Warning: this may very well be a long and boring post. I'm just updating those individuals interested in goings on with the Parks Department and also posting everything I've learned lately from the Parks before I forget it and for future reference. First I'll summarize the trip, the explain what I learned about building a new hockey rink. Feel free to ignore this post if this isn't your thing...I shan't be offended.
That being said, on October 7th I tagged along with the Parks Department Board of Commissioners
as they drove around Seattle doing site visits to 'under utilized' tennis courts which might be up for 'reassignment' for non-tennis use. The public was invited to join, and I wanted to make sure street hockey had a presence. Also, I figured I might have a better opportunity to talk to the board, unlike my 2 minute public comment at their Sept 23rd public meeting. Boy, was my hunch correct. All 6 board members went on the outing, and only four or so folks from the general public. Unlike my 2 minute public comment, I had a chance to talk to all 6 board members, for probably 45 minutes total. So I definitely think it was a worth while trip. Here's what heppened.
Our first stop was the tennis court at Cal Anderson Park, where the dodge ballers want to play. It's actually a very
nice court, but has basically been totally commandeered by dodge ball and bike polo. It is heavily marked up by bike tires. I really think the city may turn this court over to the dodge ballers (or more properly, non-tennis activities), so I guess we could play there too, but I don't think we have much interest as a group of playing on Capital Hill (sorry Doucette).
Next we went to Judkins Park, which is basically on the lid of the 1-90 tunnel in the Central District. Matt Messenger from the bike polo club contacted us awhile ago about trying to get this court converted under a different program. This is also quite a nice court. It is a double tennis court (side-by-side) and the surface is concrete, not painted, and in quite good shape. Basically, it's 120' x 120'. For reference, Adams elementary is about 170' or so in length, and Greenwood elementary is 118'. So we could play in such a sized rink, but it might be rather narrow (if we left the tennis nets up). I think we've gotten accustomed to a larger rink. It's also pretty far south.
We then checked out the Amy Yee Tennis Center, so the board could see just how good a tennis court could be as a reference point. Really nice facility. They now have 8 outdoor courts. 2 of them are new this year. I spoke for quite awhile with one of the board members about how that got accomplished. Surprisingly, even adding 2 courts to a pre-existing tennis center was a daunting task, that took years of neighborhood involvement, Parks levy funds and lots and lots of discussion. Those two new courts cost $400,000 fyi.
The board, in my opinion, is very sympathetic to our (street hockey, bike polo, emerging sports etc) plight of having no where to play. I think they would really like to serve the community better and they told me the parks mission statement talks of providing facilities for emerging sports (I couldn't actually find their mission statement online). I explained to the board that a single tennis court is small for what we
do (120' x 60' versus 170' x 75'-80' where we play now), and a double
has the square footage, but still incorrect proportions (120' x 120')
and that ideally we'd like a new facility built. I brought up having land given to us by the parks department, we raise the money and build the rink, then donate it back to the parks (that is exactly how they did it in Bainbridge). Here's what board member Terry Holme
told me about new facilities:
Basically all space in all parks is being utilized as intended. Each individual park has a Master Plan, which dictates how the park is laid out, and what the future plans for the park are. These Master Plans are big deals, that have been talked and argued over for years. They are very important documents that dictate the future of all parks, however, they are not totally set in stone. They do come up for revision (every 3-5 years or so). Anytime you want to build a baseball field, concession stand, bathroom etc that is not on the master plan, it is considered a 'taking'. That is, the land you need for that facility is already spoken for under the master plan. Whatever piece of land you have your eye on is either currently being used as intended, or has plans to be improved in the future. Even if it is open green space, it is probably specifically intended to be green space, and a lot of people over a lot of years argued to have the master plan dictate as such. ie it is very hard, very hard
, to build something in any city park that is not in the master plan. Some of the master plans are online, but most are so old, they are on paper with the city. We could scour individual master plans looking for areas of land that are not yet claimed for any purpose and propose a rink there. As you know in Seattle, for every person that wants something, someone else doesn't want it. 'Not in my backyard' is quite the Seattle motto. We would need strong community support to build something new. This route is not a dead end per se, but sounded like a very difficult route. We would need a lot of community involvement, and YEARS of negotiations to get a master plan changed/revised. Making our plight even worse, the city is lately is turning their focus to the south end. This is for two reasons. One, it has been historically neglected. Two, the south end parks have the most available acreage for new facilities. I don't want to play hockey in Rainier Beach.
The best avenue for a new facility, according to Terry Holme, was through the Seattle Schools. The Seattle school district and the Parks Department have a symbiotic relationship, though it is rather touchy and strained at times. As you probably know, schools use seattle parks for varsity sports and vice versa. The reason Terry thought that going through the schools was the best option is because they have the most real estate. A few years back, the parks department wanted to build 3 baseball diamonds. They had an extremely
limited number of locations that were potential sites. This was not the community wanting more baseball diamonds built, this is the actual parks department wanting to build baseball diamonds on their own park land. While the parks department had very few sites to choose from, the school districts had 60. 60! 60 available sites to build 3 baseball diamonds. That's a lot of acreage for a city. Terry strongly suggested investigating the Joint Operating Agreement between the Seattle schools and the Parks Department and try to get a rink built through the schools. How something like that actually gets done, I'm not too sure. While it sounds like the more viable option, it sounds like it still would require a large amount of community involvement, time, research, etc, etc. Unfortunately, our group is not very big (as compared to soccer). The Board was sympathetic to this as well. They recognize that getting the community interested and involved with hockey is impossible when there isn't any place to play hockey in the first place. Unfortunately, sympathy doesn't buy you shit. They are not going to build us a rink in the middle of Greenlake park because they feel bad for us. We've got to do this all on our own. But at least they are not opposed to hockey. They would love for us to have a rink.
I think our best option at this time is getting a converted tennis court. One spot that was on our tour agenda that we didn't get to was Bitter Lake. 130th and Linden. A bit north, but much closer than Cal Anderson or Judkins park. BItter Lake is 4 tennis courts in a row! So plenty of length. Down the center where the nets are are light poles, so even if we took the nets down, we couldn't widen the court. But there is more space beyond the endlines. I paced it out and it appears about 10-15' narrower than where we play. Not too bad. It looked like it got a decent amount of use, but it showed up on our 'under utilized' agenda, so I guess I could be wrong.
So, we can either lobby hard for the Bitter Lake tennis courts, or just continue to lobby the parks department in general (as my previous post explained) and wait to see what the board decides on October 28th. Unfortunately, deciding not to make a decision at this time is an option they may choose. So we'll just have to wait and see. That's it for now.