By: Lance Jackson
This is something that for sure would be the largest in Kingsburg and surrounding areas until you get to the larger places like Visalia or Fresno. So we really view it as an opportunity for us and smaller communities around us. (Steve Safarjian)
On March 14th, 2021, the City of Kingsburg announced a partnership with the Safarjian Family Foundation for the development and construction of a regional sports complex. The city noted the complex has a preliminary budget of$42 million dollars, with funding coming from “a variety of sources including $25,000 each from Kingsburg Girls Softball League and the Kingsburg Youth Soccer League. Additionally, the city is seeking various private and public grants including$8.5 million in Prop 68 grant funds”. When I read the city release my first question was, “Where is the other $33.5 million coming from?” Apparently, this was also the question throughout the Kingsburg social media universe. While speculation raged, the City stood mute on the subject which further inflamed the situation…the idea that the citizens of Kingsburg were going to be saddled with a multi-million dollar community project while still reeling from COVID and the associated madness was completely irrational. Upon doing some further research here is what I’ve found…
… This project has origins in the early 2000’s when the city was looking for ideas to help invigorate the local economy. Looking at successes such as the State Shoot and the Swedish Festival, the idea of a regional sports complex was born with the idea that it could not only serve the local community, but also host events such as softball and soccer tournaments and other regional events. The central location of our city makes it a desirable location and people drawn to the events would boost the local economy. Over time, the city inquired on different opportunities to purchase land for the project but was unsuccessful, and the project remained idle.
“Enter the Safarjian Family Foundation; the Safarjian family has a long history in Kingsburg and a long history of civic involvement and generosity”
Recently, a 40 acre parcel at Stroud and Madsen became available for purchase, however, the city did not have any funds to do so. Enter the Safarjian Family Foundation; the Safarjian family has a long history in Kingsburg and a long history of civic involvement and generosity within the community, from working with CAPS programs in Kingsburg, Traver, and New London, to the little league’s Safarjian Field – just to name a few of their contributions. The Foundation made a decision to move forward on the land purchase with the intent of donating it to the city for construction of the regional sports complex. The city has only recently started on the process of procuring funds for the project and was likely premature in announcing the project and remiss in clarifying how they intend to pay for the project. The city should have approached the funding situation in perfectly transparent fashion, explaining this project was not going to be on the back of the local community and by explaining the grant procurement process and what grant opportunities are available. In the city’s defense, the intent of the press release was essentially to quash the rumors and speculation about what was going on with the land and what the city’s involvement was. It’s been painfully apparent the city did not anticipate the public’s response. In discussion with Steve Safarjian of the Safarjian Family Foundation, he advised it is not the intent of the project to burden our local tax paying citizens with this project, but for the City to procure public and private grant opportunities and donations in order to move the project forward. The Safarjian Family Foundation is also working towards a solution for the operating and maintenance costs of the facility in order to not have any negative economic impact on Kingsburg. In actuality, when the project reaches completion, with softball and soccer fields, a gymnasium, a health education facility, and tree-lined walking trails, the impact on Kingsburg will be very positive.