Opposition is becoming more organized to a new Carrollton Boosters soccer complex that would take up part of The Fly recreation area behind Audubon Park, after a prominent neighborhood association voted to express its concern over the project, more than 100 people held a “Save the Fly” rally at the site on Sunday and the controversy is now drawing interest from the City Council.
The Carrollton Boosters received a tentative approval from the city’s demolition committee in early January to tear down the old cinder-block bathroom just inside the loop road on the Audubon Riverview park known as “The Fly” — a first step toward building a new $3 million soccer complex on the site. The new field will The sports field will also be used for lacrosse and flag football, and the complex will serve as an expansion of the baseball fields adjacent to it, the Carrollton Booster said at the time. The project will also require the removal of a large sculpture and a playground in the grassy area, though the Carrollton Boosters say they will be building a new playground as part of the athletic complex.
Since learning of the plans, however, a group of Carrollton neighborhood residents have begun expressing concern about the loss of the public green space that will be required for the new complex. Bill Ives and Cindy Morse met with the Boosters last week, and left the meeting more upset than before about the project, they told the Carrollton Riverbend Neighborhood Association on Thursday.
“The plans were worse than we thought,” Ives said. “They sincerely believe they’re doing something good for their children and the children of the Carrollton Boosters, but they don’t recognize the negative impact on the children of the city. I don’t doubt their sincerity, but they have a narrow vision.”
Association board member Drew Ward said he, too, was frustrated by the reduction in park space available to the public.
“In the past 20 years, we’ve seen the usable green space of Audubon Park in general go to next to nothing,” Ward said. “It’s one of the only places that’s free.”
After discussion of the issues, the Carrollton Riverbend Neighborhood Association voted unanimously to write to City Council and state lawmakers expressing reservations on the lack of input the neighborhood had about the potential loss of public green space in Carrollton. Association president Julianna Padgett said the neighborhood has not been given enough information about the project to take a position on the soccer complex itself, and that alone is cause for concern.
“That’s not opposing the project,” Padgett said of the association’s vote. “It’s opposing the process.”
Association board member Min Yang also proposed a picnic at The Fly, which was quickly organized for Sunday. More than 100 people had assembled at The Fly by shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, and many came and went throughout the course of the afternoon. Yang said he was surprised by the strong turnout on a holiday in such a short time, but said the association felt it needed to begin informing people about the upcoming change sooner rather than later.
“There’s a sense of urgency because we didn’t know when the bulldozers were going to arrive,” Yang said. “Next thing we know, they would have fenced it off and we would have been excluded. … The fact that so many people turned out is great, but I think more people would have turned out if we had more time.”
Not everyone who attended the rally was swayed by the activists’ arguments. Jim Reese, who coaches lacrosse at the nearby Avenger Field, said the opponents of the project are exaggerating the amount of green space that will be lost for the project — even with the new sports complex, plenty of room will remain for casual park-goers.
“As far as the expansion of the ball fields, I’m all for it,” Reese said. “You come out here any weekday night, and the place is teeming with parents and kids. I think there’s plenty of room for both.”
Among the attendees on Sunday was City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, in whose district the park sits. Guidry said it is not clear how much jurisdiction the council currently has over the project. The demolition request for the bathrooms received unanimous approval on the consent agenda of the Feb. 4 meeting of the City Council, and does not require further action by the council.
Guidry said she, too, still has questions about the project, such as whether the new bathrooms and playground inside the proposed complex will be available to the public. She said she’s also heard suggestions of an alternate location on the Fly for the complex, but does not know if those suggestions are feasible.
“That’s a question I’m going to be asking,” Guidry said. “I’ve had some interesting questions from the public, and I want to get those answered.”
Guidry and others will have the opportunity to pose those questions on Wednesday, when City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s Community Development Committee meets and hears a presentation by the Carrollton Boosters. That meeting is set for 2 p.m. in City Council chambers.
While strong opinions are being formed both for and against the project, park-goers on the Fly on Sunday said they see value in both the recreation facilities and the green space. Elizabeth Abboud, who has two children in Carrollton Boosters sports programs, happened on the rally by accident — she’d simply brought her children out for a Sunday picnic, and wanted to see what the commotion was about.
“This is nice to have. I think it’s great,” Abboud said of the baseball stadium. She then gestured back toward the green space: “But taking over the whole thing, I would be opposed to that.”