Renevations pledge more fun for all ◆ By Mike Hiles
Twenty years ago, the Soboba Sports Complex consisted of two ball fields and two snack bars. One of the fields was not maintained and the outdoor lighting didn't always work, so practices sometimes had to be canceled. In 1999, it underwent a major renovation.
"Softball has always been big on the reservation," said Soboba Tribal Council Vice Chairman Isaiah Vivanco. "Tribal members wanted to have a place at home to play that was reliable and nice."
In 1998, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians submitted a bid to host the NIAA (National Indian Athletic Association) fastpitch softball tournament and were awarded the tournament in 1999. The tribe went to work on the renovation of the park right up the opening of the NIAA games.
After the fields were completed, the gym was finished and then the pool was added – all in 1999. The Soboba Parks and Recreation Department oversees the maintenance and organization of the sports complex and also of The Oaks, where a football field and additional ball fields are located.
"We host four or five softball tournaments per year, multiple basketball tournaments, ITS (Inter Tribal Sports) for youth, community events, Easter egg hunts, weddings, private parties and more," Vivanco said.
He said the park has been used quite a bit since its first renovation and it was time to focus on updating it to be able to host more events in the coming years.
"The gatherings are getting crowded and we need to accommodate everyone comfortably with nice offerings," Vivanco said.
New additional parking spaces, new bleachers, new snack bars and restrooms and the addition of a new gathering area will allow for multiple functions to be held at the same time. There will be dedicated grounds to eat and gather. State-of-the-art equipment will include a splash pad with water features next to the pool and two new playgrounds – one designed for older kids and the other for younger children ages two to five.
"We are adding another gazebo so more families can book functions without having to worry about availability issues," Vivanco said.
Currently the park is in its demolition phase and it will take until spring of 2019 for all the improvements to be completed. Tree roots have been tearing up the concrete so those issues have to be addressed. Next, the parking lot will be worked on and the added amenities. New irrigation, grading, sodding, turf and new trees will complete the makeover.
Most of the design work to maximize the space will be done by Adame Landscape's James Potter with input from the Soboba Tribal Council, Soboba Cultural Department, Soboba Parks and Recreation and Soboba Public Works. There are several workers from various trades such as electrical, landscaping and construction who will soon be working 40 hours per week.
Parks and Recreation Director, Andy Silvas, has been at all the planning meetings and appreciates the opportunity to give input on what is needed based on requests from community members and firsthand observations.
"More and more culture events are being held and we need more space for that," he said. "The new design will be a better fit for parties and community events."
Silvas, who has worked at the complex since 2007, said the installation of bleachers made of aluminum rather than the current wooden ones will help with maintenance and durability. He said adding a public address (PA) system will also be a welcome addition.
Noli Indian School, adjacent to the sports complex, uses the fields for its physical education classes and sports practices. They will need to utilize The Oaks fields during some of the fields' overhaul but will have more to use once the work has been finished.
There is still a full agenda of activities at the gymnasium and since more events are held indoors during the winter months, revamping of the outdoor spaces shouldn't be too disruptive.
"The biggest hurdle to overcome was the addition of 40,000 cubic yards of material to bring the area up to grade," Vivanco said. "It wound up working nicely because 30,000 cubic yards of material had to be removed from the Horseshoe Grande property so it was just brought over."
Grading for construction of the new Soboba Fire Station and Soboba Health Clinic at the Horseshoe Grande property off Lake Park Drive and Soboba Road has been underway for several weeks.
"We hope this renovation will give us another 20 to 25 years of enjoyment of the Soboba Sports Complex and that it will give more opportunities for tribal members to enjoy all the facility will have to offer," Vivanco said. "Completion is targeted for mid-May, just in time for our annual Fiesta."