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Park and Recreation Commission Approves Pro Baseball for Albert Park

Amid neighbors' concerns over parking and noise, the commission approved the concept for a minor league baseball team to come to Albert Park.

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.”

Melanie Haiken May 20, 2011 at 08:03 PM
I think it's fascinating that the same people who are lamenting the decline of San Rafael want to oppose something as wholesome and old-fashioned as a pro baseball team! I live in Gerstle Park and the traffic and parking issues will directly affect me, but so what? We've got to save this town somehow and what could be a better way? Would we rather have gangs stabbing each other in the street (which happened last week at Albert Park) or more halfway houses for recovering addicts taking over these wonderful old houses built for families? If people come for a game, they will stay for a meal and a beer at local restaurants and bars. This is exactly what we need, people!
Hugo Landecker May 21, 2011 at 03:28 AM
When I attended the Park and Rec Commission hearing I heard the supporters more or less say "Let's play ball". For some reason almost all of these people have not read the proposal and probably most will not be impacted. Yes, there is a ball field there now. Unfortunately, when you read the proposal the obvious questions pop up. The applicants don't even have a simple sketch of how they plan to make this scheme fit into the park. Put the portable toilets in the already packed parking lot for the Rec Center is an example. What changes are necessary on Anderson Drive that the City already spent millions making beautiful? Yeh, let's cut down them trees! Parking continues to be the biggest issue. Then there are the responsibilities in the proposal that the City with no money is supposed to pay for. Downtown merchants seem to think this proposal is going to revive downtown. I don't think so, and by the way I have a bridge to sell.
Sharon Burns May 21, 2011 at 05:22 AM
I think this has the potential to be a wonderful thing for San Rafael and for all of Marin County. Don't lose sight of the fact that the vote was for the "concept". There will still be a laundry list of details to be addressed by the planning department and other city agencies. I'm sad that a nearby resident would think that America's pastime nearby will ruin his family's life.

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