Magnolia playfield project hits turbulence

"Don't block my view!"

"Soccer is king!"

These two messages were heard loud and clear by Parks Dept. workers at the third of three public meetings addressing slated improvements to Magnolia Elementary Playfield on 28th Avenue West between West McGraw and West Smith streets.

The Thursday, Sept. 22, meeting at the Magnolia Community Center, presided over by Cathy Tuttle from Parks and designer Mark Brands from Site Workshop, was characterized by a low rumble of discord and discontent as the 40 or so citizens in attendance peppered the presenters with a litany of questions and itemized complaints.

In fact, Tuttle at one point protested that Parks was not being driven by "greedy self-interest" when a Magnolia resident who lives near the park asked if a proposed pavilion was being positioned simply in order to "maximize revenues" for the city.

So it went, in a meeting where the project itself often got sidelined by discussions of process and motive. The facts are such: roughly 2.5 acres of land, which reverted to Parks property when Magnolia Elementary School closed down, has been slated for redevelopment with a $1.4 million chunk of Pro Parks Levy money.

The site includes steep slopes at the east and west edges of the parkland, leaving just under 2 acres of useable land. After meetings in April and June, Parks returned last week with its final design proposal culled from public input.

The design pitched by Tuttle, Brands and company locates a 1,200 square-foot pavilion, traffic turnaround and port-o-let bathroom facilities in the park's northeast corner. Central to the park is a playfield that can accommodate U-11 soccer (35-by-50 yards) as well as mod soccer and a T-ball baseball field with 60-foot base square. However, there will be no permanent goalposts or backstops.

Brands, one of the Site Workshop architects working on the park, said it's been his concern to create "maximum flexibility" for the space. "It's a multi-purpose field," Brands said, "not a one-dimensional sports field."

Also, there will be a playground located adjacent to the west side of the playfield. Magnolia residents Sue Allen and Audrey Schultz have headed up a new coalition, Friends of Magnolia Elementary Park, in the hopes of raising $80,000 for playground equipment. (Anyone interested in donated time or money can call Allen at 285-0410, or Schultz at 285-2904.)

Construction on the park is slated to begin in March of 2006 and completed by December that same year.

It was the pavilion and the playfield that caught the most heat from a handful of persistent individuals in attendance. A resident with a home across the park from West Smith Street wondered why the pavilion, the turnaround and the restroom facilities were all being "pushed" into a corner, thereby blocking residential views. Brands, who earlier that day had floated balloons to the height of the proposed pavilion, countered that the intrusion on existing vistas was negligible at best.

Various members from the city's sports community, including representatives from Magnolia Soccer Club, exhibited a grudging acceptance of the proposed design. According to one speaker, the limited U-ll design represented a "missed opportunity" for more field space, and someone else lamented the use of actual grass instead of artificial turf.

"We know there is a clear lack of practice fields," Tuttle admitted, adding that Parks currently is looking at undeveloped property at Smith Cove as a place where lighting and turf could be installed.

Brands indicated his design of the playfield represented the desire not to get locked into a one-dimensional use. "The last thing we want in this park is a permanent structure that interferes with free-flowing open space," he said.

Parking and traffic along West Smith Street were also a concern for some in attendance, as was the issue of drivers speeding along what has proven a popular "short-cut" route. Although Tuttle indicated there was little Parks could do to slow traffic - "some of the things are beyond the scope of this project," she said - she did say that the issue of parking was crucial during the design process.

"It's very important that we address where people park," Tuttle said. "We don't need a parking lot in the park."

She added that the park may prove a popular destination for viewing such events as the Elliott Bay fireworks on July 4, as well as a venue for outdoor concerts accommodating upward of 1,000 people. However, regarding future events, Tuttle assured residents that "the Parks Department doesn't have any designs on this plan right now.

"I think it will be a popular park, but I don't think it will be overwhelming," she added.

Concerned residents will have one more chance to speak out on the project when the board of park commissioners meet on Oct. 13. Written testimony on the project also can be submitted through Oct. 26 to Sandy Brooks,

The park board will meet again on Oct. 27 to make a recommendation to parks superintendent Ken Bounds, who will make a final decision on the design. No public testimony will be taken at this meeting.

The park still has to be named, too.

For more information on this project, contact project planner Cathy Tuttle at 684-7033 or

Rick Levin is editor of the Magnolia News. You can reach him by phone at (206) 461-1284 or via email at[[In-content Ad]]