A $1.8 million proposal to upgrade a grass sports field with synthetic turf, lights and bleachers at popular in Kirkland was given the go-ahead Monday by the King County Council.
“It’s a good day for us,” said Steve Lytle, president of Kirkland Lacrosse, the youth sports group that will partner with the county in upgrading the field. “It’s been three years in the making -- I’m elated.”
Kirkland Lacrosse proposed the upgrade to the field at the 220-acre park as part of King County Parks’ Community Partnerships program. Group officials say the growing sport of lacrosse lacks locations because of a serious shortage of sports fields on the Eastside. Although the park is in Kirkland, it is owned and managed by King County Parks, which has designated it as a regional park for all residents of the county.
At a public meeting last June about the plan, several residents who live near the park and field on Finn Hill expressed concerns about noise, possible intrusiveness of the lighting and increased traffic and possibly vandalism. At least a handful remain opposed.
“We changed the plan six or seven times to address concerns by neighbors,” Lytle said. “In the end, there were still a handful of folks opposed to it, and so it came down to the council.”
The council unanimously approved the 30-year partnership with Kirkland Lacrosse, which gets priority use of the field.
“As the representative for the Finn Hill neighborhood, I am pleased this public-private partnership to improve Big Finn Hill Park is moving forward,” Councilmember Bob Ferguson, co-sponsor of the legislation, said in a press release. “As the father of young twins, I know how important parks and playfields are to fostering vibrant communities.”
Added Council Vice Chair Jane Hague, the measure’s prime sponsor, who until redistricting last year represented Finn Hill residents: “This initiative will make a huge contribution to our livability in both recreation and quality of life. All involved have worked very hard to balance the needs of our student athletes while respecting the needs of neighbors that live near Big Finn Hill.”
Scott Morris, president of the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance, said that group took no position on the issue because the plan appeared to have no measurable environmental impact on the park.
“We were aware of a lot of people in favor and a number of people who raised concerns,” Morris said. “But it did not appear to raise new environmental concerns.”
The City of Kirkland last year issued a determination of environmental non-significance regarding the proposal.
Lytle, who noted that the estimated cost of the upgrade has grown from $1.6 million to more than $1.8 million, said groundwork would begin in June.
The plan calls for state-of-the-art lighting that focuses beams downward, to be used for night play. The synthetic turf will improve drainage to allow play during wet times of the year. The current grass field is often saturated and not suitable for play much of the year.
The field will be used for lacrosse primarily over three months of the year beginning in February, and the rest of the year it can be used for soccer or other activities. The field would remain fully open to the public, except when reserved for use by various sports groups.
Kirkland Lacrosse plans to pay for the upgrade over time through donations, player fees and rental fees it will be allowed to charge for a limited number of hours it would get for that purpose under the agreement with the county. Small amounts of public money are coming from grants through the county's partnership program, and $150,000 in state funds secured for the upgrade last year by state Sen Andy Hill, R-Redmond.
Lytle said Kirkland Lacrosse remains willing to work with neighbors to address concerns. “We have no desire to have an abrasive relationship with the neighbors. The thing people need to understand is, we’re not an outside group. We live in Kirkland.”