YMCA: McIntire softball destruction not our fault
Amid increasing upset over the City's unilateral decision to destroy the Dewey D.S. Shiflett softball complex at McIntire Park, one group involved in the Park overhaul says it's innocent. To Piedmont-Virginia YMCA chair Kurt Krueger, any blame is not only unfounded– it's an outrage. And he's got the drawings that seem to back him up.
Recent attempts by the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to offer up some lights for softball at Darden Towe Park have resulted in nothing for softballers– besides a feeling that they've been pushed from their historic home at McIntire by taxpayer-supported plan to place at YMCA there.
The on-going battle between league softball and the City has centered around the introduction of the "Y" to the city's central public park, with both governing bodies to offer hefty financial allocations– $2.03 million from the County and $1.25 million plus a 40-year, $1 an acre land lease from the City.
The controversy spun off a side-controversy: the potential lighting of three softball fields and the city-and-county-owned Darden Towe Park. At an October 8 public hearing on that, supervisor David Slutzky said, "We're here based on the premise that the proposed placement of the Y encroaches on the softball fields at McIntire."
"The supervisors' comments were not fair," Krueger responds. "They're punishing the wrong people– we didn't cause that to happen."
Krueger has released to the Hook two early site plans, both dating from the spring of this year, that clearly indicate the preservation of the softball field footprint.
While the Y's building does not physically affect the softball fields, it's the increase in parking– allegedly due to City Code– that threatens the existing footprint of the fields. City Council voted May 19 to replace the two softball fields with a single artificially turfed, multi-use, rectangular field.
That didn't sit well many of the 298 softball teams. They constitute the City's largest recreational league and swell public coffers with $146,000 in annual revenue, according to league director Bernie Garrison. Many players have blamed Garrison for not adequately informing them that their primary site were doomed by the overhaul.
"The softball crowd said that the City is giving park land to a private group– this is a misleading statement," Krueger says. "The Y doesn't have a stake in that fight."
Krueger says Y had approached the city in April with a site plan, by VMDO Architects, that allowed for expanded parking, while preserving the original field size.
"When we negotiated the lease, we gave them a plan that put in language that they not set us in the picnic shelter area– it's a difficult topography in which to locate a building," Krueger says. "But the city and public wanted to preserve green space. So being good corporate citizens, we gave [City Parks director] Mike [Svetz] a plan and showed how we could do it without getting rid of the softball fields."
Svetz and the master planning committee, however, rejected the site plan. "The community desires a parking plan that doesn't look like Barracks Road," Svetz says.
For another option, planners turned to master plan developers Rhodeside Harwell, which presented the City with a plan that required redoing McIntire's entrance road and parking dynamics, erasing the softball fields as a result. Both the city and Rhodeside Harwell cited stormwater management as a critical factor in the site improvements.
"In my view, this was an aesthetic consideration," says Krueger. "Saying it's a stormwater issue is disingenuous. What is frustrating is that instead of the city being man enough to say this is the issue, they're raising the stormwater issue and blaming it on the Y."
According to Krueger, the combined need for both rectangular field space and indoor recreation space by the City and County motivated the replacement of the softball fields.
By bringing a Y to McIntire, the City provides for both burgeoning competitive and recreational swim needs, as determined through City and County "needs assessment," as well as brings an affordable entity to the heart of Charlottesville. (As part of its mission, the Y plans to provide scholarships.)
"We originally had the opportunity to go to PVCC, but the board felt that the mission to give the underprivileged a Y would be better gained with a city location," Krueger says. "It isn't appropriate for us to build where only city or only county residents can go."
Despite the acrimonious debate, Krueger remains confident of the Y's success at McIntire. While softball players rally to save McIntire's fields, Krueger plans to meet with City Councilors and county Supervisors to proceed in the building's design. According to Svetz, a smaller building footprint could alter the necessary site development, which in turn would reduce the current parking need– leaving the softball or potential rectangular fields untouched.
Which is what Krueger and the YMCA had planned on all along.