By Jeannie Howard
When faced with a childhood obesity epidemic the city of San Pablo did not take it lightly—they sprang into action. From creating a Childhood Obesity Prevention Task Force (COPTF) and a Youth Commission to building a new community center where all residents can access healthy eating and active living tools, the city has spent the past several years taking strides to make their city healthy all around.
The latest project the City of San Pablo has undertaken is to transform an empty parcel of land into Rumrill Park, a state-of-the-art soccer complex scheduled to be completed in April of 2015. The roughly four and a half acre park will have three U10 synthetic turf fields, a practice field and ample parking as well as kiosks and loads of lighting to make sure residents are able to get their soccer games and practice in from the early morning to late at night.
According to Charles Ching, Assistant to the City Manager, the lot Rumrill Park occupies was previously an old BNSF rail yard for which the city was given an EPA grant to clean up and turn into a soccer field.
“It was a vacant piece of blighted property—it was an eye-sore. Just imagine this giant piece of property with a lot of dumping, a lot of homelessness and with this new development all of that will be fixed,” described Ching. “It will be well lit, there will be commerce happening on the site. It’s going to make a big change in the area.”
All of the fields will be available to anyone who wants to use them, not just residence of San Pablo. “Of course we will offer reservations and those with a reservation will have priority, which is especially important to league play,” he said.
The demand for the fields has become evident since the project was announced, according to Ching. “We’ve been receiving calls from leagues in neighboring cities asking when it will be complete and what the rental rates will be.”
Ching assures rental rates will be comparable to fields in surrounding cities.
“Once the community services division and the city manager made the decision to integrate a health element into the general plan, it made healthy eating and active living an essence of the city’s governance—part of their reason for being,” said Leslay Choy, General Manager of the San Pablo EDC. “Part of the healthy initiatives the city has been implementing is to make sure people have outdoor space and this park lends itself to so many activities. It’s really huge for San Pablo.”
Unlike many sporting facilities, Rumrill Park will not have vending machines. Instead, fresh food kiosks will be opened and staffed providing locally prepared healthy foods during park hours.
“We will have two food kiosks that we will open up to local food vendors and as part of the healthy eating and active living component, we will not allow them to sell unhealthy foods,” said Ching.
“We are hoping to have some really great healthy food options available for people as well as being able to help local food entrepreneurs,” Choy continued. “Many food entrepreneurs are trying to get their name known and get their food out there but they don’t have money to open a brick and mortar location, so this is one of those great opportunities for them to build up clientele and a reputation.”
With a soccer-centric constituency, the city of San Pablo wanted to give their residence a quality facility to play their loved game, Ching said. “It’s not only a great facility to push forward the healthy eating and active living initiatives but when you look at the San Pablo demographics, we are not a high-end community,” he continued. “We are a very blue-collar family community and providing something like this to our residence is a big thing, not only from an economic development standpoint, but also from a quality of life standpoint—it’s a big boost.”