Letter to the editor: Candidates — we need more field space for youth sports


As parents of children in youth sports, we would like to know where all of the candidates – school board, city council, and mayoral – stand on supporting youth sports and improving the facilities on which our children grow, play and compete.

Children participating in youth sports are more likely to experience improved health benefits, improved emotional and psychological health, improved academic performance and an improved sense of overall well-being. Sno-King is the local recreation, non-profit entity serving Edmonds. There are more than four thousand children playing youth sports within Sno-King alone and 90% are from the Edmonds School District. Enrollment continues to increase by double digits for flag football and soccer in just the last year. It is becoming more and more challenging to find field space especially when we spend so many hours in darkness in the Pacific Northwest.

We are NOT asking you to address crumb rubber in response to this letter as we understand the issues associated with that material. We welcome further research and alternative in-fill options if a moratorium on crumb rubber persists, as long as delays do not prohibit the ultimate goal of increased use.

The commitment we are requesting is to support our youth in Edmonds by enabling more hours of play. Will you as a candidate commit to partnering with local non-profits such as Sno-King Youth Club and parents to pursue tactics that help increase the utilization of our current fields such as lights and field maintenance, and build new fields in underutilized spaces?

Sno-King Youth Club Parent Committee for Field Improvement
Sarah Jones, Tim Schell, Tom Schappacher

37 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Candidates — we need more field space for youth sports”

  1. Yes – we need more fields and lighted fields for our kids! Finish the former Woodway field renovation and add lights!


      1. I would wholeheartedly agree that we need to research options for more field space, but be careful about jumping into lighting the Woodway project. I know from seeing other similar fields that that type of system causes serious light pollution and would dramatically affect the neighbors as well as many birds on migration routes etc. Are you there other options in Edmonds? Those fields are already heavily used.


        1. Echoing the comments supporting the need for more sports fields. With soccer football and lacrosse becoming more popular and at younger ages the need for playable fields has become urgent. It’s Almost as bad as finding basketball/ volleyball courts. My sons hoop teams Can never get time in our local community gyms for scheduled practice or even pickup games. Many spots are using indoor courts now for more than basketball…it’s for pickle ball, futsol , indoor soccer volleyball, indoor toddlers playgrounds etc during the wet rainy winter months. I’m great ful to have my kids busy playing sports and not running the street or on their electronics devices but it’s getting harder and harder to find places to keep them active where your not sharing a court or field with 3 or 4 other teams! It only allows for team to work on drills it’s not adequate to a full practice when you are sharing space with so many other teams.

          I’d love to see more than lip service on fixing this need.


  2. Thank you for writing this article. I fully support the pursuit of better facilities for our community. Having coached in the community for many years, I am surprised by the quality of our facilities and the challenges we face to get court and field time. The staff at the Sno-King office do a great job making everything work under the circumstances.


  3. My son practices on a single field with at least SIX other teams. One field. This is so hard. Especially when we see the adjacent field (Meadowdale complex) with only 2 teams. Explaining the inequity is difficult, learning positions on an overcrowded field is even tougher.


  4. Please add more lighted youth fields. SKYC does a great job facilitating their youth sports, but without additional fields, our teams will continue to try cram 6 or more teams into one field.


  5. As a third generation resident of Edmonds and someone who not only has two children who participate in SKYC sports, but also did so myself in three sports growing up, I can say that the field capacity and resources has significantly decreased while the demand has significantly increased. Additionally, my son’s teams have found themselves not only sharing 1/4-sized fields with other teams, but my 7 year old has been forced to have practices that don’t end until 8pm due to lack of field space, yet have practices canceled due to no lights. Not only are we impacting our children’s ability to practice sports, but we are also impacting their ability to have reasonable practice times to support their school weeks.
    With team sports driving such a large positive impact on our children’s development and childhood memories, I struggle to see much that would justify NOT improving the state of our fields. Please consider our cries and find ways to help our children!


  6. Yes! We need more options for field space for our youth. We need more lit fields in the fall for outdoor sports. I have lived next to a stadium for years and always welcomed the lights and cheering crowds as it meant there was some positive youth outdoor activities going on. The benefits certainly outweighed the downside, like the noise, lights and heavy traffic on my Street. So what? What would you rather have the kids doing? Let them play and watch sporting activities!


  7. Thanks for making me aware of this issue.

    There are several ways to solve this, and your idea of lighting existing fields is a good one. Adding more fields would be another.

    It has been a while since I read the article about the County Park renovations happening in Esperance. Does anyone remember if there are any play fields coming in there?

    While I prefer to be outside whenever possible, we should also be considering an indoor sports facility. We do get a long rainy season here…. The Verdant Health Commission had a lead on a potential site for one a few years ago, and they were excited about the prospect of bringing such a facility to the South Snohomish County community; sadly it didn’t pan out, but it has never been off my radar as a “want”.

    Do you see that as the ultimate? Or do you think that lighting the fields is fully adequate?

    Vivian Olson,
    Candidate, Edmonds City Council Position 5


    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Vivian!
      The largest, most immediate impact would be completing Phase I of the athletic complex at former Woodway by installing lights. Next, completing Phase II and III of the project would provide two or three more fields. Our understanding is that Esperance Park will add one grass soccer/multi-purpose field space to accommodate up to 12 year old size games (different size fields for different age kids) and no lights. The field will suffer the same fate as other grass fields after heavy use and rain, but it is some limited space for younger age groups.

      We wholeheartedly agree about indoor space. This is where it’s clear that ALL sports have a major need. Currently, different sports and leagues have to duke it out for space. If we all work together to find both indoor and outdoor solutions, we will all benefit. Also, great to hear about Verdant’s efforts; we are reaching out to them.

      Sadly, the city doesn’t own much field space and the moratorium on crumb rubber fields has paralyzed forward movement on outdoor fields for the past four years. In the meantime, land and construction costs have skyrocketed and open land has become more scarce. The crumb rubber debate is valid, but we did lose major ground. Surprisingly, the City of Edmonds doesn’t own or control many playfields relative to our city’s size; therefore, youth sports are very dependent on the assets of the school district. Parents now drive their kids North, South and East to areas where they have invested more into their youth sports infrastructure. For example, FC Edmonds, the select soccer club run by Sno-King Youth Club (250 kids and headquartered on Main Street in Edmonds), plays all home games at Lynnwood High School in Bothell because there is no capacity here at home. Right now the largest youth sports field/area the city owns is Civic Playfield. Unfortunately, the plan is to drastically reduce what you see now to approximately half of the capacity for youth or adult full field games. We don’t feel as though the sports community was effectively heard during the process and therefore lost capacity to the myriad of valid competing interests for “Civic Center”. That ship may have sailed, but hopefully the issue we are highlighting becomes a priority and we can all work together to keep up with our region. Thanks again for hearing us out and for the great questions! We look forward to continuing these conversations, finding the best solution, and taking action soon.


    2. You raise some great questions Vivian.

      As I sit at home during the rain on a Sunday afternoon I am reminded of the tremendous success and expansive growth Arena Sports has enjoyed over the past 20 years by addressing the weather, multi- sport and scheduling concerns with privatized indoor facilities. We clearly have a gap in our community to solution for but I’m hesitant to say “more playing fields” is the answer.

      1- one commenter mentioned that schools (that are tax payer funded) are charging back sno-king and other leagues for field usage. Where’s the accountability if there is an additional cost being passed back to the taxpayer?

      2 new fields are nice but I am concerned when we say green spaces. We have some hard core environmentalists running for council and while they play an important role They need to pay serious attention to the material they bring to light without hitting a wall on their issues everytime. That means balancing green spaces, parks, play fields and the like with using tax dollars that don’t presently exist to fund these efforts as well as take private land and turn it public. There’s also staffing and scheduling and maintenance to consider that people seldom think about. I am not sure your Laura Johnson’s or Susan Paines are the best versed to consider the trade offs.

      In the end the we need to look at stewarding the resources we have, or securing new ones through the strategies with the greatest shared benefits which may not necessarily be publicly funded or may cause some minimal disruption.


  8. As a coach of two pacific little league (PLL) softball teams, I have first hand experience with the difficulties of finding a dry, clean, and suitable area to practice (especially in our darker months). There just isn’t enough usable space to go around!

    In the short term, we can do some simple things like improving drainage, adding lights (where appropriate and after neighborhood input), and improving park maintenance.

    In the long term, we should be on the lookout for additional park space. Working to improve the quality of life of our existing citizens is a priority of my campaign and will be my top priority if elected to Edmonds City Council.


    1. Nathan- Thank you for your engagement and support on this topic. We look forward to discussing with your further.


  9. Yes please – three kids playing and my husband volunteering coaching on fields around town 3-5 days a week this time of year – I can tell you fields with lights are a commodity. With more and more kids playing youth sports (yay) we need to meet these needs – and this field – with the lights already wired – seems like a no brainer.


  10. When doing some work for ESD on building uses it was clear the district was willing to work with communities to provide ways to use their facilities by the public. Sometimes it took a communities financial involvement to pay for some of the costs of the facility. I recall some agreements that were moving forward with ESD and Edmonds dealing with the uses of the old Woodway HS facilities and the Meadowdale facilities. I recall Edmonds actually taking on some scheduling duties for some facilities. For some reason those agreements did not fully materialize. Did the crumb rubber decision by the council have a role in these agreements not coming together? Or was something else at play?

    Lights always sound nice unless one lives nearby and then politics often comes into play. The fields at the Anderson center are ripe for adding lights, and we even have solar panels right near by. It would be curious to know what if anything was ever discussed about lighting that field.


    1. Darrol, as well as Jim below, are correct about the Tri-Party “interlocal” agreement between the city, the school district and Verdant. The City withdrew and lost its rights to use or revenues from the Woodway athletic complex project. Lights at Frances Anderson park wouldn’t likely be a fruitful effort since it is a small grass field and used for so many different things.
      We look forward to working with the new city council, school board and mayor to reinvigorate an effort to “tackle” this issue.


  11. I think Darrol might be on to something good here. I live fairly close to Anderson and would have no objection to lights there. On the other hand I have great friends who live right next to the field and I would never support anything that would hurt their quality of life. I can’t think of anything objectionable about having lights there, however. Lighting just generally tends to discourage unwanted and secretive activity in public places.


  12. Sea-King definitely needs more space. Youth soccer really works best on turf. The size 3 ball roll poorly on grass. Sierra Park was a mud fest, Francias Anderson’s too. City Park field is under utilized, needs to be rolled to get flat so it can be mowed short. Either pony up with pesticides and mowers, or recycle tires.


  13. If memory serves, Edmonds Parks and Recreation was once the scheduling authority for sports team use of ESD fields. The arrangement was also a source of income for the Parks Department and provided an effective, more fully utilized, use of the existing fields. It was a victim of the crumb rubber war.


    1. Good point about the lights. What’s the science say about crumb rubber and cancer? How does the environment feel about recycling tires? Is mowing and pesticides good? Is goose poop and mud good for our kids? Sno-King, please keep upt the great work and thanks for writing to everyone.


  14. Adding to Jim’s earlier comments, the Edmonds School District took over the scheduling authority from the Parks and Rec Department after the City Council voted to cancel their $500,000 contribution of the joint partnership of the Woodway Field development.

    The last time I inquired, the School District collects revenue in the low six figures from the field rentals. This is a missed opportunity by the City to add to revenue to the bottom line and increase sports tourism. If lights were added, the revenue would greatly increase as the highest demand is in the winter months for soccer and football.

    It is imperative the Council examine the fiscal impacts of their decisions and be transparent about the costs to the citizens and the bottom line.


    1. A lacrosse team is developing for Edmonds too (go Edmonds Eagles). Turf is key as it works on the winter time (grass really doesn’t), and turf field games don’t get shut down as often for rain. Compare former Woodway field with any grass field, in terms of usage and environmental responsibility. Light it up too.


  15. Thank you for raising this important issue. From addressing childhood obesity to mental health issues like depression, youth sports access is vital for children to have a healthy childhood. I think that we need to ensure that fields are properly lit and that fields and courts are maintained and usable.

    I grew up playing tennis, and we often got rained out. Because of the weather in the Pacific Northwest, some children can only play their favorite sports in spring and summer, and more privileged children have access to indoor courts and fields to play their favorite sports year round. I would like us to level the playing field by exploring the possibility of an indoor facility for Edmonds teams and youth to enjoy regardless of weather.


  16. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I am a strong supporter of youth sports and its many benefits for our students and our community. While folks have spoken with me about many issues as I’ve been running for the Edmonds School Board, this is the first I’ve heard of these concerns.
    I am glad to hear that the school district has been working with the city and the athletic organizations to try to improve the availability of fields for youth sports. I will need to spend some time digging into the various plans on the table to better understand the challenges that have been hindering progress.
    I would be happy to meet with members of the Sno-King Youth Club Parent Committee for Field Improvement to learn more about this situation. Please let me know if such an opportunity is possible.


  17. As a parent of a teen who plays sports, I am familiar with the shortage of field space, as well as other teen-centered activities in Edmonds. As a parent and as a candidate, I am a proponent for providing adequate physical and social activities for our preteens and teens.

    As such, I would be open to exploring options to increase field space and playing time, while keeping in mind the potential limitations regarding light pollution and the effects on nearby neighborhoods and/or sensitive wildlife.

    Furthermore, with our growing awareness of the risks associated with concussions, particularly in youth, I would propose that field quality and maintenance- including frequent aeration and overseeding for natural grass, and superior padding for turf fields- should be a top priority.

    To answer your question: yes, I would commit to partnering with non-profits and parents to pursue tactics to increase the utilization of our current fields as well as new fields in underutilized spaces- in fact, I would welcome the opportunity.

    Moving forward, there should be community-wide outreach, with an opportunity for all stakeholders to weigh in and contribute to the conversation. This will provide widespread feedback on the full range of needs, as well as the potential impact- both positive and potentially negative- of any actions under consideration.

    I appreciate the opportunity to answer and I thank you for your work to foster the love of sports for kids in our community.

    Laura Johnson
    Candidate Edmonds City Council, Position 7.


  18. Thank you for presenting this question/issue.

    I certainly support and would advocate for added/improved lighting at our sports fields. We also need to install them in such a way to prevent the types of theft that recently happened at Edmonds Stadium.

    The availability of field space will, unfortunately, always be an issue (supply vs demand). That being said, it would be wonderful to look into an indoor field space that could also be part of a mixed use or redevelopment projects that may come down the pipeline.

    You hit the nail on the head when you speak of partnering with local nonprofits to mitigate the issue. This would also lead to opportunities to collaborate with corporate/business partners in the community who also want to help. It’s better to have a coordinated group of stakeholders making the approach than it is to act individually (and saves on resources as well).

    Alicia Crank
    Candidate: Edmonds City Council, Position 5


  19. I have been coaching in the Edmonds area with Sno-King for the last 4 years and I can attest to the fact that we need more fields, but we also need more fields that are lit. Sno-King services thousands of kids, all of who are coached by parent volunteers. These volunteers are often times rushing from their jobs to to get to practice, fighting through traffic, skipping meals and devoting themselves to helping kids lead healthy and rewarding lives as athletes. The least we can do as a city is find ways to bring lights to fields as well as develop more so that these coaches do not have to cut their time with their team short or cancel practices altogether because the darkness of fall has come to the PNW. I myself have found that in order to have access to a field with lights I have to share space with four or five other teams which leaves a corner (a fourth, fifth or sixth) of a field to work with. It is unfair that these kids are not able to have a quality experience as we try to accommodate other teams and not encroach on their area. It also is not safe. We have had balls come flying in and almost hit our kids a number of times. If we had more lit fields we could not only provide safe and adequate space for our youth to grow and develop in their sport but we could also show our volunteer coaches that they are cared for and will be taken care of as they pour into our younger generations. Please do something about this for all of us in this community. Please make it a priority.


  20. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about this community need.

    As a person who came to sports later in life, I understand and enjoy the health benefits and community relationships that come from organized sports. It’s great to hear that we have so many kids using the fields and I agree that it’s time to focus on adding more playfield options.

    I’m fully in support of improving the existing facilities with lighting and doing the necessary field work. I’d support both grass and turf fields with environmentally friendly infill material. Some of the other important elements would need to include talking with the adjacent neighbors about lighting, and ensuring that the maintenance and upkeep are secured. We should also look at where we can add more options for fields and indoor sports.

    It’s time to get this project underway, and non-profit partnerships will be a key to its success. It’s been four years since we’ve had this community discussion and there are more options and better science now.

    I will leave a couple of links here:
    – One about crumb rubber infill from the Dept of Health — at the bottom of the page, there is a report from Massachusetts on athletic playing field options, and
    – A resource on bird-friendly lighting.

    With appreciation to Sno-King YC for bring this discussion to a wider audience.

    Susan Paine, Candidate
    Edmonds City Council, Position 6


  21. The EPA released part one of it’s study on Crumb Rubber in August. Part 2 is supposed to come out this year. There is no risk assessment completed as of yet.

    With that being said, here is a quote from the Washington Department of Health Study:

    “Is it safe for my kids to play on synthetic fields made with crumb rubber?

    Based on what we know today, the Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who enjoy soccer continue to play regardless of the type of field surface. Our recommendation is based on our investigation and the available research on crumb rubber which currently does not suggest it poses a significant public health risk. Assurances of the safety of artificial turf with crumb rubber are limited by the lack of adequate information on potential toxicity and exposure.”

    That’s the DOH – now will science come out later that may challenge this? Sure.

    My questions for Council and Staff are (I think I asked the same questions when the crumb rubber argument came up a few years ago):

    1. What is the cost comparison between a well maintained outdoor facility with natural turf and artificial turf?
    2. What is the cost comparison between organic infill (cork, coconut husk), perceived safer infill (coated silica, Nike Grind or others) and crumb rubber?
    3. What space is available currently in the City or School District or Public Domain that could be leveraged for a multi-use field development and what agreements could be leveraged between all three to create a sharing agreement?
    4. What studies have been conducted to show what Parks are currently underutilized in their existing configuration that could be better utilized to fit a practice field or other use that benefits community sport?
    5. What is the current budget for field management and maintenance, and what do we get for that? Are there Service Level Agreements that speak to the quality of the maintenance and the turf conditions? Are there performance assessments on these contractors that signify that they are meeting expectations (again, I do not know if they are contractor based, regular operating costs within the budget, etc, but it would be nice to know so that we all were armed with the same information – we may come out of it with different ideas, but that’s the point of transparency in local government, right?)

    Those might give us a better idea of how much, how many, how soon, and where – and might let the public know what the City is up against when trying to provide adequate, safe, community friendly sport and activity fields that meet the needs of this Community. (And I played sports from the time I could hit a ball off of Tee, until the neck replacement about 8 years ago – and sports have played and do play a critical role in health, development, and the well being of kids and adults!).


  22. Great questions George. Answers would help us do some better planning. I recall the great work you did to find vacant land when the Economic Development Commission was researching the idea of relocating the police facilities toward Hwy 99 and freeing up their current location in down town. There were many vacant parcels in all of Edmonds. As we explore spaces for new fields, Edmonds has far fewer than our neighboring cities. It may well be time to develop a regional parks system to deal with the needs of all the folks in the foot print of the Edmonds School District. By default we already share all Edmonds parks that are special uses dealing with waterfront activities. From the dog park to the south to the north end of Sunset Ave it is all shared by all who live near by not just Edmonds. Edmonds Civic Park will also be a regional attraction.

    By sorting out the answers to the questions George poses and then looking at available space in the ESD footprint we are likely to come up with cost effective solutions that will serve us all. Creating a Metro Parks District was studied by a citizens group a few years back and it feasible to consider and it would have allow for creating dedicated funding for parks. Dedicated parks funding was and is a important item in our Strategic Action Plan. It may be time to dust off that ideas and she how we can create better solutions for all.


  23. Thank you for the opportunity to weigh in. I have run into this issue with my youngest child, who does Sno-King soccer. We arrived early to the field one day at the Former Edmonds-Wooday campus and his coach mentioned how we couldn’t be on the field even a few minutes early because of how strict they were about timing and how closely scheduled the practices are. Ensuring that every child in our district has access to the fields they need to play sports is an equity issue — and we know that youth sports are a crucial part of a well-rounded education, especially when we consider the positive health impacts that physical activity has.  Field space is an issue I am still learning about, and I would like to learn more before I put forward any specific policy changes. That being said, I believe these are the kind of community investments that we should be making. With community input and weighing the environmental and neighborhood impacts, investments in lights and field maintenance seem like a great place to start.  I would eventually like to see  an indoor sports facility, as our seasonal rain can make it hard for youth to practice various sports year-round. Anything we can do to ensure that all youth in our region have a place they can safely practice their sport of choice is a step forward. My gut says that to take this on with the greatest efficiency, we would need cooperation across multiple municipalities, local organizations, and businesses. I am confident that we can help address this issue with strong leadership and the cooperation of community stakeholders.

    If elected, I would like to meet with members of the Sno-King Youth Club Parent Committee for Field Improvement to learn more about this situation. Please let me know your availability after the election. Thank you.


  24. I used to play soccer when I was in 4th through 6th grade and played on a field in Sierra Park. A year or two ago, I watched my nephew’s soccer game at Sierra Park. When I played, the field was beautiful. Now, it’s not well maintained, with lots of holes perfect for twisting ankles, lots of puddles, and it doesn’t look nice at all. My niece and nephew both prefer to play on crumb rubber fields as they are smoother, easier to play on, and there are fewer injuries.

    Are we missing something when we say no crumb rubber fields because we think it MAY cause cancer but instead kids DO twist their ankles, knees, and get other injuries when playing on natural fields?


  25. Yes to more fields with lights and an indoor athletic field facility. It’s more important than ever that we collectively find was to get today’s youth physically active and socially and emotionally engaged with one another. Individual and team sports are uniquely suited in doing this. Let’s put money into preventing many of today’s ills rather than spending millions on medications, counseling and surgeries after they develop.


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