Mesa unveiled the latest plans for a badly needed new soccer complex that replaces fields plowed under for The Union office complex near Sloan Park in west Mesa.
But the location of the North Center Street Sports Fields complex, near Lehi at Center Street and the Loop 202, has ignited some controversy among neighbors concerned about increased traffic and other issues.
Vice Mayor Mark Freeman, a longtime Lehi resident who represents north Mesa, made it clear that the purpose of the meeting was to answer questions from residents, not to give them an opportunity to torpedo the project.
He noted that voters approved the fields as part of a 2018 bond package, which includes $196 million in improvements. The first of these projects, a new fire station in the under-served Eastridge area of east Mesa, is under construction.
“There is a responsibility to the entire city and therefore, this project will move forward,’’ Freeman said.
Freeman also nixed a rumor that had been floating through the area that a freeway exit would be sought for Center Street, calling it false.
And he reminded residents that the fields had to be moved for the city to pursue economic development opportunities near Sloan Park on strategically located land near two freeways and a major Cactus League venue.
Andrea Moore, park planning and operations administrator for Mesa Parks and Recreation, said the city has been looking for years to find an adequate site for additional sports facilities in west Mesa and moving the complex is not an option.
“We have a severe deficiency of fields in the City of Mesa and we have been looking for a site for many years. It’s difficult to find,’’ she said. “This is the only site big enough in west Mesa.’’
Moore said all five multiuse fields will be lit, with a modern system that focuses light well and minimizes the bleeding of lights into other areas.
The facility will only be open for those with advance reservations to practice at night during the work week and for youth league games on weekends.
It will not include a scoreboard, bleachers or concessions, although a space for food trucks will be provided for busy times during the weekends.
At one point, more than 100 people were attending a Zoom conference with city officials last week, peppering them with questions that reflected a split between those excited about new sports fields and others worried about traffic or even attracting urban camping by the homeless.
Curt Albright, spokesman for Mesa’s Engineering Department, said officials have tried to placate residents by reducing the number of fields from six to five, installing landscaping and locking the facility when it’s not in use.
City officials rejected such suggestions as closing Lehi Road at Center Street by creating a cul-de-sac or installing speed bumps on Center Street, calling them unnecessary and premature because they don’t expect a major traffic impact.
“We are very comfortable that there will be no traffic issues that will affect other property owners,’’ said R.J Zeder, Mesa’s transportation director.
“I think it’s too early to talk about closing off a public street,’’ he said. “I don’t think it makes sense for anyone to go through Lehi to reach this facility.’’
Officials said that traffic measures planned for the complex will “strongly encourage’’ drivers to use Center Street.
The site for the complex is 24 acres, north of Center and McKellips Road, and the project will cost $14.2 million. Construction is scheduled to start next summer with a grand opening in fall 2022.
Albright said the Engineering Department hosts the Zoom meetings in an effort to be transparent.
“I think it helped dispel from misconceptions and added some clarity,’’ he said.