Each of the 30 Parks and Recreation Bond Committee members raised a hand Monday to vote in favor of separate funding for park improvements at McAllister Park and a new Little League ballpark, creating two distinct projects up for consideration as part of the $850 million 2017 Municipal Bond.

There are now 60 park-related projects on the proposed list and another nine were introduced by citizens on Monday. City staff estimates this list would cost an additional $14 million, which – if the committee agrees to fund them – would have to come out of other projects.

The next Parks and Recreation Bond Committee meeting has been rescheduled to Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. to avoid the Halloween holiday.

Transportation and Capital Improvements (TCI) Director Mike Frisbie said brief presentations on these projects will be made available to the committee to consider over the next few weeks. Project suggestions can be made by contacting TCI at  210-207-8022 or submitting an online contact form.

Capitol Park Little League‘s new $8 million field will not be in McAllister Park as previously recommended by City staff, a position the City backed away from last week. Dozens of community members voiced their concerns at the first bond meeting about losing parkland and wildlife to a private use agreement with limited public access. The City is working with league representatives to find a different plot of land in Districts 9 or 10 on the city’s Northside. So far, four have been identified.

The approval of the split did not come with a judgment on a dollar amount, and that decision will not likely receive the same unanimous support when it is taken up at future meetings. The committee seemed divided on whether to help fund Capitol Park Little League‘s eight-diamond facility with $2 million from the bond. Members did, however, agree on the need for some of the $116 million Parks and Recreation bond to go to various improvements to McAllister Park.

While the first meeting was dominated by citizens who signed up to speak against the Capitol Park allocation, Monday night saw several more who testified to the league’s positive community impact with a roster of more than 500 4- to 17-year-olds.

“We find that Capitol Park is a very worthy cause, but cannot deny McAllister Park such funds as well,” District 9 representative Patty Gibbons said.

Several committee members questioned the level of access that the public would have to a Little League park.

If an inner city child wants to play in the field, District 2 representative Charles English said, they would have to pay or receive a trespassing citation.

District 5 representative Phoebe Gonzalez suggested working out an agreement with the Little League to provide free programming.

Capitol Park President Rob Foster was open to suggestions.

“We’re open to other entities and we have formed partnerships with these folks,” Foster said.

Most little leagues operate on City land and are closed off for exclusive use and rentals. For 56 years the Capitol Park league has played at an eight-diamond field at Bulverde Road and Wurzbach Parkway owned by a subsidiary of the Zachry Corporation. The land is being redeveloped and Capitol Park was told it has until the end of the 2017 season to find a new home. The remaining $6 million needed for the new ballpark is being raised through private donors.

“We’re ready to put a shovel to the ground,” Foster said. “We need to find these kids a new home.”

Click here to download a full list of committee members, which has four other committees for Streets, Bridges and SidewalksDrainage and Flood ControlFacility Improvements, and Neighborhood Improvements.

Less than a dozen members of the hotel workers union Unite Here attended the meeting to protest the boutique hotel slated for construction on the edge of Hemisfair’s eight-acre Civic Park.

Unite Here activist Rober Lee holds up a sign that reads: "NO TO A HOTEL IN HEMISFAIR!"
Unite Here member Rober Lee holds up a sign that reads: “NO TO A HOTEL IN HEMISFAIR!” Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“Will that bond money go to fund the park or a hotel?” asked Unite Here Organizing Director Danna Schneider. “(We don’t see a) hotel as having any place in that urban oasis.”

City Manager Sheryl Sculley clarified: “The monies are not going to build the hotels,” Sculley said. “The hotel is not being built on the park.”

Rather, the hotel, developed by The NRP Group and Zachry Hospitality, LLC, will be built on a small parcel where the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center once stood before its own redevelopment.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at iris@sareport.org