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Full storm basins putting soccer players on sidelines

After years of record-breaking drought, recent rain on the Central Coast has been a welcome sight. However, constant precipitation is also have a bit of an impact on the Santa Maria soccer community.

“We’re happy to have the rain, but for soccer, it makes things difficult, especially for teams that are practicing,” said Ramon Ramirez, Santa Maria Valley Youth Soccer association incoming president. “They’re getting ready and they can’t go out there to get themselves prepared for tournaments.”

Currently, soccer is played in eight storm basins located throughout Santa Maria. During periods of significant rainfall, those basins become temporary bodies of water.

“They do have a dual-purpose,” said Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada. “Probably 80-to-90 percent of the time in a typical year, we don’t have water in the basins, so to leave them unusable for activities doesn’t make a lot of sense, so the city has taken the position that we should treat fields as retention basins during storms and then as open space during non-storm periods.”

At the Crossroads Open Space, the large basin typically holds several teams daily that are either practicing or playing games. Recently, the basin has been flooded under several inches of water.

“The storm drains for this last storm did their job,” said Posada. “They handled all the water that potentially floods into neighborhoods, and then it releases them in a metered basis, so we don’t have any downstream flooding.”

With water left to drain over a several day period, soccer is left on the sidelines.

“For people that really enjoy doing it everyday, it keeps them from having something to do,” said soccer player Alex Martinez.

Fortunately, Posada notes the turnaround from sitting water to playable soccer surface is relatively quick.

“Once the water is drained off, it usually takes two-to-three days for the surface and the grass to become playable,” said Posada. “With the winds, it dries it out quicker and if we get some sunshine it could a little quicker than that.”

The wet weather is causing a potential headache for the Santa Maria Valley Youth Soccer Association (SMVYSA). The organization is preparing to hold its 5th annual Strawberry Cup tournament. It’s expected to draw hundreds of players, families, coaches and officials from around the state.

“There is going to be an impact if we don’t have the tournament this weekend, because there’s already hotels reserved and they’ll have to cancel. This is an impact for everyone,” said Ramirez.

The SMVYSA is optimistic the tournament will be held since the tournament is scheduled for Pioneer Valley High School, where fields are not placed inside storm basins. In addition, sunny and dry conditions are forecast for the weekend.

Flooded playing surfaces, particularly at the heavily used Crossroads Open Space and Adam Park is emphasizing the need for a permanent soccer/sports facility according to local soccer officials.

“Hopefully we can have that instead of basins,” Ramirez said. “That would be very helpful for our soccer community and sports especially because we try to keep the children active.”

Last year, a group of community members took the first steps towards creating the “Santa Maria National Soccer Complex,” a proposed multi-million dollar sports complex that would house up to 20 fields.

“Our basins are getting full and spreading the water where it’s needed,” said Ramirez. “But if we have our complex, everybody is happy, we need that soccer complex.”

In addition, the city is also in the process of building a smaller athletic field facility on the corner of Stowell and Depot Streets.

Posada notes the city has applied for a state grant to help finance the project and should know its status within a few months.

Posada also warns those who might be tempted to use the basins for any kind of recreation should avoid them. City code currently prohibits anyone from using them.

“These are bodies of water when they’re full.,” said Posada. “They are dangerous. We have had individuals that want to bring their kayaks down or their Jet Skis and ride them around when they’re full, but we really discourage that. It’s not a safe practice.”

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