Ground broken for Woodland sports park

Woodland Rotary Club moving forward with first phase of construction before securing $16 million needed for project

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WOODLAND — Construction of a major new sports complex in Woodland is getting closer to fruition, and the project is expected to get a big boost if the Legislature approves $750,000 for the 40-acre park.

Although project backers still have a ways to go before they raise the $16 million needed for park, the Woodland Rotary Club already is moving forward with the first phase of construction. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday afternoon at the site of the future complex on East Scott Hill Road.

The site is just east of Interstate 5 near an existing ball field. Once complete, the complex will have five softball fields (natural and turf); three soccer fields; concession stands; a 1.3-mile paved trail with workout stations; a covered event space and a parking lot for about 400 cars.

The state capital budget passed by the House earlier this month includes $750,000 for Scott Hill Park, as does the proposed Senate version of the budget. State Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) had requested $1.5 million for the project this session in addition to the $500,000 grant the park got last year.

Park Chairwoman Sandy Larson said the club is happy for any help the state can provide for the park, which will be entirely supported by grants and donations. In spite of the delay in the state budget, Larson said there’s still plenty of reason to celebrate at the groundbreaking: the City of Woodland formally approved the park’s site plan in April and the Rotary Club hopes to have contractors moving dirt by the fall. Rotary Club is managing the project under a formal agreement with the city, which owns the park land.

The city’s approval and state funding will help bring the park closer to reality seven years after the Rotary Club first started work on the project. Larson said she hopes additional donations will follow as the park gains more notoriety.

So far the project has been supported by hundreds of volunteer hours, state funding and community donations, including $6,000 raised from the annual Blooms to Brews marathon since 2013.

During the first phase of construction, which is expected to take up to two years and cost $2.5 million, contractors will build the park’s entrance and a multi-use field to the right of the entrance, Larson said. The Rotary Club hopes the entire complex is built within four years, she added.

Rotary Club members were inspired to build the park when they started noticing that more and more Woodland families were traveling outside the community for youth sports events.

“They’re having to go out of town all the time and spend a lot of money. … Nothing is happening here because we don’t have the facilities to accommodate,” Larson said.

Even with fields at the old and new Woodland High School and privately-owned fields, local youth sports teams frequently have to compete for space, said Arwyn Borzone, information officer for Lewis River Little League Club.

“We definitely need it. Right now … everyone struggles for practice space and field time” and unfortunately that means less practice time for players, Borzone said.

Ten miles north, teams quickly fill up space at Port of Kalama’s Haydu Park, a 24-acre sports complex that opened in July 2015.

“The local use is so high that we haven’t been able to make it work for tournaments from outside the area,” said Mark Wilson, Port of Kalama executive director. Teams from Portland and Vancouver frequently inquire about space, but usually local teams already have packed the park’s schedule, Wilson said.

Haydu also hosts the Kalama Fair, car shows, plant sales and other events, plus casual use from community members stopping by for an impromptu picnic or game of pickup football.

Beyond offering space for healthy activities, proponents say sports complexes like Scott Hill offer economic benefits from large tournaments attracting visitors who stay overnight and shop at local businesses. Rotary Club’s goal is to have the park self sustain its funding with revenue generated from tournaments and games.

“We’re not building this park to have it fail. We want to build it for success,” Larson said.