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Napa sports complex envisioned

Proponents of the North Bay Sports Complex, an athletic center with fields devoted to multiple sports, say they are considering various sites in the Napa area as well as in Sonoma and Solano counties. This conceptual rendering shows one possible layout for the sports center.

Backers of an athletic complex that would gather multiple sporting venues into one place are continuing their search for a location – a search that will include a closer look at Napa Valley College.

The team promoting the North Bay Sports Complex has shared new details about their project, which aims to provide playing fields and courts in as many as 20 sports for tournaments, local leagues and fitness purposes.

In recent weeks, supporters have presented their plans to NVC officials to gauge the possibility of placing the facility on vacant lands at the two-year college’s main campus west of Highway 221, a choice that could provide a new home for collegiate teams as well as youth travel-ball squads and ordinary Napans keeping in shape.

Thursday night, NVC’s board of trustees cleared North Bay Sports Complex directors to visit the campus and interview school staff to help determine the college’s suitability for a center that could host soccer, lacrosse, football, baseball and other activities.

While the size, scope and cost of the project are not yet settled – and locales in neighboring Sonoma and Solano counties remain in play – trustees saw enough potential benefits, and little financial risk, in inviting the sporting center’s leaders to investigate.

“If this pencils out, it’s a win-win-win,” said Jeff Dodd, who voted with five other trustees to approve the visit and interviews. “It’s a win for the community, it’s a win for the kids and it’s a win for the college.”

A partnership with the college is worth considering if an athletic center can provide NVC teams with fields more resistant to wintertime conditions on the campus’ low-lying western flank near the Napa River, added Dodd.

The terrain-related problems became obvious in the past year, when heavy rains and poor drainage at Storm Field left NVC’s baseball team unable to practice or play at its home diamond from December to March. Players practiced indoors at the school gymnasium and racquetball courts, and were designated as the “home” team for games at Santa Rosa Junior College and Solano Community College.

Supporters began publicizing the sports complex concept in the fall of 2018, and had preliminary talks with both NVC and the city of Napa, which operates Kennedy Park south of the campus.

A feasibility study commissioned by the multisport hub’s supporters shows demand in Napa for between 13 and 20 outdoor fields, and four to eight indoor courts, said trustee Rafael Rios. The local audience would include a wide range of ages and skill levels, he added – from recreational play to local leagues to traveling youth teams playing multi-day tournaments.

Further studies at NVC will help planners of the sports complex decide whether the Napa campus has enough buildable land for such a project, and if so, how many fields are needed and which ones are most important for campus athletes, according to Arik Housley, a project team member and an owner of the Napa FC 1839 semiprofessional soccer club.

A facility built on college property also would likely include a new pitch for the team, which has played its home matches at Napa Memorial Stadium and Justin-Siena High School, he told NVC trustees.

Drainage issues like those that left NVC’s baseball field unplayable for months could dictate design choices at a NVC-based site, such as building some venues atop elevated berms and potentially using faster-draining artificial turf instead of grass, said Housley.

Housley estimated the cost of similar-sized multisport complexes at $50 million or more, although the funding model for the North Bay facility remains to be selected. Earlier, organizers in October suggested a public-private partnership could be used to finance such a project.

If accepted by NVC trustees, an athletic center may have to compete for space with another large-scale addition – an on-campus housing development. The board announced a special meeting for Aug. 22 to discuss that proposal, which is intended to attract and retain students pressured by high rents and minuscule vacancy rates in the Napa Valley.

Housley saw no snags in both projects coming to campus, only more opportunities.

“If anything, if the housing happens it would be a great option for exercise and activity purposes,” he said. “I would say it would be an added benefit for a housing site.”

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.