IDAHO FALLS – A decades-old soccer complex in Idaho Falls will need to be relocated to accommodate future expansions at the airport.
During a public meeting on Thursday, Idaho Falls Regional Airport Director Rick Cloutier said that the Old Butte Soccer Complex on Old Butte Road is on land purchased by the airport with Federal Aviation Administration grants. It was supposed to be reserved for “future aeronautical use” and has since fallen out of compliance with that requirement.
“Anytime you take federal money, it comes with strings,” Cloutier told a crowd of about 200 people. We (agreed when we purchased the property) 30 or 40 years ago that we would protect the land for aeronautical development… and we’ve been notified that we need to fix it. ”
Regarding what the land will specifically be used for was not specified at the meeting but EastIdahoNews.com learned in a follow-up conversation that a specific use has not been identified. The main idea is that the land has to be available for future airport development.
Cloutier explained that individual parcels of land that now make up the soccer complex were purchased throughout the 1980s and 90s. The 73-acre soccer complex was dedicated in 1996, according to a plaque on-site, after several years of fundraising for it. It is heavily used throughout the spring and summer months by the Bonneville Youth Soccer League, American Youth Soccer Organization and others.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Director PJ Holm tells EastIdahoNews.com plans are in the works to move the 55-acre portion on Old Butte Road to a 40-acre lot next door to the west, which the city purchased in 2014. The 18 acres of soccer fields on New Butte Road will stay put.
The master plan is expected to roll out in the next three to five years but the actual move could take longer.
“We want to make sure that whatever turf we put together and grow for the new fields that we give it enough time to establish well to be played on for all that time,” Holm says. “It could be as short as five years over there. It could be as long as 10 years before we move over, but we’re going to start the process of what it looks like and get moving as soon as possible. ”
But if the land on Old Butte Road was owned by the FAA from the beginning, the question that remains is why the soccer fields were built at that location in the first place.
Larry Reinhart is one of three people who was involved in getting approval for the soccer complex from the FAA and the city. He and members of his development team invested a few hundred dollars for the project and gathered funds from various soccer organizations and the city so the project could move forward.
“The FAA approved it and the city got behind it. The soccer people put up their money, ”Reinhart says. “Personally, I contributed ground for the soccer fields. We contributed about four and a half acres. ”
Micah Brock lives in the neighborhood by the soccer complex and she says its proximity to her home was one of the reasons she and her family moved there. The idea of her backyard potentially being turned into a parking lot or a hangar for the airport is not something she’s thrilled about and she’s frustrated by what she’s learned in the last few weeks.
“We’ve built a community and had our kids in the schools here and now, so many of us are like, ‘Ok, we’re moving,'” Brock says. “We want the airport to grow. That’s not the issue. We just feel like there’s a lot of dishonesty (in the city approving a soccer complex when they knew it was owned by the FAA). We want to be a part of how the airport uses that because it’s going to affect people’s homes. ”
Reinhart is also concerned about the impact on the local community.
Whether the soccer complex is relocated or stays put isn’t a big deal for him. He just doesn’t want to see a well-used piece of land with so much community investment behind it “go by the wayside.”
Holm says the goal is to build an even better soccer complex at the new location and they have no intention of “taking away any green space from the community.”
“We anticipate building better and bigger than we already have,” Holm says.
Though the 55-acre property will be moved to a new lot that’s around 40 acres, the total acreage of the complex will increase from 73 to 78 when you include the property on New Butte Road.