The City of Morgan Hill has begun working with two private competitive sports organizations to figure out a way to build a new bicycle pump track and multi-use athletic field southeast of town.
The city council at the Dec. 7 meeting unanimously agreed to authorize city staff to begin negotiating with Morgan Hill-based Dub Baseball and USA BMX to build the new park on an eight-acre site on Butterfield Boulevard that is owned by the city. The oblong-shaped property is located just southwest of where Butterfield crosses Railroad Avenue.
Key parameters to be determined in the negotiations over the coming months include the final design of the park, who will operate and maintain the facility, cost and revenue sharing, and an assurance that the general public will be promised access to the park and its amenities, Morgan Hill Public Works Director Chris Ghione told the council.
City staff and commissions have been exploring their options for a specific recreational use for the site for a couple years. The property has been designated for future park use, according to a city staff report.
City staff earlier this year created an initial design concept for the new park site. That design shows a BMX pump track on the western end of the property and a new synthetic turf sports field on the eastern end. The sports field would be built so it could be easily configured for baseball or softball, and potentially other athletic uses, according to city staff.
Between the BMX track and sports field are a parking lot, restrooms and an indoor training facility, according to the city’s conceptual plans. Ghione said the project could be built in phases over a several-year period.
“The Morgan Hill community has needed a park like this for decades,” Erik Wagle of Dub Baseball wrote in a Dec. 6 email to the city council. “Our local youth will greatly benefit from this project and this partnership will provide a tremendous opportunity for more young athletes to advance through recreation and athletics.”
Wagle’s email also listed some examples of how a new sports field developed and operated by Dub Baseball could benefit the general public in Morgan Hill: facilitating wellness programs for city employees; camps and clinics for underprivileged children; dedicated time slots for local youth baseball and softball teams; and offering scholarships for local students.
“The possibilities are almost endless for community benefits for this project,” the email concludes.
Nick Valencia, a San Jose-based Expert and Coach for USA BMX, spoke at the Dec. 7 council meeting to encourage the body to begin negotiating. Valencia said there are “hundreds of kids” in Morgan Hill and the surrounding area “waiting for a place to race” who would flock to a new local pump track.
“Upon the completion of the BMX track, USA BMX will support the project with full sanction status, local program creation and event scheduling,” Justin Travis, Director of New Track Development for USA BMX, wrote in a May 31 letter to the council. “The USA BMX Foundation will work closely with the city and recreation department in an effort to implement after school and recreational educational programs.”
If negotiations are fruitful, USA BMX would “guarantee” at least one major event per year that would attract sports tourism to the Morgan HIll park, says Travis’s letter.
The city faces financial roadblocks in being able to develop, operate and maintain such a park by itself. City Hall earlier this year applied for a grant from the state Department of Parks and Recreation to develop the Butterfield park, but was denied due to the stiff competition for the funds and Morgan Hill’s demographic makeup, Ghione said.
The city has identified about $4 million in parks funding to dedicate to the new park on Butterfield over the next four years, Ghione said. That amount isn’t expected to be nearly enough to cover the full buildout and ongoing maintenance for such a facility.
“Without partners, the full development of even the first eight acres will be at least a decade into the future,” says the city staff report.
Dub Baseball and USA BMX were the only two organizations that responded with letters of interest to the city’s formal “Invitation to Partner” released earlier this year, city staff said.
If negotiations with the two organizations are successful, the city will return to the council in 2023 with detailed agreements to finalize the partnership, Ghione said. After that will begin the permitting and construction process for the new park.