Solving Oro Valley’s Little League Field Crisis By Jack Stinnett
The justification for the Town’s proposed $17 million dollar Naranja Park bond is the need to provide more fields for Oro Valley youth sports. (This will be funded with a secondary property tax that, with interest, will cost Oro Valley homeowners $28 million over 20 years). The issue here is that the Oro Valley Little League (formerly known as Coronado Little League) has played their games and practices since 2003 at the Coronado Middle School fields which they complain are poorly maintained by Amphitheater School District. They want their own fields in Naranja Park to be comparable to the CDO Little League fields in James Kriegh Park.
Let’s look at the baseball fields we have:
Unlike youth soccer, baseball has long been a part of Tucson and Pima County. A quick count shows that there are over 30 baseball fields within 8 miles of Naranja Park, many lightly used. The two parks located in Oro Valley are described below. In 1974 upon Oro Valley's founding, Pima County transferred the ownership and cost of operation of J.D. Kreigh and Riverfront Parks to Oro Valley. These parks came with baseball fields which have been used and improved by Oro Valley. J.D. Kriegh Park is the home of the Canyon del Oro Little League. It has two excellent lighted competition fields and three practice fields used for baseball and softball. The park has restrooms, a snack bar and is well-maintained by Oro Valley Parks and Recreation.
Riverfront Park is the center for youth softball and has two lighted and well-maintained fields. Riverfront Park also has two lighted soccer/multi-purpose fields. This park has playgrounds, picnic areas for families, a nice walking path, and draws softball players from NW Pima County.
Why don't we have ball fields in Naranja Park?
The Town's Naranja Park plan included little League fields but did not anticipate that the mayor and council would be dumping over $2 million per year in sales tax revenue plus a $350,000 general fund transfer this year into a losing effort to support three golf courses. The Town could have built all the fields Oro Valley could possibly want with the half-cent "no sunset" sales tax the council approved in 2015 to subsidize the Community Center and Golf Courses. The mayor never proposed a town sales tax for Naranja Park, nor budgeted Little League fields for Naranja Park in 2014, 2015, 2016, or 2017.
Options for supporting Oro Valley youth sports without instituting a property tax
1) Use the baseball fields at Arthur Pack Park
Arthur Pack Regional Park (Thornydale at Overton) is a 500+ acre park facility that we already support with our Pima County Property taxes. The Park has a fine, inexpensive 18-hole public golf course, large open natural areas and two baseball areas. The baseball complex has 2 softball fields, 7 baseball fields and a batting cage. The 8th baseball field was converted to a soccer field to meet the growing demand for more soccer fields. The park also has rest rooms, picnic ramadas and is maintained by Pima County. Arthur Pack Park is home to the Thornydale Little League
2) Make better use of Amphi School District baseball fields
Your Pima County property taxes also support the Amphi School District and their facilities. In November of 2016, school district voter sapproved a $58 million bond which provides increased funds for the maintenance of Amphi school facilities and fields. Listed below is a summary of Amphi baseball fields in and around Oro Valley: Canyon del Oro High School…………2 competition fields -- 3 practice fields
Ironwood Ridge High School…………2 competition fields -- 2 practice fields
Wilson Middle School…………………2 competition fields -- 2 practice fields
Coronado Middle School………………2 competition fields -- 3 practice fields
Many communities cooperatively share the use and support of school facilities, but not Oro Valley and Amphi. During my three years on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB), I pressed two Parks and Recreation Directors to craft an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with Amphi to gain more access to school fields, but with no success. The Oro Valley Little League currently uses the Coronado Middle School fields off North Oracle Road, but has requested the Town to build Little league fields in Naranja Park. I supported their presentation to PRAB in December 2014 and voted for the inclusion of Little League Baseball fields in the plan for Naranja Park.
This project was deferred in favor of the higher priority golf course purchase.
However, while Oro Valley Little League patiently waits for better fields, the Town can insist that Amphi better maintain the Coronado Middle School Little League fields.
3) Continue the "pay as you go" development of Naranja Park
I support the Town building Little League baseball fields in Naranja Park, but not through a $17MM bond and $28MM secondary property tax. The Little League fields can be funded with the Town’s FY 2016/17 budget surplus of $2MM. Town coffers are overflowing with development fees. The mayor and council just need to support our Little League and give the kids a place to play in Naranja Park.
I am voting NO on the Naranja Park $17MM Bond and $28MM property tax increase. Instead of "crisis" planning by our elected leaders, Oro Valley should fund the youth fields from within it's operating budget. The Town has the resources to build fields in Naranja Park but has chosen to exploit this self-inflicted "field crisis" to put a $28MM property tax on the November ballot.