Mesa school district, city officials discuss recreation options for campuses - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa school district, city officials discuss recreation options for campuses

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Posted: Friday, March 30, 2012 12:47 pm

Mesa residents could see new Little League fields, more youth soccer fields and an additional public pool if leaders move forward with ideas presented to the Mesa City Council and Mesa Unified School District governing board Friday during a joint breakfast.

And if voters back the funds needed.

The presentation was given by Marc Heirshberg, director of Mesa’s parks, recreation and commercial facilities department, and Steve Hogen, athletics director for the school district. The event included Mayor Scott Smith, Superintendent Mike Cowan, city council members, school board members, district leaders, and city representatives.

The presentation looked at future parks, recreation and aquatics construction at Mesa High School, the soon-to-be closed Mesa Junior High School, and the former Powell Junior High School site, now the Mesa Education Center.

Now that the ideas for the locations have been presented, the real work begins.

“We’ll have to fine-tune the proposals, meaning we’re going to have to place dollar figures to it,” Hogen said. “Then we’re going to have to decide who does what. It will then be presented to the school board and city council.”

Smith said there is the challenge of deciding whether or not to move forward with bond proposals to raise funds.

“We’ll need to be extra careful in what we present to voters, realizing we’re still in iffy economic times,” Smith said. “Both the schools and city have real needs and opportunities ... The challenge is going to be balancing the appetite of the electorate to invest.”

The school district is already considering a bond issue for the November ballot to raise funds to address facilities. A committee made up of staff, teachers, students, residents and business and city leaders is looking at the district’s 87 schools, their conditions and their enrollments to give recommendations to the governing board.

The board has until June to let the county know if it plans to put a bond question on the November ballot. Smith said the city has about a month longer to do so.

The first part of the presentation focused on Mesa High School. The two groups are proposing a public pool — which could also be used by the school’s swim teams — to be located either on the southwest corner of the current parking lot on Southern Avenue in front of the school or behind the school near Harris and Eighth Avenue.

A new softball field could also be built in the back part of the campus, Hogen said, for the school and the public. “Little League is asking for more fields at that site,” Hogen said.

Heirshberg said the city’s adult softball program is also growing in popularity.

“We’re at the point where we’re working with the athletic directors. We’re capitalizing on every empty space, band practice fields, anywhere we can squeeze somebody in,”

A large part the discussion revolved around Mesa Junior High. When board members voted to close the site late last year, they did so with a recommendation to demolish most of the buildings. The board still needs to decide what to do with the auditorium, library and gymnasium.

While soccer and ball fields could be created over much of what remains on the site, there’s not a clear picture of what to do with the larger buildings. Both groups acknowledged there could be demand from the public for those buildings — especially for the auditorium — but it’s unclear if the finances would be available to keep them maintained and operating.

The last site discussed was the Mesa Education Center. Since that site closed as Powell Junior High, the district has moved the community education department and several smaller school programs there. It’s also used in the evening by a number of youth and adult sports programs. Across the street sits Kleinman Park, which, Heirshberg said, has some underutilized areas (including the tennis courts). Additional ball fields could be created there as well.

“These are all moveable pieces to see what could fit,” Heirshberg said. “We have not taken these to the parks and recreation advisory board, or full city council. This is just the first unveiling.”

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