Soccer organization makes a play for golf course
MSI proposes multimillion dollar complex including two grass, four synthetic fields at Sligo Creek facility; Frisbee also being considered
Montgomery Soccer Inc. is proposing two grass and four synthetic fields covering a third of the 65-acre plot at 9701 Sligo Creek Parkway. The synthetic fields would include light fixtures up to 60 feet tall, said Doug Schuessler, executive director of MSI, which serves about 14,000 youth players in the county.
It would be a multimillion dollar project, Schuessler said, with MSI willing to "participate significantly in the cost of construction and maintenance of the fields." Through use from MSI players and possibly schools and the county's rec department, the fields would add much needed soccer fields to the downcounty area. Existing fields in the area experience heavy use. The Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, which offers several fields, is far removed from the downcounty area, Schuessler said.
It would cost roughly $250,000 to install a grass field and between $600,000 and $1.2 million for each synthetic field, which have lower maintenance costs and provide better quality, he said.
Schuessler made the announcement at a June 23 town hall meeting hosted by the North Hills of Sligo Creek Civic Association. Residents at the meeting were concerned about the cost of such a project now that the land will be operated by a county agency. They also were concerned about the environmental impact. A few years ago the community rejected the Revenue Authority's proposal of a lighted driving range that would increase revenue at the course.
The County Council ruled in April that the county Revenue Authority would hand back operations of the course to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission on Oct. 1 because the course was ruled a financial drain on the county golf system. Park and Planning leased operation of four courses, including Sligo Creek, to the Revenue Authority in 2006. The Revenue Authority already owns five courses.
"If the community was opposed to a lighted driving range, why would we be in favor of lighted soccer fields?" Silver Spring resident Don Collins asked Schuessler at the June 23 meeting.
Schuessler said the fields would be placed close to the Beltway away from the residential area near the course. That area is the flattest portion of the course and would have the least negative impact during construction, which would take a full season, Schuessler said.
The Frisbee golf proposal lies on nearly the opposite end of the spectrum. An 18- or 27-hole Frisbee golf course could be installed quickly — within a week — and at nominal cost to the county — $1,000 per hole — said Brad Beeson, vice president of Bethesda Bungalows, a custom home builder that would help install the course.
The course would use the existing land unaltered and would be accompanied by an arboretum with roughly 400 new trees and a sculpture garden.
However it would likely be free to play the course, Beeson said, with the only revenue opportunities coming from sales of Frisbee golf merchandise and concessions. Beeson also said the county would likely be charged with the limited maintenance of the land.
Some residents supported the idea because of Frisbee golf's inclusive, inexpensive nature and the limited impact on the environment. But others were concerned that those who don't have an interest in a largely niche sport wouldn't benefit from the park.
Some residents at the June 23 meeting suggested using the land for both soccer and disc golf, with a third used for soccer and two-thirds for an 18-hole Frisbee golf course. Residents have also suggested a community gardens at the site, but that idea was not discussed June 23.
Last month, the overwhelming majority of residents at a meeting about the future of the course said they still want golf to remain at Sligo Creek. A Web site — www.savesligogolf.com — was launched recently, as were two Facebook groups.
To keep golf at Sligo Creek the Revenue Authority would have to agree to an amendment of its lease and M-NCPPC would have to determine a golf course wouldn't have the same drain on taxpayers as it did on the Revenue Authority, said Rachel Newhouse, the project coordinator with the county Department of Parks.
Sligo Creek will still operate as a golf course this summer, but there is a clause in the lease that prohibits Sligo Creek from operating as a golf course if the Revenue Authority feels it will compete with its existing courses.
A public hearing before the county Planning Board is scheduled for July 16 to review the schedule for the reuse plan but not actual alternatives. After that, the county Parks Department will determine which proposals it would like to see in greater detail and if a golf option is possible, Newhouse said.
The County Council has final say on how the course will be used.