Guest Editorial: What Scottsdale Needs to Do About Constraints on Youth Sports Fields and Public Pools

By Brian Esterly  —

Scottsdale’s sports fields cannot accommodate current demand from youth sports teams and leagues. Our community’s great swim teams and swimmers, including national champions and future Olympians, also experience space limitations at Cactus Pool.

What a shame.

The backlogs and wait lists are long and frustrating for soccer, lacrosse, softball, flag football, swim teams and other youth sports wanting to use Scottsdale’s fields, pools, and facilities for games, tournaments, and practice.

As a Scottsdale resident and parent of three youth athletes, I know our community has great youth sports and great youth sports teams. Scottsdale is also a great destination for youth sports tournaments. We just don’t have enough space.

The Scottsdale Sports Complex at Hayden Road and Princess Drive, for example, has 10 fields. It is booked 258 days and 30 weekends a year. This complex and other Scottsdale sports facilities have lengthy waiting lists.

We have champion and emerging young athletes throughout Scottsdale, but we need more space for them. Every athlete should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and sufficient space affords this possibility. To take one Scottsdale facility as an example, the pool at Cactus Park hosts nationally ranked teams for training and meets including three high school swim teams, a non-profit competitive community youth swim team, a non-profit competitive community youth dive team, and others. That is a lot of demand and space is often maxed out. We should invest for an improved quality of life for our community, and equally important, for future generations through our youth sports facilities.

The infrastructure program before voters on this November’s ballot (Questions 1, 2, and 3) helps solve the crunch for space and ease the lengthy backlog for fields, pools, and youth sports facilities.

Cactus Pool opened 32 years ago in 1987, and the infrastructure investments before voters in November will improve and expand the facility for swimmers of all levels, swim teams, and families. The bonds will increase capacity at the Cactus Pool by 50 percent and make pool operations and infrastructure more efficient.

The bonds will also build 13 new multi-use youth sports fields near WestWorld. These are critical to ease the space constraints our young athletes experience in Scottsdale.

For most of the year, the new fields will be used to host games and tournaments. These youth sporting events are important local economic drivers. They bring visitors to Scottsdale who generate sales tax and tourism revenue important to maintaining our quality of life. Teams and families would love to visit Scottsdale for games and tournaments. We just need the fields to host them.

Like the fields at the Scottsdale Sports Complex, the new fields will also serve a dual purpose by being available a few times each year for special events parking for the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction. These signature events have a significant positive economic impact on the community and raise the prestige of our city.

Those events are important tourism, community, and economic drivers. The Phoenix Open has a $389 million economic impact. The Thunderbirds, who put on the golf tournament, have raised $81.7 million for charity since 2010. WestWorld hosts more than 911,000 visitors annually for equestrian and community events as well as Barrett-Jackson, which has a $168 million economic impact.

The new fields along with the Scottsdale Sports Complex are centrally located in our city and recreation is a great land use compared to some commercial alternatives. They will also make sure Scottsdale families are spending more time here instead of having to drive to other sports complexes across the Valley.

Importantly, the bond questions before voters also invest in many other parks and recreation capital improvement projects. The tennis courts at Indian School Park and the Scottsdale Tennis Center will be resurfaced and Eldorado Pool will get a new energy efficient solar heating system.

Scottsdale has great youth sports, great young athletes, and great families and coaches supporting them. Our community should support them too and invest in our young athletes with a YES vote on Questions 1, 2, and 3. The current obstacles to hosting best in class youth sporting events should be put in the rear-view mirror. This year’s bond questions, on ballots before voters in November, will accomplish this worthy goal.

Brian Esterly is a Scottsdale resident and parent of three youth athletes. He serves on the Steering Committee of For The Best Scottsdale: Vote Yes on Questions 1, 2 and 3.