Plans dim for lighted ballfields at Magnuson

Controversial plans for lighted ballfields at Magnuson Park in Sand Point were taken down a few notches last week at a Seattle City Council meeting.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Seattle Parks and Recreation have proposed building 15 fields, with 11 of them lighted. But the council's parks committee ended up recommending that only 11 be built, with just seven of them having lights.

Lighted fields also would have artificial turf, but the full package of 11 lighted fields has prompted spirited objections from not only many nearby residents, but also from some people living in Kirkland.

On the other hand, sports organizations are solidly behind the larger proposal, citing a lack of enough ballfields in Seattle.

Committee member Peter Steinbrueck acknowledged the differences in opinion, but he decried the residents-versus-sports-enthusiasts rift. "Our job is to balance those interests," he said.

Parks committee member Jean Godden said that having 11 lighted fields "would put the park totally out of balance ..." The councilwoman said she would prefer to have seven or eight lighted fields, but only if the impacts can be mitigated.

Parks committee chair David Della agreed that mitigating the impacts was necessary, but he proposed having nine lighted fields, four of which can be paid for now.

Parks superintendent Ken Bounds has told the council that costs for the total 15-field and wetland-restoration project would be approximately $60 million.

Of that, only $12 million in Pro Parks Levy funds has been earmarked for Magnuson, he said. According to a briefing paper prepared for the parks committee, potential sources for the balance of funding include wetlands-mitigation banking, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, private contributions, grants and possibly a future bond levy.

Also considered as a source of funding help, according to the briefing paper, are engineering and construction units of the Washington National Guard.

Those units, as part of training exercises, could help with "grading, trail and parking construction, demolition and other tasks as appropriate," according to the briefing, which also notes many of the units have been deployed to Iraq since preliminary discussions were held.

Steinbrueck was troubled by the lack of money, adding that he preferred to approve only the number of fields that can be paid for now rather than sign off on a number that might not be funded in the future. "We could find ourselves in a real pickle ..."

In the end, Steinbreuck made a motion to approve of lighting only seven fields but building 11. His motion passed unanimously, and the parks committee and full city council will consider this June other issues such as the hours the fields will be lighted.

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or (206) 461-1309.

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