San Luis Obispo's 20-acre Damon Garcia Sports Field, six years in the making, finally opened this spring. The green fields sit nestled against gold hills, and a leisurely concrete walkway swings around the fields along an intermittent creek corridor. Giant lights tower over the field, making night play an exciting reality for youngsters.
Residents of the city are fortunate to have such amazing facilities at their disposal. So one would think, perhaps, that this would bring happiness to SLO soccer moms and dads. But it's not all Strawberry Fields at this park.
The problem? Parking.
The general consensus at the soccer fields last Saturday was that parking is a pain. When asked if parking was a problem, two mothers simultaneously said yes, with both their daughters chiming in as well.
According to Paul LeSage, SLO City Parks and Recreation director, parking has only been a problem on Saturdays. Parking is especially difficult between games, when teams are arriving and departing, putting a stress on available spaces. As a result some parents have been forced to park across the street and along the park's entrance lane.
"There is enough parking for all but about 20 days a year," said LeSage. "We're into about 12 of those right now."
For now, LeSage says, the Marigold Shopping Center across Broad Street is available for overflow parking. But one vocal parent complained that crossing Broad Street is a safety hazard.
When told that parents might be concerned about kids crossing Broad Street, a four-lane road, LeSage said he had not heard such complaints himself but quickly added that it might be necessary to hire a crossing guard for Saturdays.
'We're working on it, and that's all I can say. We're learning how to run these fields, and it will get better.'
Paul LeSage, SLO City Parks and Recreation director
"If [the kids] are going to be dropped off, [parents] can just pull through," said LeSage. "I'm assuming [the kids are] coming with their parents."
Broad Street does have a crosswalk and an on-demand crossing button. LeSage said he didn't foresee kids coming from the Marigold Shopping Center and crossing Broad Street without parental supervision.
Even though most parents at the field said the parking situation was difficult, one mother last Saturday thought it was ridiculous that other parents would complain about the parking situation.
"I am shocked people are complaining," said Peggy Randall, whose son plays in the under-16 age group. "This is gorgeous. This is what it's all about."
Randall and a few friends sat in lawn chairs at the Damon Garcia sports park after their kids' games were over. She said she was happy to have such a beautiful park to use for years to come. "I can't believe people complain about parking. It's not a huge distance to walk, and it's not unsafe."
According to LeSage, a new development being built next to the field will offer more parking next year. When asked about possibly staggering start times to avoid the heavy overlap on Saturdays, LeSage said that the American Youth Soccer Organization, the group responsible for scheduling, would make that decision.
"We want it to be a safe and enjoyable experience," said LeSage. "If not, we'll work on it."
LeSage asked that parents with concerns and suggestions call Facility Supervisor Jim Bremer at 781-7295. Bremer is working to solve the parking issue, said LeSage.
"We're working on it, and that's all I can say," said LeSage. "We're learning how to run these fields, and it will get better."
Staff Writer John Peabody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .