Tomorrow is the day many of us have been hoping for: A chance for SSC and the City of Stillwater to help determine its future for years to come.  As anyone who has been involved with SSC over the years can attest, the facility we currently have is sadly inadequate both in basic amenities (restroom, concessions, etc.) and in quality.

Our current location is on par with communities the size of Verdigris, Coweta, Newcastle, Skiatook, and Pryor.  We rank at the bottom of this list for the simple reason that we lack even the most basic of requirements: restrooms and adequate parking.

Yesterday evening we completed the U10 season, requiring the two finalists to play the dreaded "if necessary" game.  The game wasn't decided until the last round of shots from the mark.  It was one of the better games to be seen at any level because of the effort and desire both teams put forth. The only negatives to yesterday's championship game was that one of the teams had to lose, and we had to complete the game in near dark because we ran out of daylight. In addition, prior to the start of overtime, one player needed a restroom break and ran the almost quarter mile to the restroom and back. The kids were tired enough after giving their all in regulation, but this young man had to put in an additional half mile.  It would  have been nice to be able to provide to these teams the "luxury" of completing the game with lights and to allow the players and their families to deal with their most basic of needs comfortably.

So far, this is the best we can offer both to our players as well as those who travel in from larger facilities. Tomorrow, we can help make a difference for future SSC participants, but we need to get out and vote.   We need to make sure that our families, our friends, and our neighbors understand this isn't about us -  it is about those who are coming after us.

The proposed new facility will satisfy the needs of SSC well into the future and will allow SSC to host tournaments, including state tournaments such as the Governor's Cup for rec teams and the President's Cup and State Cup for competitive teams.

So how does that directly affect SSC?  It will bring teams into Stillwater to utilize the SSC operated soccer facility and allow SSC to bring in funds through concessions which would go to the operation of SSC.  Currently, all the field maintenance (with the exception of City water lines and in ground irrigation systems) is conducted by SSC volunteers.  Funding for the cost of maintaining the fields comes totally from registration and usage fees.

How can a new complex directly affect SSC?  Approximately two years ago, Mayor Bartley (before he was mayor) contacted SSC board members to discuss a vision he had for Stillwater and for building a sports complex so our youth would have a quality place to participate in sports.

Through additional conversations between SSC board members and Mayor
Bartley and staff, a concept for a soccer complex was put together.  Ultimately,
the facility would consist of 16 full sized fields (80yds x 120 yds) with plenty of parking to support a large state tournament, concession areas with real restrooms and meeting rooms for board meetings, referee classes, and coaches clinics.  The room could also be used for indoor team instruction when coaches need the support of a white board or even a projector and screen.  At least 6 of the fields would have lighting for practices after we lose daylight savings time, for week night game options, and...for those championship games when the two teams playing for the championship refuse to allow time limitations settle the difference.

Additionally, 8 fields would have artificial turf, making the only reason to cancel games be for the players and their families safety (lightning) and not because we had a quarter-inch of rain the night before.  It would also allow every team plenty of practice space and do away with doubling up in already crowded areas.

This is what SSC could ultimately have at its disposal if we get enough people out to vote tomorrow to carry Proposition 1.

The facility would be built and developed over time in phases and as funding becomes available, so what was just described is a start and allows SSC to become eligible to receive grants for providing these types of "extras".  But organizations interested in awarding grants for the development of soccer fields require a working relationship and a commitment from the City to be realistically in the running for those grants.  Lacking that obvious partnership leaves SSC on the outside looking in when grants are awarded to other soccer clubs.

As things stand now, in addition to the funding issues, we're limited in what can be done at Babcock, due to several factors, which include space, the location being situated in a floodway/floodzone, and the fact that the park was originally built with federal funds which limits how the park may be used.  I haven't been told straight out, but in discussions with City officials, I get a strong feeling that a sports facility isn't one of the original allowed uses for Babcock.

So what about all the negatives that have been brought up by the opposition?

They all have some merit and all have some degree of truth to them, but not one presented the entire truth.

Is there a landfill near the location of the proposed complex?  Yes. I was at the dump a couple of times as an OSU student in the early to mid 70s.  I'm not sure of the exact location, but I know it was located near the north end of the main airport runway.  What the opponents don't tell you is that it was remediated as part of the most recent runway extension.  Being employed as an environmental consultant for almost 20 years now, I can assure you that if anything toxic or harmful were in place, federal and state regulatory agencies would not allow this type of facility.  Long term monitoring with regular reporting and analysis of the results would be required for any substance that was suspected of being present in the old landfill. Many sites are remediated by actually removing the source and all affected soil.  Samples are collected of what's left behind, and if levels are still above acceptable levels, more soil is removed until samples reflect that contaminant levels are below acceptable levels. Other methods of remediating landfills are to place a clay and/or synthetic cap on the landfill, encapsulating any hazardous substance that might have been present.  And just because it may have had a hazardous substance in it doesn't mean it's a toxic landfill.  Motor oil is a hazardous substance, but placing oil rags in your trashcan, and ultimately into a landfill, doesn't make the landfill a toxic waste site.  Had toxic substances been identified, there would be even more stringent actions conducted for the protection of human health including deed restrictions severely limiting the use of the property.  These decisions are made by the state and federal regulatory agencies (EPA, ODEQ, OWRB, etc.), not City governments.

Are the proposals vague?  I guess it depends on your definition of vague, and your knowledge of the actual intent.  Since none of the opposition leaders were included in any of the "Our Stillwater" meetings and discussions, I would say they are only making assumptions based on their limited knowledge.  Just enough doubt to confuse the issue.

Proposition 1 states exactly how much money would be allocated to the sports complex, how much to the amphitheater, and how much to the boardwalk.  The fine details aren't included because we don't really know for sure, down to the penny, how much is going to be raised by the proposed property tax increase.  We also don't know exactly how much each task involved in the construction of the complex would cost. We could do that, but for City staff to do that would be a huge waste of time and money if the proposal is defeated and would be used as a negative for the next attempt for similar projects.

How much of an increase are we talking about?  The total millage rate that has been proposed (including the increase) is roughly $100 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value.  That averages out to approximately $8.33 a month.  For those of us that own our own homes, we're already paying a portion of that with the current millage rate, so the increase would be somewhere in the vicinity of $5-$6 per month per $100,000 of assessed property value on the average.  A quarter pounder combo will cost you more than that.  Does that mean that those who rent get off the hook?  If you were a landlord and your property tax for a rental property went up, wouldn't you pass that along to the people renting your property?  I would.

Is it going to be expensive?  Yes it's going to be expensive.  But it won't get cheaper if we wait.  It's not like the newest electronic gadget.  Labor won't get cheaper.  Building supplies won't get cheaper.  If you're going to spend this much money, it makes sense to do it right so more money isn't spent than would have originally by making expensive modifications to something that has already been built.  Do it when the opportunity and the wherewithal is there.

The need will continue to increase as well.  It's already there.  One thing I try to get across to my referees, if you don't take care of a problem during one of your games, then you leave the problem for someone else to deal with in a later game.  The current lack of an adequate facility isn't our doing.  It's not the current City administration's doing either.  But why should we push the responsibility we should have for our local youth and the betterment of our City off onto someone else?  If we aren't willing to take care of it, why should anyone else?

At the forum conducted Tuesday evening, the main argument I heard by
the opposition was, "we think there's a better way."  Not once did I hear an alternative plan or idea.  In fact, at one point it was stated by one of the panelists for the opposition that she didn't even know why we needed soccer fields.  For those who question the need for soccer fields, consider this an open invitation to visit Babcock Park during our fall, spring, or summer soccer seasons and experience the parking congestion and lack of restroom facilities being tolerated by families who have chosen to participate in this great sport.

If I do nothing to my house to improve it or keep it in repair, should
I expect to get the same value when I decide to sell it as if I took
good care of it and made improvements?  It's the same logic for
Stillwater.  Why would anyone on the outside (potential corporations
which could supply good jobs) want to invest in a place where the
locals don't even want to take care of and invest in themselves.

It's late, I know.  I wish I could have put all these thoughts
together a few weeks ago, but we still have a little time to do what
we can.  If you feel this a good investment not only for your kids,
but also for the City of Stillwater, then make sure you vote tomorrow.
Talk with your family members, and your friends and neighbors.  If
they don't care one way or the other, then ask them to vote YES!  We
have the opportunity to do something tremendously positive for SSC and
for Stillwater for many years down the road.