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Planning begins for new Bonita Springs soccer facility

Bonita Springs Soccer Fields.jpg
Marni fields located in Bonita Springs is currently a popular place for locals to play soccer. With the addition of a new soccer facility near the Bonita Springs dog park, many more residents will be in walking distance of a soccer complex.

The Bonita Springs Parks and Recreation department will begin making headway on a new soccer complex located on the east side of the Bonita Springs Dog Park.

The planning period will begin October 1 with $100,000 allocated from the City of Bonita Springs’ budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

The plan is for the complex to consist of one adult soccer field, three 9 by 9 soccer fields, a concession stand, bathrooms, and around 100 parking spaces.

The concept of a new soccer facility was initiated when former Bonita Springs Mayor Peter Simmons put $100,000 in the budget to search for land for additional soccer fields. However, finding a new 9-acre plot of land proved to be tough task.

“In a city that’s pretty built up in town, it makes it difficult to find that acreage at a cost that isn’t astronomical,” Bonita Springs Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Perino said. “That’s when we decided to look into our own city properties to see what we had and work with it.”

Although it would seem that utilizing land already owned by the Parks and Recreation Department would make an easier path to planning, Perino said that working with this plot of land will have its tribulations.

“This isn’t an easy piece of land, we don’t have a sewer to the property currently,” Perino said. “We also have gopher turtles on that site that need to be relocated as well as this property being a former trailer park.”

Since the area was once a trailer park, there are many concrete pads that remain in overgrown areas that would need to be removed. Perino said the Parks and Recreation team also needs to ensure there are no environmental issues in the soil below.

Since the budgeted $100,000 has not gone toward buying new land, the city will be utilizing the funds for early planning and reaching out to local residents to get their thoughts on the new complex.

“(The budget) is just for planning and early design so that would mean we would be doing public workshops with all the citizens in the surrounding communities,” Perino said. “Also, meeting with each individual soccer league so that way we know what their needs are so that we can make sure to build what we are lacking currently.”

Mel Briceno is a resident of Bonita Springs who feels enthused about the new facility.

“A new soccer complex would be great for the youth from elementary all through high school,” Briceno said. “We have some great players so not only will that help our community but the neighborhoods around that area can walk to the soccer fields instead of riding their bike or driving to the old soccer fields.”

Briceno emphasized how soccer is a big part of the Bonita Springs community and that everyone he has spoken to is in support of new fields.

“Everyone is excited. I have my son that plays and even friends of my own that play,” Briceno said. “Sundays in Bonita are about soccer!”

Councilman Jesse Purdon who represents the district that includes the new soccer complex is also in full support of the addition.

“Soccer is a big part of the Bonita Springs culture so to be able to add both child and adult fields in this area is perfect,” Purdon said. “The folks in Rosemary can walk to the fields instead of Marni and it will have functional electrical and water hook ups something that has been a long-time complaint for Marni fields.”

Not only will the soccer complex benefit those who love the sport, but it will also improve the experience of those who take their dogs to the next-door dog park.

“It will add more parking for the dog park, another constant issue citizens express a need for,” Purdon said. “Win-win.”

Perino is feeling optimistic that residents will show the city same enthusiasm for new soccer fields as they did for the dog park. Next month, the Parks and Recreation team will be hiring a designer to run public meetings and help make a design for what the residents want.

“We didn’t have any pushback for the dog park, and I’m happy it went that way,” Perino said. “I’m hoping we get the same response from the community to develop the other half of the property.”

This story was produced by Democracy Watch, a news service provided by Florida Gulf Coast University journalism students. The reporter can be reached at sjroesler9635@eagle.fgcu.edu.