New recreational fields moving forward

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Coming soon are new multi-purpose athletic fields between Bruner Street and Madison Avenue north of Riverside Park. This area was residential before the 2007 flood. The city is turning the 300-foot wide by 740-foot long area into fields for soccer, flag football and other recreational activities.

“It looks great to me,” said Luke Bycroft, Iola Recreation Director, describing progress on the city’s new recreational fields north of Riverside Park.
“The city crews have cleared most of the trees, the sidewalks and streets. We’re creating a flat area to start with then will begin the dirt work to build the fields.”
Whether Iola youths will be running up and down on the fields for the 2010 spring soccer season is still up in the air.
Bycroft said they planned to have the multi-purpose fields ready to play on in the spring.
“We plan to have phase one of the project completed. Phase one is the clearing of the area and minor dirt work. If that is done, we could play soccer games on the fields in the spring,” Bycroft said.
“But if it is, we want people to know that’s not the finished product.”
City crews began working on clearing trees, sidewalks and street payment late this fall. Bruner Street is the southern border of the new fields and Davis Street borders the land on the west. Tramec Corporation’s property on Madison Avenue is the northern border.
The city decided to use the land vacated by residents following the 2007 flood for recreational purpose.
“We have a lot of work to do to make this one large piece of land. It will be a wide open space to allow us flexibility in what we do, whether it is a full size soccer field, a middle size and two smaller fields or two youth league flag-football fields and two adult league fields in the fall,” Bycroft said.
The area is 300-feet wide and 740-feet long.
Bycroft said with city crews doing all of the work on the property, there is the possibility spring soccer will have to be played on the USD 257 practice fields near Colburn Park again. The plan is to have the property ready to play on by spring.
“If we can get phase one done then we should be able to play the games on the new property but the fields will be rougher and sloppier than what the finish product will be,” Bycroft said.
Phase two has “the big dirt work” involved, plus putting down a hardy grass and an irrigation system. More developments are on the schedule such as restrooms and parking areas.
Bycroft said plans for the space drawn by Patti Banks Associates, a landscape architectural firm from Kansas City, Mo., has him excited about what is possible on the land. He said the city will not be locked into just “soccer fields or football fields. We will be able to switch how and what type of layout we need to fill our needs depending on the sport.”
Iola’s recreational youth soccer program has been on the move over the past few years. Playing games at Allen County Community College, at the Allen County Airport property, at ACCC again and then on the USD 257 property.
“It will be great to have our own soccer fields. We have over 400 boys and girls involved in the soccer program each year. Having the space down here to mark how we need it, depending on how many kids are in each league, is a good thing for the city,” Bycroft said.
“Right now, we all have to be patient as we develop the property. Our commitment has always been to have it completed by 2011.”