The San Rafael Parks and Recreation Commission approved the concept to bring professional baseball to Albert Park in last night’s meeting.
The vote was delayed on April 28 when commissioners could not reach a decision due to neighbors’ concerns about parking, noise and lighting near the park.
“We are just voting on the concept,” Commission Chair Ralph Mihan told the neighbors. “And then the proposal will have to move through several departments, including planning and public works, until it will come before the City Council.”
The proposal, , would add between 26 to 40 full-time and seasonal jobs, and host 45 home games from late May to early September starting next year.
Last year, there were 574 activities and events held at Albert Park, according to Director of Community Services Carlene McCart. If the plan is approved by the city, games would begin after 6:30 p.m. so they would not interfere with other activities in the park, and the company intends to hire local residents, the proposal said.
Centerfield Partners would also maintain and make improvements to Albert Field, including refurbishing locker rooms, cleaning the grandstand facade, adding 700 seats to the stadium, adding bathrooms and making room for local food vendors at games, according to the proposal.
“We’re not here to break the bank. We’re here to have fun,” Centerfield Partners CEO Brian Clark said. “If we do not partner with the city, if we do not partner with the community, we are not going to be successful.”
Although the proposal includes a parking plan that would accommodate one parking space for every 2.4 attendees, according to the commission’s staff report, many nearby neighbors worry that the noise and added traffic will be a nuisance during hot summer nights when they want to keep their windows open.
“I love baseball, but I don’t want this project,” said Kevin Stockton, who lives across the street from Albert Park. “It will ruin my life and the lives of my family.”
Gerstle Park resident Hugo Landecker believes that there are too many details missing from the proposal to deal with problems like traffic congestion, noise or the construction of new bleachers for patrons.
“You’ve got a dream plan,” he said, “but if you approve it, you’re going to be kicking the can down to the City Council and they will have to deal with all the minutiae.”
To restaurant owner Leslie Burnside, a stadium at Albert Park could add to the economic vitality to the downtown area by bringing more tourists from the Bay Area.
“This is not armageddon and this not Nirvana, but the city needs something,” she said. “Downtown is dying. We need to keep the community alive and thriving and not make business owners want to move out of town.”
According to McCart, the proposal will now enter negotiations and go through several reviews to study the details of the plan before heading to other departments.
“This is all about friends and fun and no one else,” Clark said. “We hope to be a simple tenant in an existing baseball field to play baseball during the summer.”
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