With a couple of soccer balls, cones and make-shift goals, the Manchester City team in Santa Maria makes the most of a game at the Simas Park.
“I play forward right now, and I like it because my idol right now is Ronaldo,” said Joshua Martinez, a player for Manchester City.
For years, youth athletes in Santa Maria have played with few resources.
“Minami park, we used to play indoors, but they used to kick us out because it was more for tennis,” recalled Miguel Cortes, the assistant coach for Manchester City.
Things could change with A state-of-the-art sports complex.
“Approximately a 19-acre site and the goal is to develop four soccer fields as well as parking and an exercise/ walking trail, there will be a bathroom and other amenities for the public to enjoy,” explained Mark van de Kamp, the City of Santa Maria’s public information manager.
The park will be located near Stowell and Battles Road. The project is moving forward thanks to a 6.1-million-dollar grant from California State Parks.
“It'll probably be a couple of years out before there is tangible, visible progress on the site,” said van de Kamp. “What we are going to do next is negotiate with the property owners for a fair appraised price of the land and continue to move forward with development plans.”
The City of Santa Maria has pledged $1 million and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors $1.5 million. The owners of the property are also looking at other developments on that land.
“About 1,100 new homes, which is a lot of people coming in, plus a new school and the new park,” added van de Kamp. “This would replace the agricultural operation that’s been there for many decades.”
As this is still a blank canvas, young athletes have a couple of ideas.
“I want to see goals to score, and I want to see fake grass, so you can play good. I don’t want to see holes because then it’s hard to play,” said Hiroshi Martinez, who plays for the Manchester City’s team along with his brother.
City officials plan to hold several workshops to get community input in the design and development of this project.
“It also needs more equipment,” added Oscar Morales, another player for the Manchester City team. “I hope that park has special equipment that you can borrow.”
It will not be exclusively for soccer though.
“Part of the plan would be to have some basketball courts,” said van de Kamp. “The goal is to include more activities for all of the youth.”
The City of Santa Maria says this complex could also generate money for local businesses if it is used for tournaments, which could potentially bring athletes from other cities.