Dream of fields

Local nonprofit outlines plan for sports complex

Jovanni Tricerri is project coordinator for Everybody, Healthy Body, a nonprofit group focused on building a sprawling sports complex outside of Chico.

Jovanni Tricerri is project coordinator for Everybody, Healthy Body, a nonprofit group focused on building a sprawling sports complex outside of Chico.

CN&R file photo

Finding the right place to build a massive sports complex wasn’t easy, says Bill Brouhard. The local developer serves as an adviser for the nonprofit group Everybody, Healthy Body (EBHB), and he helped the group look at 14 sites around Chico, considering everything from surrounding infrastructure to zoning and the price of land.

But most of all, the complex needed room to grow, Brouhard told the Butte County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Sept. 12).

“One of the criteria was how generationally significant this front-end effort could be,” he said. “Could we find land that would endow future generations the opportunity to develop recreational facilities that we don’t have today?”

It took years, but the group believes it’s found the perfect spot: a 264-acre property extending northeast from Highway 99 between Butte Creek and Estates Drive, and bordered by the Skway to the north.

EBHB is in the process of acquiring it at a price of $1.6 million, or about $6,060 per acre (a fraction of the cost of local commercial real estate). If the group’s vision for the Butte Regional Sports and Recreation Complex turns into reality, the area will become home to a multipurpose park complete with baseball fields, a soccer/football stadium, swimming pools, an amphitheater, artificial lakes, a senior wellness center, bike and pedestrian paths, a paralympic training facility and more.

Since the property lies on unincorporated land, EBHB eventually would require approval from the supervisors to move forward with development, said Paul Hahn, the county’s chief administrative officer.

As Brouhard emphasized, however, the group hasn’t made it that far yet.

“Right now, it’s just a conversation,” he said. “We’re not asking for you to support a project, because there is no project. It’s a vision, a collection of ideas from different community members and groups. … We’re trying to see if this concept can become something that benefits current and future generations.”

The concept has been kicked around for years but surfaced publicly in June, when EBHB made its initial pitch to about 75 stakeholders at Lakeside Pavilion. Members of the group outlined an ambitious plan to build a regional hub for youth sports tournaments, which they claimed would pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

On Tuesday, Jovanni Tricerri, the group’s project coordinator, led an informational presentation that required no action from the board. He said EBHB hopes to acquire the land by December, then enter the entitlement process and begin developing the property by 2020. The complex would be built in phases, probably over the course of decades as Chico’s population expands.

“We want the land to be available to our children and our children’s children,” he said.

Tim Taylor, superintendent of the Butte County Office of Education, said the complex could host science camps and expand outdoor learning opportunities for local schoolchildren.

“The next era of education is less classroom time and getting kids outside, healthy and active,” he said. “Anything we can do to get kids more involved in health and wellness is great.”

As envisioned, the complex also would add more than 30 acres to the Butte Creek Ecological Reserve and increase public access to the waterway via bike and walking paths and interpretive trails. Additionally, the early plans call for a second roadway connecting Highway 99 to the Skyway, to mitigate the impacts on traffic.

Of course, the big question is how to pay for developing the complex. Tricerri told the CN&R that funding would come via state and federal grants and private donations—not from city or county coffers. The nonprofit has raised $150,000 so far and retained a Baltimore-based fields firm, The Sports Force, to conduct a feasibility study.

Hahn said the project likely will come back to the board as a land-use issue, possibly requiring rezoning.

And that will be just the beginning.

“We will be talking about this for years to come,” Tricerri said.