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Parks and Rec

Longview kicking around ways to expand indoor sports options

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Longview kicking around ways to expand indoor sports options

Tennis pro Donnie Harlan is hitting balls to his class while others play a doubles match at the far end of the Mint Valley Racquet Club, but others think the space might be better used for indoor soccer.

A proposal to expand public access to indoor sports is getting some warm-up stretches at the Longview Parks and Recreation Department, and Mint Valley Racquet and Fitness Club may be asked to pick up a few teammates.

The pitch calls for an expansion, rebuild or renovation of the city-owned tennis and racquetball facility to offer indoor soccer, a walking/jogging track, volleyball and other sports.

But Don Harlan, Mint Valley’s contractor of 17 years and resident tennis pro, doesn’t see a need to fix what isn’t broken.

“We’re a functional, viable, growing business,” he said. “To institute soccer here, or a facility of such sort, would simply mean the death of tennis in Longview.”

The idea to convert the building arose in February, when soccer advocate and city employee Josh Johnson proposed four options to the Parks Board:

• Building a new facility near the Mint Valley club, one at Roy Morse Park or replacing the Mint Valley building

• Expanding the 25,000-square-foot Mint Valley facility

• Renovating the tennis area at Mint Valley

• Doing nothing.

Before anything can move forward, the city must launch a feasibility study — should there be enough public support to warrant one.

A public indoor soccer field is especially attractive for the city’s soccer community. Many youth and adult teams travel 35 miles to Salmon Creek Indoor Sports Arena in Vancouver to play indoors, Cowlitz Youth Soccer Association President Morgan Aberle said.

But Harlan pointed to the indoor soccer field across the river in Rainier — Genesis Indoor Soccer and Sports, which closed roughly a decade ago — as being an example of how an indoor soccer field just wouldn’t be feasible.

“If it was (feasible), you would see private equity take hold of it,” he said.

Johnson’s proposed framework initially sought public grant funding to commission a study. The Kuntz Grant he applied for — a city fund for capital improvement projects in city parks — doesn’t have money set aside for studies. However, the city is still looking to gauge public support for Johnson’s plan.

“An indoor sporting facility would improve the city’s capacity to serve all ages with popular sporting activities for each age group, year-round, and especially during the wet season,” Johnson wrote in his proposal.

He wrote that while soccer is typically played in all weather, “regular use of outdoor soccer fields through the winter is undesirable from a player’s perspective, and it will ruin them.”

Johnson declined to be interviewed for this story.

Parks and Recreation Director David Campbell said no official hearings have been set, but the process may start rolling in late spring or early summer. He added that a few people are expected to speak on the proposal at Monday’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in the Recreation Building, 2920 Douglas St.

“Right now if there’s interest in going forward with a feasibility study… I would want to see the cost of conversion or remodeling or expansion, and what the costs would be and who would pay for them,” Campbell said.

No cost estimates have been put forward so far.

Campbell said a private development company in the later winter proposed an indoor sports complex in the fairgrounds area, but nothing has moved forward with it as of yet. Harlan, the Mint Valley contractor, said that a separate facility would be the preferable way to proceed.

“(Longview) needs diversity in what it can offer,” in terms of new businesses and residents looking to locate in town, Harlan said. “You’d just simply have more soccer and no tennis. The outdoor courts are viable maybe two or three months out of the year.”

Campbell said that his department is updating its general comprehensive plan, which will include surveys for public opinion on recreation and gather even more comments about a potential indoor sports complex.

“It gets to community values: What is the highest and best use of the existing facilities, and if there is higher demand for expanded uses, how do we go about accommodating that?” Campbell said. “Can multiple indoor sports coexist there?”

Brooks Johnson covers Longview city government for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-577-7828 or bjohnson@tdn.com.

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