City to build new multi-use fields

By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Register Reporter

This schematic developed by Thrive Allen County shows a general idea of new multi-use athletic fields to be developed by the city adjacent to Riverside Park. The fields will provide a permanent home for Iola’s soccer community, as well as playing space for flag football, Ultimate Frisbee and other field games. The city hopes to begin work on the fields this fall.

New multi-use athletic fields are coming to Iola — soon.
“We hope to have them ready by spring,” said City Administrator Judy Brig-ham, with work to begin as soon as possible.
The fields, which will provide Iola’s soccer community with a permanent home, will be on flood lands north of the dike that borders Riverside Park.
The fields will be bordered by Tramec Corp. (on Madison Avenue) on the north, the old railway bed on the east, Bruner Street on the south and Davis Street to the west. A remnant piece of Campbell Street, in the center of the fields, will be removed.
Initially envisioned with the soccer community in mind, the fields are being built for multiple uses.
“They can be used for whatever people can think of,” said Iola Recreation Department Director Luke Bycroft, giving Ultimate Frisbee, football and soccer as examples. Flag football teams could also use them, said Thrive Allen County board member Randy Weber. One could even fly kites there when the wind is right.
Soccer came to mind first because “it is the largest recreational activity that didn’t have a permanent home,” Weber said.
Iola’s soccer community is going strong, Bycroft said, but has long been shuffled from playing field to playing field.
“Our soccer league generally runs 400 kids,” Bycroft said.
The soccer teams formerly played at Allen County Community College.
“It was wonderful of them to let us use that land,” said Brigham, “but they did not want portable toilets on their property.” So, the city placed the necessary facilities on the eastern edge of Highland Cemetery, which proved a hazard as young athletes darted back and forth between heavy traffic on Cottonwoood Street. “It just wasn’t a good situation,” Brigham noted.
They then tried playing out at Allen County Airport, but encountered snakes, Brigham said. “Rattlesnakes, cottonmouths — parents didn’t want their children playing there.”
So it was back to the college, with the same old issues.
The latest attempt was using the USD 257 practice fields near Colburn Park in Iola’s industrial heartland neighborhood. But, a permanent home was desired, Weber said, because along with Iola youth, “a couple surrounding communities have soccer teams as well,” Weber said. “They all use the Iola resources.”

DEVELOPING the new fields is a culmination of almost a year’s work, and the cooperation of different departments and agencies, including the Iola Recreation Advisory Board, the Iola Recreation Department, city administration and Thrive Allen County.
Thrive’s Executive Director David Toland said his organization began working on the plan in February.
“Thrive board and staff were discussing potential uses for flood lands around Riverside Park, and also discussing the need for multipurpose athletic fields in Iola,” Toland said.
The lands seemed a perfect fit. “There is a need in the community for a permanent home for soccer, and we have permanently unbuildable land,” he observed.
As planned, four fields of varying sizes will be built, based on measurements provided by the recreation department.
“We’re trying to create a recreational complex,” Toland said of the design, “To cluster things because it’s more efficient for city crews and it creates an energy and vitality in the area.”
A parking lot with a permeable hard surface will also be installed eventually, he said.
“Because FEMA designated the land as flood zone, no impervious surfacing can be used,” Toland said. And while Brigham acknowledged a gravel lot would serve well for drainage, a city ordinance requires hard surfacing, she said.
So, pervious pavers, similar to brick or concrete, are being considered. Spaces between the pavers are typically filled with crushed stone, allowing for better drainage of heavy rain or flood waters.
For now, a parking lot on the former Kentucky Fried Chicken parcel will serve the fields.
“Initially when we talked about the fields, we talked about putting parking in the middle,” Weber said, “but placing the parking off to the side allows for more green space,” he said.
In addition, because of the proximity of ball diamonds five and six, Brigham said, “It would be desirable to have restrooms that could accommodate those ball diamonds and the athletic fields.”
However, she noted, “We don’t have funding identified except out of the Parks and Rec budget.”
Since developing the fields alone, without additional amenities, is the least expensive part of the project, it will be done first.
“We’re hoping to apply for some grants for the enhancements,” she said.