Northwest NEWS

March 4, 2002


It's time we create some necessary space for the already suffering soccer community.

Over the past few months I have been getting excited, disappointed, excited then disappointed again over the struggle between soccer leagues/players/parents and farm preservationists about the possibility of turning some land set aside for farming into sports fields, especially soccer fields.
   I am a 13-year-old eighth grader attending Leota Junior High School in Woodnville and have been active in sports, especially soccer, my entire life. However, the last few years I have been noticing that the amount of fields has seemed to be growing less and less and less.
   The number of children and teenagers belonging to a sports team is rapidly growing and to accommodate that, there must be more fields. My soccer team, for example, has three practices a week.
   Since there isn't the necessary amount of usable fields, we have practice at one location Monday, then practice at a different location Wednesday, and practice at yet another location Friday.
   Fields get taken up, players get confused, the field gets changed at the last minute ... and about half the team straggles to practice 10 minutes late. There are simply too many teams and players for the limited amount of space.
   Several teams are even resorting to practices in a player's backyard.
   Redmond used to have hundreds of acres zoned [for] agriculture in the 1990s but now is down to its last 72 acres. We need to protect the last agricultural land that remains.
   It is definitely nobody's first choice that the amount of good farmland is so rapidly decreasing. But it is. And the number of soccer teams needing fields to play on is increasing and will continue to do so in the coming years. We need more fields to accommodate the number of teams.
   I think I can see a bit from the farmer's perspective: The amount of good land left to use agriculturally is getting smaller, and we should preserve it. It would be nice for it to be preserved.
   But if the bill sponsored by Rep.Toby Nixon (R-Kirkland) is passed, the land could still be preserved agriculturally, but would just be accommodating to more than one party. There would be a compromise the only thing that could be planted would be grass. The fields can't have any permanent equipment installed. Neither party has a 100 percent their way, but both sides can and will be accommodated comfortably.
   I have heard from countless adults about how the empty farmland that is being "preserved" should be used. It's not. And it probably never will be.
   Nixon's statement, "If we're not using the land to raise crops, we should be able to use it to raise children," nails the deal head-on. The "preserved" land is sitting there rotting; we might as well put it to a needy cause.
   In closing: What seals the deal for me is that Rep. Nixon isn't even pushing for permanent soccer fields - just flat land, a bit of chalk and two goals to make the lives of players, parents and coaches so much less frustrating. He isn't being greedy at all - just asking for what is doable and acceptable for both sides.
   Unfortunately this bill is no longer able to go into effect this year. But I encourage working on this bill for next year, editing it if necessary, because there is already a tight space now for the amount of teams able to get to a field; in five years it will only be more difficult to do so.
   Too many teams are using a player's backyard to practice, doubling up on the field with another team and using a baseball field for practice. It's time we create some necessary space for the already suffering soccer community.
   Megan Opincarne, Woodinville