Field of dreams? Community members share thoughts on proposed soccer field on Brewery Flats

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

The Lewistown Bullets play in a soccer tournament a few years back. The soccer community in Lewistown is growing and the Lewistown Soccer Club is looking for a place to put a soccer field. Pictured are Bryce Denton, left, and Cooper Werdin.

Photo courtesy of Dave Rummans

Although it wasn’t on the agenda, more than a dozen people come to Monday’s City Commission meeting to talk about the possibility of a soccer field on Brewery Flats. Many were opposed to the field being at Brewery Flats and suggested there be an alternate location for the sport to be played.

Local Trout Unlimited President Mike Chapman started out the discussion, stating he and his board of directors feel Brewery Flats is “an unacceptable location for the soccer fields,” which he said is also the consensus of the [Big Spring Creek] Watershed Council.

Chapman has been very involved in the Brewery Flats area, and from playing a part in the reclamation of the area after the railroad left, knows that Brewery Flats is intended to remain a natural area.

Furthermore, Chapman said a $70,000 migratory bird treaty grant was given to Lewistown a few years ago in part for the work they did on Brewery Flats. Receiving this grant comes with commitment to keeping up the preservation work, Chapman said, and keeping the habitat friendly for birds and other wildlife.

But Chapman didn’t come to the meeting just to be a naysayer.

“In the words of my good friend Ron Moody, ‘when you are against something, you better find an alternative,’” he said. “I’ve talked to several other people and the manager of the airport. There is a likely spot over there by the Pioneer Power area. I believe we can develop a spot by the airport, and, if the wind is an issue, somebody can come up with some money and we can build a shelter belt…the beautiful area down there at Brewery Flats needs to stay the way it is. We can find another place for those soccer fields that is at least as good, if not better ”

Soccer parents encouraging the community to support the sport in town spoke up, as did neighbors of the Brewery Flats area. Andre Zollars, a proud soccer parent, expressed how beneficial the traveling team has been for her son. She said there is a lot of commitment to the program and hopes to see that increase.

Deann Blythe also spoke out at the meeting. Residing next to Brewery Flats on Valley View Road, Blythe said her main concern is that a soccer field on Brewery Flats would keep the sandhill cranes away from the area, which she said would be a great disappointment.

Furthermore, Blythe said there is a one-lane bridge on Roundhouse Road, and increased traffic would be extra difficult, that being the case. Another neighbor also chimed in, saying he is concerned about the noise pollution a soccer field would bring to the neighborhood.

Considering there is support for soccer and support for Brewery Flats, Ron Moody took a moment to unite the groups, as neither group is anti-soccer or anti-nature.

“We really need to segregate in our minds the subject of Brewery Flats and the subject of soccer,” Moody said. “We are going to have a soccer program in Lewistown. It’s going to have two to three good soccer fields. Lewistown is a good enough where we can make this happen. It’s regrettable this subject has come up at a point in time where the soccer club folks have already invested a year and a half of hard work trying to work through the process and find a feasible solution to their need…I would urge us to recognize that investment that’s already been made, but Brewery Flats is a unique and valuable amenity for the present and for the future of this community. Without discussing soccer at all, we need to come to the realization we have a diamond in our hands…and we should protect it.”

Moody strongly encouraged people to come together and agree “we are going to have a  world-class soccer facility” and “we are going to find an alternative.”

“Let’s get on with the world of finding the best place we can to get that soccer field constructed and the young people playing on it,” Moody said.

Laura Flugge, President of the Lewistown Soccer Club, said during the meeting the public getting so involved has surprised her, as the soccer club had only been having discussions and it was always their plan to get the community involved in the discussions after Thanksgiving.

“Our board has been working on putting a public meeting together and we want you to come, bring your ideas and suggestions with facts,” she said. “Hopefully we will come together and you can understand our point of view better as to why we chose Brewery Flats. There are other locations we’ve been looking at, as well.”

Flugge said LSC went through all of the necessary steps to put their proposal together. In  the least year and a half, they’ve gone to the Parks and Recreation District, the City Commission and now they want to involve the public.

“Check the Lewistown Soccer Club Facebook page for the date of the meeting and where it is to be located,” she said. “I hope we can have a calm discussion about this and hope to see you there.”

 

Other Business

Tax Increment Financing Board Vice Chair Charlie Pfau talked during the meeting about what’s new with the TIF Board, formerly known as the Lewistown Improvement District (their name change was approved by the commission during Monday’s meeting).

Pfau said the District is currently putting together a reserve fund.

“Eventually with that reserve fund, we can build it every year and then turn the funds over to Snowy Mountain Development Corporation or the Central Montana Foundation. Right now, the reserve fund totals around $100,000. There are some interesting things happening within the district now, which could lead to quite a bit of money in the future as far as taxable value is concerned.”

The TIF Board is going to be more active next year, as they will start accepting applications for funding projects in January and will start awarding funds as early as mid-March.

City Commission Chair Dave Byerly also expressed excitement and enthusiasm for the TIF Board. He also explained how it works for those in attendance who were unfamiliar.

“The TIF District is a designated downtown area identified by the City where we would all like to see more vibrancy and improvements,” Byerly said. “The commission – working with staff – established the TIF District as a designated geographic area. No one is paying any additional taxes, but, within that district, when there is an improvement, instead of an increase of taxes going to city, school and county, it goes to the TIF District.”

Byerly said other communities around the state and country have seen TIF Districts bring “real improvement, energy and development” and he believes the TIF Board in Lewistown will be able to have similar success.

•  Commissioners approved Casino Creek Concrete with the 2016-17 gravel bids. Interim City Manager Holly Phelps said Casino Creek was the only bidder. The cost of the project depends on the work that is needed and is subject to change.

 

 

 

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