Ideas for Celebration Park keep on coming

"It's been more than a year since Celebration Park opened - and the suggestions for improving it are flying faster than softballs.As more and more of the community is walking and experiencing Celebration Park, we are experiencing more ideas of how to use the property, said Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Schroder.At least one - a for-profit batting cage - will likely nab final City Council approval next month.The most recent suggestion - a non-profit batting cage run by the Kiwanis Club - probably won't gain the nod because of the city's commitment to the first batting cage, Schroder said.At the Parks and Recreation Commission's Sept. 7 meeting, Kiwanis Club of Greater Federal Way members Louie Lui and Doc Maynard Campbell said the club was interested in funding a batting cage so that kids could hit for free. They wanted a cage between the ball fields, the originally proposed site of the for-profit cage.But with limited space and numerous ideas, two batting cages didn't make sense to some commission members, Schroder said.Many other ideas are attempts to lure people who don't regularly swing a bat. Since the 83.4-acre park opened, residents have recommended the city make room there for everything from a water play feature to a rose garden. Such suggestions illustrate some Federal Way residents' interest in broadening the park's appeal. It also shows the variety of amenities people believe Celebration Park needs to make it the community jewel supporters talked about upon its opening.The city faces the limits of the park's space. Some space remains near the park's two restrooms and a 5-acre piece lies undeveloped on the south end. The concerns are can we accommodate them all? Is there a point where we're limited with what we can do at this time? Schroder asks. For now, the city continues to receive suggestions. At a January hearing on the batting cage proposal, resident Bob Roper said the park is a facility for the athletically elite and recommended the park change that. More recently, with citizen requests for a larger, more traditional playground, Deputy Mayor Linda Kochmar said she wants to ensure that the park is used by everybody.But the city's tight budget limits its options.Kochmar and a couple other council members want to form a committee for Celebration Park. The committee would consider enlisting the help of corporations and residents to fund additional park amenities, such as the kid-activated fountain Kochmar would like to see built.I wanted that from day one, Kochmar said of a multi-amenity park. I want a place we're using. I envision a park that we walk through, have festivals in, have band concerts, maybe.We're limited by the wetlands, which take 40 acres of the park, she said. We're limited by this space already dedicated to the ballfields. Something needs to move forward. Something will. It's a matter of when.Councilmember Dean McColgan says he, too, wants to make sure that happens sooner rather than later. We addressed a major need in providing the soccer complex and softball complex, McColgan said. We have an opportunity here to provide more activity in the park and continue to enhance it. It shouldn't be a place where now we're done adding to it.The latest addition to the park, though it retains the sports flavor, will be the 120-by-200-foot batting cage that will be operated as a business by Federal Way resident Russell Mentink and son Justin. The city will receive a percentage of the gross revenue, as it does with the privately operated concession stand. The Mentinks are still negotiating the city's percentage with parks officials.The cage will be built south of the ballfields, where the city had planned to construct a maintenance building. Justin Mentink says he hopes they can begin building the structure by March or April, but summer may be more realistic.Right now we're in the process of negotiating the contract and it's not a real quick process, Mentink said. Back and forth and back and forth.Mentink says he understands the community's interest in the park.It's a nice surprise for the city of Federal Way really, he said. We haven't had a place like that as long as I've been here. ----------------------Other suggestions?* Rose garden: The Federal Way Rotary Club is mulling creating a rose garden at the north entrance to Celebration Park. The club would purchase the rose bushes. The question is who would maintain the garden. The city has been very, very firm on not taking on additional costs in the wake of Initiative 695's passage, according to Rotary President Phyllis Tellari.* Horseshoe pits: Chuck Glasford and 11 other seniors who regularly meet for coffee are asking the city to put in horseshoe pits at the park. The suggestion was sent to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which is still reviewing the proposal. The commission will discuss the idea Nov. 2. If members favor the idea, they'll send a recommendation to a City Council committee on Nov. 13. * Larger playground: In an Aug. 16 letter to the editor in the Mirror, Stephanie Collett calls the current playground equipment a monstrosity that's poorly sited near a street and bathroom. She suggests city officials look at Steel Lake Park's equipment as a model. The city's tight budget makes this idea improbable unless corporations and residents fund it; some council members want to form a committee to look into enlisting such help.* Public market: The Federal Way Arts Commission believes Celebration Park would be an ideal site for a weekday market featuring primarily artisans. They believe a market would draw people to the park who might not be attracted to athletic events. The estimated $50,000 cost of starting a market appears to have stalled plans. "

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