Woodland Rotary Club aims for sports complex

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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For more information about the Scott Hill Park and Sports Complex, including upcoming fundraisers and ways to get involved, visit:

http://www.rotarypark.org.

What today is a vacant field at the end of Scott Hill Road in Woodland will one day become a multiuse sports complex for area youth and adults.

Organizers envision half a dozen baseball and softball fields, a concessions stand and announcer booth, three soccer fields that can also be used for peewee football, a walking trail with workout stations, a covered area for community gatherings, a playground for little ones and plenty of open greenspace.

In order to make the dream of a 39-acre Scott Hill Park and Sports Complex a reality, the city of Woodland is teaming up with the Rotary Club of Woodland.

While it may be several years before the first pitch is thrown in the new park, the community is already rallying around the project.

"The community is very supportive of this project," said Sandy Larson, Rotary fundraising chair. "Our community is hungry for it."

In January 2011, the city of Woodland purchased the land, once destined to become an upscale housing development, for $500,000. The city used money from two different parks funds designated for park development and acquisition, City Clerk Mari Ripp said.

After purchasing the land, however, the city didn't have any money to devote to development, Ripp said.

About that time, the Lewis River Little League approached the Woodland Rotary, seeking help to build new ball fields, Larson said. The Rotary was looking for potential park sites when the city purchased the Scott Hill Road land. From there, the partnership was born.

In December, the Woodland City Council approved an agreement between the city and the Rotary. According to the agreement, the city will retain ownership of the park and will be responsible for maintenance. The Rotary Club will raise money and develop the park. The two sides are making adjustments to the contract, which should be finalized soon, Larson said.

Rotary has already held a few small fundraisers — raffles, concerts and events at local restaurants — and received donations from local businesses. Those efforts netted more than $33,000, Larson said.

Rotary is anticipating a total price tag of about $6 million to $7 million. A local physician, Dr. Ellis Johnson, paid for a preliminary park design. But until a final design is completed, the actual cost of the project is unknown, Larson said.

Already, though, local contractors are lining up to contribute in-kind services. Area business owners are also expressing interest in making donations in exchange for naming rights. And the Rotary grant writer is getting to work on applications, Larson said.

The current Little League fields aren't far from the Scott Hill Road site, which is adjacent to the city's water treatment plant. But the current complex is small and raises safety concerns with nearby traffic. The city is void of adult ball fields, and youth soccer leagues use school facilities, said Al Swindell, Woodland City Council member and chairman of the council's parks committee.

Organizers hope the new complex will not only draw adults back into local sports leagues but also attract regional softball, baseball and soccer tournaments.

"There's nothing in Woodland that you could have any kind of tournament where you get a thousand people," Swindell said. "This would be a real game-changer."

Bringing tournaments to Woodland would mean more business for local eateries, gas stations, hotels and stores, he said.

But before the games and tournaments can begin, Rotary has quite a bit of fundraising to do.

Then, in three to five years, members say, it will be time to play ball.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.