Sale a threat to future of ballpark, official says

School district might vote tonight on sale of land on which Bucknell Field sits

lpemberton@theolympian.comJanuary 8, 2013 

The North Thurston School Board will discuss and possibly vote tonight on a real estate brokerage agreement for what officials describe as surplus property at 425 Marvin Road SE, Olympia.

But the district’s proposed sale of the nearly 16-acre chunk of land, which is known as Bucknell Field, would create a huge loss for the community, according to Pat Bucknell, president of the Lacey Athletic Association.

The nonprofit holds the use agreement with the school district; however, the park is managed by a separate enterprise.

The park’s five fields are used by hundreds of youth and adult softball and baseball teams from across the region, as well as several South Sound soccer, rugby and football teams, Bucknell said. For example, in 2007 the park hosted 3,800 games and served 180 softball teams and 120 baseball teams, he said.

Bucknell said he’s worried a new owner wouldn’t keep it as a ballpark.

“We’ve got one of the only all-purpose fields that’s privately (run) in the state of Washington,” he said. “… All of that would be lost to the community.”

In addition, the sale would break a 20-year lease agreement that Bucknell said district officials signed in 2000, when the park association was granted $30,000 for field improvements from the state Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation.

“We’re maintaining that use agreement, which was signed in November 2000, goes through October 2020,” Bucknell said. “Now all of a sudden the school district is claiming that the use agreement is null and void.”

North Thurston Public Schools spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve said the district receives $2,500 a month in rent from the park operators. She described the relationship as a month-to-month agreement. She said the organization defaulted on a lease that was signed in 2008.

She said the district wants to sell the property so that it can better address future growth in the district.

“It’s not really suitable for a school because it’s so small,” Schrieve said. “… It’s a matter of the district needing to purchase other, more viable school properties.”

Still, district officials understand the impact a sale of the property would have on the community, she said. So far, the district has received interest from two parties wishing to purchase the property and keep it as a ballpark, Schrieve said.

If the brokerage agreement is approved, the property could be listed on the market for $750,000, according to materials provided to the board.

Tonight

The School Board meeting, which is open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. at the John W. Gott Administrative Center, 305 College St. NE, Lacey. For more information, call 360-412-4418.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/edblog @Lisa_Pemberton

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