Sportspark Grading Begins after Long Delay

Originally published in Ventura County Star, November, 2008

The sound of rumbling trucks broke an uncomfortable silence this month on the land where a 55-acre sports park is being developed at Village at the Park in Camarillo.

The trucks have started delivering fill dirt so the final grading of the property can begin as soon as next week, several months after park officials had predicted the work would get under way.

D.R. Horton Co., developer of Village at the Park, is overseeing the grading, according to Park District officials.

Earlier this year, the Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District said the sports park project was due to start around July and would be completed in six months, meaning sometime in January 2009.

“The ‘how far behind’ question depends on when you expected us to start the project — a date that has been in flux,” said Mark Malloy, chairman of the park district board. “The project is going to take seven months due to the grading work still to be done, which means we would finish in June.”

The grading did not begin on schedule for a number of reasons, including the effect of a faltering economy which has hit the housing sector most of all, park officials said.

D.R. Horton Co. had to wait until fill dirt became available. Also, the amount of fill dirt needed was a surprise, according to officials.

“We underestimated how much fill dirt would be needed to grade the park,” Malloy said.

D.R. Horton Co. did not return several phone calls seeking comment.

The long-awaited sports park has been in the planning for years. It will be the largest park the district has built, at a cost of more than $11 million.

The plans call for two dozen soccer fields, three softball diamonds, parking areas and several buildings, including a snack bar, kitchen, restrooms and maintenance facilities.

“The bottom line for us is that the trucks are rolling now and bringing in the fill dirt they need. We weren’t happy with the situation, but in light of all that’s going on, we certainly understand,” said Dan LaBrado, general manager of the park district. “I went out there myself and watched the trucks start rolling in.”

The sports park project has labored under a number of other setbacks, including a last-minute architectural redesign of the roof lines for the buildings to keep in line with city requirements.

Last summer, officials also debated whether to use sod or seeded grass to cover the park. They settled on sod, based on their desire to be able to use the park sooner.

Malloy, who was against the use of sod at first, sees it as a positive now.

“With all the delays and where we are, it almost makes sense to use sod now,” he said.

After the grading and construction are finished, officials will have to wait 90 days to allow the turf and landscaping to grow and settle before the park is opened for public use.

“So, right now we are looking at a tight schedule to be ready for the 2009 soccer season, which begins in September,” Malloy said.

The park will be home to most of the soccer leagues in the city.

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