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A soccer net sits in the middle a spacious green field, where homes can barely be seen in the background. The picture is taken through a chain-lnk fence.

Soccer clubs say WCCUSD field rules are punishing kids

on October 29, 2023

Richmond youth soccer teams are struggling to hold practices and compete in matches because of rising field reservation fees and sparse access to outdoor recreation facilities.

Officials representing three Richmond soccer clubs say the scheduling system imposed by the West Contra Costa Unified School District has kept them from accessing fields and forced them to play home games in Berkeley and Alameda.

“It shouldn’t be this hard to get our kids to play soccer in Richmond,” said Samantha Torres, executive director of  Richmond Soccer Coordination Center, which formed last year to advocate for youth soccer. 

RSCC has been campaigning for a transparent and affordable field reservation process. And in August, it took its concerns to the WCCUSD board, spelling out the problems in a presentation. 

WCCUSD uses the Facilitron scheduling system to book its outdoor recreational facilities. The system allows users to select a facility and schedule a time for use. According to Torres, when Richmond soccer clubs schedule through Facilitron they are subjected to additional scheduling requirements by schools. Coaches are often required to email schools to verify reservations, but they rarely get responses.

Torres said Richmond soccer teams, on multiple occasions, have arrived at a field on game day, only to discover that the gates were locked.

Lisa Takeuchi, a soccer parent, said that facilities are sometimes unoccupied even though Facilitron shows them booked. Without a home field, Takeuchi said, RSCC teams have to play “home” games in neighboring cities.

Following the August presentation, WCCUSD board President Demetrio Gonzalez Hoy said the district would review the presentation and follow up with Torres.

District spokesperson Liz Sanders did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls from Richmond Confidential. 

Torres said meetings with district officials have been unproductive.

No lights or bathrooms

Torres said things changed between the soccer clubs and district after the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, she said, field reservation fees were affordable and field access was consistent. Richmond United, Richmond SOL and Richmond Rayados organized as the RSCC when their concerns were not being addressed.

“Once we started talking, we realized a lot of our issues with providing youth soccer were basically stuff that had little to do with our control and more to do with the resources made available to us, the willingness of the community and government to really step up and come to the table and meet with us to discuss solutions,” said Torres, who also is a Richmond recreation and parks commissioner. 

Senate Bill 1404 , the Civic Center Act, states that districts are only allowed to charge youth sports organizations for direct costs of facility use, which include maintenance. According to RSCC’s  presentation, janitorial and groundskeeping staff account for the bulk of these direct costs. It showed the total costs of reserving a field for a Sunday game are seven times what they were a decade ago — going from $28.76 per hour in 2012 to $226.78 per hour as of 2022.

According to the August presentation, the total costs of reserving a field for a Sunday game are seven times what they were a decade ago — going from $28.76 per hour in 2012 to $226.78 per hour as of 2022. Torres said it’s not clear why there has been such an increase, considering the district has funds designated for such purposes.

According to an engineer’s report by the WCCUSD Maintenance and Assessment District, maintenance of outdoor facilities are to be paid for by a $72 annual fee to each single-family home. That  fee generated $5.6 million for the district in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. 

Takeuchi said field costs and lack of availability have forced teams to hold practices at fields with gopher holes, locked bathrooms and no outdoor lighting — which becomes a growing concern as daylight hours dwindle approaching winter.

She said future practices may have to be paused without outdoor lighting and a proper soccer field.

(Top photo: An empty soccer field behind a locked gate at Kennedy High School in Richmond, by Wayne Gray.)

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