HANFORD – For months, Hanford City Council members have been kicking around the possibility of a major indoor recreation facility in Hanford where youth can practice organized sports in a climate-controlled setting.
But the idea remains in the concept stage.
The council hasn't awarded a contract to an architect to come up with a formal design plan, according to Community Development Director Darlene Mata.
Mata said the next step is for staff is to present several preliminary options to the council and ask for direction on how to proceed.
Mata said that's the point at which staff could provide a realistic cost estimate.
City Manager Darrel Pyle said staff are "in conversation" with an expert who specializes in such facilities.
Mata said there are several key questions that have yet to be answered.
Once of them is simply how big of a building with adequate parking space can fit on the 87,000 square-foot vacant city-owned property west of The Plunge.
The city would have to demolish the former Goodwill warehouse building on the site and build new, according to Mata.
The city might have additional space to work with if the City Council authorized the old fire station east of The Plunge to be torn down.
Hanford Parks and Recreation Director Craig Miller said the greatest recreational need in the city right now is to build an indoor facility.
The advantages are obvious: air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter and year-round use.
Another advantage is filtered, climate-controlled air that would presumably be cleaner than inhaling the air pollution outside.
Miller said other cities in the San Joaquin Valley are pushing for indoor venues.
Lemoore has a cavernous facility on Cinnamon Drive that accommodates multiple sports, including soccer, basketball, a jogging/running perimeter track and more.
"I guess you could say there is a trend," Miller said. "When we look at our facilities [in Hanford], we are lacking indoor facilities."
One big question is how much money the city has to play around with.
Early estimates are that there's about $3 million that could be used from impact fees collected for parks and recreation.
Justin Mendes thinks it'll cost more than that, and he knows a way to come up with additional cash: Sell the 18-acre empty field west of Hidden Valley Park.
He's doubtful he can get at least two other council members to agree with him.
He noted recent protests against the idea of selling the city-owned lot launched by a group of Hanford residents who think it should be converted into additional public park space.
The land has sat vacant at least since 1967, when the city originally purchased 38.5 acres to create a stormwater drainage area at the site.
Only about 12 acres were needed for drainage, leaving open the question what to do with the extra land.
Hidden Valley Park, which is a total of 20 acres, opened in 1977 on the eastern portion of the property. It combines grass and trees with drainage capabilities in the form of a pond and a slough.
The park was largely privately funded.
There was some talk of eventually converting the remaining 18 acres into a park, but the idea never panned out.
Past council attempts to move toward selling the vacant acreage have not succeeded. The attempts have been met with the same kind of protests seen recently.
"I think the silent majority of Hanford knows that it's vacant dirt," Mendes said.
Mata said financing questions are somewhat premature at this point about the indoor facility.
She said staff will first have to figure out if there's enough square footage at the former Goodwill-occupied property to build a facility that's big enough to accommodate some of Hanford's more popular activities, such as soccer.
She said there's also the possibility of adding after-school tutoring space or other educational options that could pull in the involvement of the Hanford Joint Union High School District.
"The first thing you do is figure out what the needs are," Mata said. "Right now, it's just a theoretical study. There are a lot of steps to go through."