CHESAPEAKE -- In 2007, Centerville Park was Chesapeake's newest field of dreams. 11 soccer fields make up the cornerstone of a major expansion of recreational facilities in the southern part of the city.
The price tag for Phase I of Centerville Park is $3.4 million, with two soccer leagues pitching a total of $250,000. For keeping the grass cut, they get preferential use of the fields.
The city insists, despite that arrangement, the public is welcome to use Centerville Park. But more often than not, the front gate is locked, despite a sign that says the park is open from dawn to dusk.
A maintenance worker said the gate is usually locked unless the soccer association is there.
Some Chesapeake residents say it doesn’t sound like Centerville Park is a public park at all. Filling up at gas station near the park, Eric Landen said he wants to use the park.
“If taxpayers put in $3 million to build the park, it should not be locked during the day,” he stated.
The city explains that the park is locked right now because $280,000 worth of upgrades is being done, including sod for the soccer fields.
"I know we are continuing to work on it every day," Michael Kalvort, the city’s Parks and Rec director, said.
13News visited the closed park several times and never saw any heavy equipment or any upgrades being done.
When we pressed the city on that point, we then were told the work is set to begin later this spring.
Chesapeake Mayor Alan Krasnoff refused to make time to talk about why the taxpayer-funded park would be locked, opened only for the soccer associations. Caught leaving an informal council meeting, he did say vandalism was a concern.
"It's my understanding there have been some activities that really wouldn't be welcome in just about any park," Krasnoff said.
When asked about the extent of vandalism, we were told there'd been just one incident recently since security measures were put in place -- someone rode through the very chain put up to keep vandals and the public out.
Krasnoff stressed he wants the park open to everyone.
“We certainly want that park, there we go, absolutely we always want that park open, we want all access," he said.
There are two other phases of Centerville Park that include softball fields and a dog park, but the city has not funded those.
If you want to use the park and can't get in, contact Mayor Alan Krasnoff at 382-6153.