, including teams from Mercer Island, Lake Hills and Bellevue.

"For the first time, field costs will be under control. Now we can build up scholarship funds," Karlberg said.

He also said the increase in scholarship funds will help to bring more children to sports who otherwise could not afford to pay fees for joining ball clubs such as Little League baseball.

Making the park a reality has taken nearly two decades, involving generations of family members in a community-led effort dedicated to developing the park.

Preston resident Daniel Norris remembers she was pregnant with her now 16-year-old daughter Katherine Norris when she sat under a tree and envisioned the first parcel of land as a local ball park. Norris belongs to the Preston Community Club, one of several community-based organizations involved in acquiring the parcels of land for the ball park.

"The first parcel we purchased was owned by the school. A local fire district was considering the site as a fire station location. We lobbied hard and got the parcel for the park instead," Norris said.

That was the seed parcel that helped everyone in Preston and Issaquah to start thinking about a local ball park of their own, and this vision started a movement to acquire other neighboring parcels, including the Twin Cedar Dairy farm west of the school parcel and now the future soccer field site.

"There was a strong lobby effort to keep open spaces in this area. This park project gives back, not just to our children, but all the children of the Valley," Norris said.

King County Executive Ron Sims agreed with Norris. "There simply are not enough places for parks. This park agreement brings us one step closer to solving this," Sims said.

Norris also said Sims has been supportive throughout the lobbying process.

Through real estate tax and funds from a parks levy, the county created grant funds for rehabilitation, expansion or development of sports fields and facilities.

The grant funding, called King County's Youth Sport Facility Grant, was awarded to three local youth sports organizations for the development of the Preston park: Issaquah Little League, Eastside Football Club and Preston Community Club.

The county grant provides matching funds to each of these organizations.

King County community partner grant manager T.J. Davis said the grant is a multi-year grant.

"This means the Preston park project will receive grant funds for several more years," Davis said.

Parks officials reported the total cost of the project is hard to figure because much of the work by engineers, accountants, geo-technical consultants and others was given pro-bono.

"We estimate the project is worth about $2.3 million in resources," Davis said.

In a speech given during the celebration, Pyatt said this project shows the better side of government that people don't always get to see.

"I wish our city, state and federal governments could work so well in cooperation with the community," Pyatt said. "This was a collective effort and great partnership between the community, recreation organizations and the county."

After speaking at the podium, Sims joined the local kids in a practice pitch session in the future baseball field.

Ground breaking for the beginning of construction is scheduled for this summer, with completion expected in mid-2007.

The park, located at 30530 S.E. 87th Pllace, Issaquah, is not officially named yet. County officials currently refer to the park as the Preston community ball fields.

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