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City of Coachella breaks ground on park expansion; young athletes gear up for more play time

COACHELLA, Calif. - Overcrowding fields and signs posting "no soccer playing or practice on baseball fields," around Bagdouma Park in Coachella are what keep dozens of neighborhood kids at bay.

"It's frustrating ... it says no soccer on here and you've got soccer folks out there. It's like no one wants to kick anybody off the fields, and nobody should be kicked off the fields," said Rudy Gutierrez, president of the Coachella Youth Sports Association Little League.

They city broke ground Wednesday on a major expansion project of the oldest park in the city.

Over the years the size of the community tripled but the number of recreational parks stayed the same. Only 52 acres of park space are in Coachella, however, based on the population there should be nearly a 150.

"What that means is we have more people than the amount of park space. We're slowly moving to address that," said mayor Eduardo Garcia.

The 14-acres will include pathways for walkers, three new soccer fields, a football field, water features, playgrounds.

"When you get more field usage and see less crowding, people will feel a little more safe. The parks are safe, that's the safe zone for kids and families," said Johnny Ortiz, president of the Coachella Little Arabs Football League.

The expansion is funded by state grants and redevelopment bonds taken out in 2004. It's the first phase of the $3.5 million project.

When the six-month project is complete, young athletes can hit the field.

"Hopefully we'll be able to produce some athletes out of this area. We know there's potential, of course what was missing were these open spaces for them," Maria Machuca, board president of the Coachella Valley Unified School District.

Gutierrez said, "It's going to be good in the future here. It'll keep these kids off the streets, give them positive things to do and keep the community healthy."

With more people walking in the areas, the city will be putting in stop lights at the intersections near the park.

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