Burlingame sports facility faces turf wars

Baseball games and soccer matches are now competing with leisurely strolls.

Requests for a much-needed $1 million overhaul to Burlingame’s largest sports facility and park are clashing with residents’ cries for residential sidewalk repairs as officials prepare to dole out precious city funds.

The Parks and Recreation Department wants $500,000 from the city’s general budget to cover half of the cost to install synthetic grass at Bayside Park fields. The park, on Airport Boulevard next to the Bay, is open just eight months per year because of drainage problems.

The new turf would allow the park to be open year-round, add thousands of hours of play time, improve drainage and realign fields so multiple sports games can be played simultaneously, Parks and Recreation Director Randy Schwartz said. Youth and adult softball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer and other groups use the field, which also includes a 570-foot dog park.

The city, however, is suffering from budget problems and may not have $500,000 to give to the project. During Wednesday’s budget meeting with city staffers and the City Council, various officials, including Vice Mayor Ann Keighran, saidthey would rather see that money spent on sidewalk repairs or other infrastructure needs.

“When you know your economy is going downhill you want to focus on the basics,” Keighran said. “To me upgrading that field is a luxury as of now.”

The synthetic grass field would be a one-time expense, but paying for sidewalks is an ongoing issue that residents have repeatedly asked for.

“It’d be nice to get that field to have more use … but the sidewalks are still an extreme priority,” said Councilman Jerry Deal.

Steve Alms, president of Coyotes Lacrosse for girls and boys in the Burlingame area, said participation in local youth sports has been growing. Adding synthetic grass at Bayside would allow the league’s players to practice in the rain and start a month early, in February.

“We just hit the wall when we’re looking at field time for these youngsters to practice,” Alms said.

The clock is ticking on the field project: a $300,000 grant from a private manufacturer for the field may be pulled off the table if not used this year, officials said. The remaining $275,000 for the project may come from state money earmarked for synthetic grass at Burlingame High School.

If approved, the project would likely be completed during a few weeks in August or December.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

Bayside Park by the numbers

$1 million Total cost of project

$500,000 City’s share from general budget

$204 million Total needed for citywide capital projects

8 months Per year the park is currently open

12 months Per year the park would be open with synthetic grass

750,000 Gallons of water that would be saved with synthetic grass

Hundreds Hours of maintenance work saved with synthetic grass

2,000+ Hours of annual playtime added with synthetic grass

Four Baseball diamonds at the field

Thousands Daily visitors at peak times

March 1 Park open date without drainage problems

Source: Burlingame Parks and Recreation Department

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