Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dereliction of Duty -- Indy Parks All About the 'Green'

Indy Parks is running roughshod over the neighbors of Bel Aire Park; renewing a contract with an out-of-county travelling soccer league that has not kept its promises in the past and runs the neighbors out of their own park on weekends. Indy Parks has made it clear that IT and IT alone decides what will happen in IT's Parks, and IT will do so without considering the neighbors, the 'Friends-Of' groups, or its own Parks plan. Even as it pursues cold hard cash, which will never be spent on Bel Aire Park where it is generated, Indy Parks is being penny wise and pound foolish, and failing even at making money.

A little orientation and a little history and I'll return to the misdeeds of Indy Parks.

Bel Aire Park is a neighborhood park situated just inside Wayne Township, off Kentucky Avenue with access from Tibbs Avenue, which by that point is just a little neighborhood street. It has a bowl shaped topography that totals 14 acres. Fewer than 3 of those acres are in a semi-flat area that is large enough to accommodate playing fields. It serves neighborhoods that abut it, both in Wayne and Decatur Townships.

The City Parks Plan, adopted in April, 2009, defines a neighborhood park thusly:

Neighborhood parks remain the basic unit of the park system and serve as the recreational and social focus of the neighborhood. They should be developed for both active and passive recreation activities geared specifically for those living in the service area. Accommodating a wide variety of age and user groups, including children, adults, senior citizens, and special populations, is important. Creating a sense of place by bringing together the unique character of the site with that of the neighborhood is vital to successful design. The neighborhood park is designed to provide the types of recreation one would expect to be able to walk to rather than be required to drive to. Neighborhood Parks offer small areas of open space and a sampling of park resources to service individual neighborhoods.

It further defines the service area of a neighborhood park as:

A neighborhood park is limited by geographical or social limits (maximum 20 minutes walking distance). The park primarily serves the local neighborhoods located within a radius of 1/4 to 1/2 mile of the park, without physical or social barriers to the boundaries.

In addition to many other types of parks, the Parks Plan defines 'Sports Complex' as:

The sports complex classification consolidates heavily programmed athletic fields and associated facilities at larger and fewer sites strategically located throughout the community. This allows for:
• Economies of scale and higher quality facilities
• Improved management /scheduling.
• Improved control of facility use.
• Greater control of negative impacts to neighborhood and community parks, such as overuse, noise, traffic congestion, parking, and domination of facilities by those outside the neighborhood.

and among other criteria for how to locate a sports complex is this:

Identifying-athletic field sites prior to residential development is critical too avoiding long-term conflicts.

So, that is the orientation. Indy Parks recognizes that neighborhood parks are there to serve the immediate neighborhood and that organized sports are best suited for larger areas like sports complexes due to their inherent conflict with abutting neighborhoods.

And yet, Indy Parks let a contract this past spring for a soccer league to use Bel Aire Park for 13 days spanning 8 weekends running from April 10 through June 5; taking up 7 consecutive weekends, one weekend off, and finally one day the last weekend. The total fee taken in by Indy Parks was $780. Of course, they didn't bother to inform, much less consult with, the neighbors and the 'Friends of Bel Aire Park' group.

There are so many problems with the contract it isn't funny. While the contract is with Matt Wallace for "Soccer - Adult" and "Central Indiana Amateur Soccer Association", which is an adult league, the players have been from MC United FC, which is a travelling youth soccer league, based in Mooresville and Martinsville, but which is trying to lure Decatur youth from existing Decatur soccer leagues that play at Southwestway Park's permanent soccer facilities. The contract notes an expected number of 35, while one hundred participants and fans are the norm. The contracts, as mentioned runs from April 10 through June 5, but was signed and paid for on May 12; after 9 of the 13 booking days had already been used. The hours assigned for each of the contract days bears no resemblance to the actual hours of use - with far more hours playing soccer than allotted for in the contract.

There have been many problems with the MC United FC use of the grounds, the major one being that it ends up pushing the neighbors out of their own park. It pulls in fans of their opponents, also primarily from outside the County. Parking has been so tight that these fans have been parking on the lawn and on the walking trail that runs around the field. They have left their six soccer goals up, keeping others from using the fields for other things during the week, and encouraging adult soccer fans to come use the fields after work, again crowding out the neighbors during the week. Allen McClendon, Senior Manager of Community Partnerships, eventually got Wallace to agree to a number of things that MC United FC would do, including pulling the goals off the fields and chaining them up (never happened), no parking on the grass (got somewhat better by parking on nearby private property without the permission of that property owner), and bringing in port-o-lets (which did happen). But, at a recent meeting between the neighbors (who also represent the Friends of Bel Aire Park) and Indy Parks, McClendon said that it was his decision, not the neighbors', and if the league violated just one more rule, the contract would be cancelled. Well, how many times does a group get to violate the rules when they should never have been granted permission to take over a neighborhood park to begin with???? It is absurd. But, evidently $780 means more to Indy Parks than its mission and the Indianapolis public.

And what about Bel Aire Park? How did it get to be an Indy Park? Well, the neighbors got the land donated by Martin-Marietta during a zoning matter back in 2000-2001. It had previously been drive-in movie theater called 'Bel Aire' before being acquired by Martin-Marietta. It was transferred to Indy Parks in 2002. Most of the improvements have been because of the neighbors. They used their influence with Martin-Marietta and Southside Landfill to provide labor and materials to grade and sod the field, put in a gravel parking lot, and fence the perimeter, among other things. The neighbors throw an annual fundraiser every year, the proceeds of which amount to $4000 - $5000, which is spent entirely on improvements in the park, such as a climbing rock, playground area, drinking fountain and walking trail. A shelter was erected as part of a deal between Martin-Marietta and Indy Parks, that MM would donate $25,000 of gravel for Indy Parks use anywhere and in turn Indy Parks would make an equal dollar improvement at Bel Aire. Joe Wynns, previous Director of Indy Parks, donated used playground equipment from another park. Bottom line, this Park would not exist, and certainly not exist in its current shape and condition, without the continued efforts of the neighborhood abutting it. It truly IS THEIR PARK.

But, they were not consulted before the contract to allow the soccer league to play was let. They were not consulted before it was decided to renew that contract for yet another 8 weekends in the fall. There was that meeting last week, but it was evident that the decision to renew had already been made and the real purpose of the meeting was to hope the neighbors backed down and agreed to not protest the renewal. That has not happened. Instead, the neighbors are frustrated and fed up. Talk in the neighborhood is to not hold any more fundraisers for the park they can no longer use. The fundraiser, a combined gospelfest/old car show/chili cookoff, is held the 3rd Saturday of every August, and it is too far into this year's planning to halt now. But, if the neighbors' dissatisfaction with the strong arm tactics of Indy Parks and the fact that they can't use their own park isn't assuaged, Indy Parks stands to lose $4000-$5000 in Bel Aire Park improvements each year --- all for the sake of $780 twice a year from a group that has shown clearly that it hasn't obeyed the rules set down for it and which clearly should never have been located at this Park.

If Indy Parks mission, and the fact that it is there to serve the public, is not enough for the crew that currently runs that Department, then you would think that they could at least come to realize that they are being penny wise and pound foolish. But, its all about how much money in cold heartless cash that can be wrung from public lands, not how Parks can be improved to better serve Indianapolis residents.


Anonymous said...

First off I am a Decatur resident and my daughter plays for MC United FC. I find your accusations against the soccer club and the travel program to be off base and slanderous. My daughter is 1 of about 5 girls on her team who are from Decatur and grew up playing in the soccer league down at Southwestway park and frankly we were looking for somewhere else to go rather then stay there in that league where it was less about developing the player and more about making money. I look around at the other travel teams that play for MC United and I see alot of kids who are Decatur kids who like me where looking for a better oppurtunity for their child. For a club who caters to only Mooresville and Martinsville kids I see alot of Decatur kids scattered throughout the travel teams in Decatur. I mean luring Decatur kids away from Southwestway? Like thats the place they HAVE to go in order to learn how to play the game of soccer is laughable. Thats like saying I can't shop at the Target in Plainfield because there is a Walmart in Camby I have to use since its located closer to me. And I mean come on...if it was all about the green then obviously the $4000.00 dollars the neighborhood donates is worth more then the $780.00 dollars the club pays to rent the grounds. On the news they stated that the grounds were always intended to be used as a sports complex since its inception in 2001. That means that if the neighborhood association is successful in pushing out the soccer club then Indy Parks will just place another sports program on the grounds in there place. To me it seems like its Indy Parks property and they will do with it whatever they like.

Anonymous said...

"renewing a contract with an out-of-county travelling soccer league that has not kept its promises in the past..."

Huh? Their recreational league is located in Camby (Marion County last I checked) and their travel is played at Bel is that "out of county" and what promises?

Had Enough Indy? said...

Southwestway has permanent soccer facilities, and plenty of them. There is absolutely no need to be foisting these fields on the neighborhood. Clearly, the Parks Department defines neighborhood parks and other sports facilities in such a way that it KNOWS it must protect neighbors from being run out of their little neighborhood park by organized sports. Yes, one can have a field, but it need not be for an organized group to rent.

As for FC United MC - they are from Mooresville and Martinsville and have played in Morgan County for some time. Camby, if folks don't know, spans Marion, Morgan, and Hendricks - the fact that they played in Morgan County/Camby does not make it a Marion County organization.

This Park should be left as a neighborhood park to serve the neighborhood that got it donated and who have made nearly all the improvements to it - not sold to the highest bidder for 14 of the usable 26 weekends of the year.

Anonymous said...

The south side branch of MC United was founded about 2 years ago. They started as a non profit Christian based soccer program who played their recreational games at Camp Camby which is located at Raceway Rd and Camby Rd. Right on the Hendricks County/Marion County line. Their recreational league is still ran there. Their travel division started about a year ago and the games were played at Friendswood Baptist Church (Marion County) and 1 field was located at New Life Baptist Church (Morgan County).

I figured this blog of yours could use a couple actual facts since you seem to have forgotten them.

Anonymous said...

Personally I still want to hear about the promises they haven't kept in the past....all she did with the reply was just throw the same crap in the article back out there for us to read twice.

Had Enough Indy? said...

The major point here is that this park field should not be leased out to any organization, especially for all this many weekends. The Parks Department clearly understands that organized sports groups conflict with the mission of a NEIGHBORHOOD PARK, which is to serve folks who live roughly 1/4 to 1/2 mile away. We have, again, Southwestway Park even closer to Morgan and Hendricks Counties, which is intended for regional use and which has a huge number of soccer fields. There are other sports complexes throughout Marion County that might also be considered. I can only imagine Morgan and Hendricks Counties also have Parks systems.

This is a neighborhood park, but the contract with this soccer league is crowding the neighbors out - just as the Parks Plan suggests should be prevented from happening.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the parks department representative state that the parks intended use since 2001 was to make it available for sports to be played there?

Well thats what they are doing. Sounds like the problem you have is with the parks department but yet you still find it fitting to drag the soccer club through the mud with your misguided post. What a shame....

Anonymous said...

The park was never inteneded for a playing field or sports complex. That is what the parks department is saying to cover their actions. This was not even a park in the beginning. I guess we should all lay down and move away because SOCCER League is always right. No ones opinion or concerns matter it is all about the soccer league. What a nice Christian attitude, I sure hope your not teaching that to our kids today. WALK ON ANYONE AND DO UNTO OTHERS WEATHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT.

Anonymous said...

I am failing to see how the soccer league is just running these people out of the park. The parks department signed a contract saying they could be there on the weekends. Its the parks department's property and within their power to do this and see this as a service to the local youth. Plus has anyone ever seen anyone with the soccer league kick someone out of the park and tell them to leave or something? This is a ridiculously stupid NON-issue that sounds like a group of whiners not getting their way.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Its far from a non-issue. You might prefer not to see it. But, the Parks Department is violating its own policy regarding neighborhood parks. Yes, they might have the legal right to do so, but it does not make it acceptable. They should be responsive to the needs of the neighborhoods abutting neighborhood parks and send renters to other locales.

The neighborhood has every right to protest being sold out of their park. And its not that somebody says 'go', its that there are so many people coming to the games, that there is no room left for the neighbors. While the very flawed contract somehow serves Park Department, one of the clearly erroneous aspects is that they estimate only 35 people for those weekends, not the hundred or so that show up.

Anonymous said...

AMEN.....Had Enough Indy. Evidently this soccer league has a guilt complex or has had trouble in the past from other parks. It is the Indy Parks that has started this ball rolling and who is the focus of the complaints. Maybe the Soccer league should be mad at the Parks Department for getting them in the middle. It seems like the neighborhood and surounding neighbors are upset about being lied to from INDY PARKS and Mr. Koven.

Anonymous said...

Anyone with any kind of common sense knows that there are more then 35 people who are going to show up for a soccer game. Hell a full sided game puts 11 on each side which gives you a total of 22 kids on the field. Couple that with the parents who drove them so that would put you at roughly 66 people give or take. I have seen the copy of the contract on the channel 6 website and the number 35 is on there but it doesn't say what for so or anything. Its like the scan was cut off there or something. Irregardless I believe there is plenty of room to share the park. Seems to me by the comments over there that its just a few possesive neighbors who feel some sort of entitlement to the park even though they don't own it.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the soccer league wouldn't want their name drug through the mud with slanderous misguided lies which have been stated in this blog. Understandable they would want to defend themselves.

Anonymous said...

What does the "MC" stand for in MC United FC...Marion County or Morgan County.

Anonymous said...

Marion County United Futbol Club

Anonymous said...

I work for the soccer club in question and I love the comments here on the false accusations you have made. They're hilarious. By the way I would also like to thank you, wrtv 6 and the indy star for the free publicity. Since all this has came out people have gone to websites and read what our members have wrote about how we run our soccer club and how proud the parents who are members of the club are to have their children affiliated with our club and I have fielded about 50 to 60 calls from parents wanting to sign their child up and I have had over 100 other kids sign up on the website.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to say that Matt Wallace is a liar and refuses to pay money he owes. He has said he'd meet us at a certain time to refund our money and then "can't be found". Then he says, The checks in the mail. And it never arrives. Then he blames Camp Camby, saying it's their fault, so he's going to write a personal check and send it. Another lie. So I'm inclined to believe anything negative said about Matt Wallace and MC United FC.

Anonymous said...

Matt Wallace is in his first year as the varsity girls soccer coach. Coach Wallace experiences include coaching jobs at Monrovia High School, Mooresville High School, Director of Coach and Player Development for the Komets Soccer Club, and most recently the MC United FC Academy out of Morgan county. Coach Wallace plans on bring an attitude of team first, improving individual performances, and self-discipline to the Lady Raiders soccer program. Matt currently resides in Plainfield, Indiana and is excited to be a part of the Cardinal Ritter community.
THIS IS FROM CARDINAL RITTER'S SITE! Note it said MC United is Morgan County United.

Anonymous said...

Matt Wallace has his hand in the cookie jar again, stealing funds from yet another club. First it was the Komets, then MC United FC and now Player Development Soccer Academy of Indiana. Yes, this convicted convict is at it again, stealing funds from parents that he has swindled into believing that fees go to a club (organization) to help kids become better at soccer when he steals the funds to support his lazy non-working behind. Get a job Matt!

Anonymous said...
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