City officials considering recreation area expansion

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson The lake at the Clovis Municipal Course could be converted under Quality of Life task force recommendations into a family area with fishing similar to Green Acres Park.

Kevin Wilson

Clovis city officials have a dream recreation center in mind.

They just need money, land and another place to play golf — and they think all of them are within reach.

“We’re at the stage where we’re doing due diligence,” Mayor Gayla Brumfield said of Quality of Life task force recommendations approved Oct. 6 by the parks and recreation board. “This is our conceptual idea, and I think it’s very exciting.”

The idea: Shut down the city’s municipal golf course, and renovate the approximate 157 acres for more soccer fields, more softball fields, more walking trails, more family activities, more parking and more land for the nearby zoo.

The roadblock: The city needs a new municipal golf course, or nothing happens.

“If we ever got an 18-hole course, that would leave Muni open for a lot of the stuff we need,” Brumfield said. “It all would work together because that’s such a big piece of land.”

The city has long discussed the need for an 18-hole golf course, with high priority status in its parks and recreation master plan. That, more than a decade ago, spurred preliminary looks at Ned Houk Park.

“There were several issues that killed the project, the biggest one money,” City Manager Joe Thomas said. Now, city officials estimate it would cost at least $12 million to build an 18-hole course at Ned Houk Park.

The city’s idea is a little bit closer, both in distance and finances.

Brumfield said a more suitable option would be to purchase the Chaparral Country Club. It’s now listed on weichert.com through Re-Max Realtors for $3.5 million.

Brumfield, a longtime Clovis Realtor, said she has nothing to do with the country club’s current listing.

The move would leave fewer golfing opportunities in Clovis, but Brumfield said, “From what we’ve been told (by outside planners), for a town our size, 18 holes would be adequate.”

Parks and Recreation Director Bill Bizzell said Cannon Air Force Base also fills a golfing need with its 18-hole Whispering Winds course.

If the city purchased the country club, it could work on the following recommendations from the task force:

• Additional soccer fields, allowing for the city’s current youth soccer fields to become available for softball fields adjacent to Guy Leeder Softball Complex. The No. 8 hole, a straight-shot along Seventh Street, could have numerous fields without taking down many trees.

• Renovating the driving range into parking and additional zoo space. Bizzell said he often finds practice balls in the giraffe pen, and he’s concerned because the city just put down $15,500 to buy a male giraffe.

• Renovate the Hillcrest pool at the course.

“It’s not feasible to reopen the pool because it’s old and it’s shot,” Brumfield said. “The idea might be to fill it in and put in a splash park for the kids. If that’s too expensive, we could just do a pavilion … or a skate park.”

The adjacent locker rooms could be upgraded into public restrooms.

• Create walking and bike trails, using the current golf cart paths as a guide.

• Add a dog park, something Brumfield said she receives many requests to build. Bizzell said part of a fairway could simply be fenced off for the park.

• Converting the small lake at the course into a family fishing area, similar to Greene Acres Park.

• Renovate the Youth Recreation Building, which is separated by the golf course’s Hole No. 3 by fencing. That fencing could be taken down, Bizzell said, and used for additional YRB play areas. Bizzell said some asbestos work would be required, but most of the renovation deals with plumbing and heating/air conditioning upgrades.

“We have calls daily about a facility that the public can use for either family get-togethers, (or) quinceaneras,” Bizzell said. “It would be a great venue for the public to use. I remember back when that thing was in its heyday, the schools would hold dances there every weekend.”

Bizzell isn’t sure if a YMCA would use that building, but both parties have shown interest.

“A spouse at the Air Force base called me and said she wanted know why there was no YMCA here,” said Doug Nakashima, CEO of Central New Mexico YMCA in Albuquerque. “I couldn’t tell her why.”

The group has made preliminary visits, which Nakashima said were, “very well received.”

• Away from the complex, the city would like to add a second youth football field at Potter Park and add walking trails at Dennis Chavez Park.

The city is hoping all of this could be done for $5.5 million, and the money would be acquired by extending a gross receipts tax.

“We have a 1/16th bond that’s dedicated to parks,” Brumfield said. “The bond pays off in 2013. If we go ahead and re-finance the bonds and got lower interest rates on our bonds, we could pull out approximately $5.5 million.”

Thomas said the bond was originally used in 1999 to pay for the pool at Potter Park and various playground equipment at other parks. To receive the planned amount, a 20-year refinancing is the estimate.

That move, like any other, would go to the city commission.

Thomas stressed all of the ideas were only recommendations on paper, and might be years down the road.

Brumfield is hoping the plans could be realized sooner, noting the timing is perfect for such an idea with low bond rates and construction costs. She noted the Hull Street Overpass replacement bid came in $2 million less than expected.

“It creates an atmosphere for our families that would be second to none in the state,” Brumfield said. “It would really set us for the next 30 to 40 years. I can’t see that we would need to add a whole lot more.”