WAIKOLOA VILLAGE — Where Paniolo Road dead ends sit two sports fields — one soccer, one baseball. Although there isn’t a sign at the entrance, families who have attended AYSO games over the years recognize it as Kamakoa Nui Park, where dozens of children’s teams used to play.
In fall 2015, soccer games were canceled there due to poor field conditions, according to Anna Lindsey-Robles, Waikoloa AYSO’s town coordinator.
Since then, the fields have sat empty.
“The irrigation system flooded the field and the parents and coaches were upset. We had to find different locations for future games. It wasn’t safe,” she said Wednesday.
Since then, the kids’ soccer games have been held at Puu Nui and Ho’oko Parks where many other teams play.
“I’ve been trying to get the Kamakoa fields repaired for almost three years now, even when Mayor Kenoi was in office,” Lindsey-Robles said. “I’ve become frustrated making calls over the years to P&R and nothing happening.”
On Feb. 13 she posted her frustrations on Waikoloa Trading Post — a private Facebook page shared by nearly 4,000 residents — as well as on AYSO Waikoloa’s page.
“It’s hard to imagine this was once a beautiful lush green and safe soccer field where the youth of North Hawaii got to play. Today it barely exists as the soccer field it was meant to be, abandoned due to its poor and unsafe conditions,” she stated.
Lindsey-Robles urged other residents to contact P&R. The day after posting her concerns she received a call from District 9 Councilman Tim Richards, who visited the sports fields earlier this month.
“I met with Roxcie Waltjen from P&R about this Feb. 3 at the Cherry Blossom Festival and am waiting to hear back from her,” he said Thursday. “The logical thing to do would be to bring in new soil, a different kind of grass and sod to put on top. But I’m sure that would be very expensive to do and we would need to find the money for that. I don’t know why this has been on the back burner for several years.”
On Feb. 17, another concerned resident, Gabe Beter, shared specific steps community members could take.
“Why wait any longer?” he wrote on Waikoloa Trading Post. “I propose a more imminent solution. We can pay for the repairs and provide a better maintenance schedule ourselves.”
Involved in kids sports all of his life, including his daughter’s and grandchildren’s teams, Beter said he woke up one morning and thought he needed to do something about the field himself.
“It’s been gnawing at me,” he said Thursday. “We go to other parks in Hilo, Kohala and Honokaa and those soccer fields, for the most part, are in good condition. I don’t know why we don’t have that here.”
Beter posted a detailed plan with specific steps.
“You can’t walk on the field without twisting an ankle. We’ve got to irrigate this thing. I worked for the construction team that built the Kings’ Course and saw its transformation,” he said. “Members of the soccer and baseball communities could organize a volunteer committee to work in conjunction with the County Parks department.”
He added that according to the Rules and Regulations of the Department of Parks and Recreation County of Hawaii Rule 12, Section 2 A8 related to The Friends of The Park Program, “groups may sponsor fundraisers to purchase equipment and materials for the designated project.”
“I think we could hold a sports fundraising festival annually to raise funds for the Kamakoa Nui fields,” Beter said. “This could help raise enough revenue for the yearly budget to perpetually maintain superior play fields, despite what the county should be contributing.”
He suggested that help from Kohala Coast resorts and golf courses could also be advantageous.
“I propose reaching out to one or as many golf courses’ superintendents to contract the use of their equipment and operators for compensation,” Beter stated. “Maybe the corporate leaders of one of the major golf courses will see the advantage for their contributions to our soccer and baseball community. We could also ask for bids from our local landscape companies so we have a budget and goal for annual fundraiser festivals.”
He added that money could be saved other ways too.
“Instead of digging up the entire field and starting from scratch, the grass is still a good variety that can be revived,” Beter said. “It may be more cost effective to aerate and properly nourish the field.”
He’s presently seeking residents to form a small team that could come up with additional ideas.
“This is for the kids,” Beter said.
On Friday afternoon, in response to what P&R plans to do about the fields, Waltjen said, “We are working with Tim on this common goal. The grass died probably from overuse. The drought didn’t help the situation either. Now we’ll need to regrow all the grass there and make sure we don’t overuse it again. The time frame to get this done will depend on weather and other things. This is a high priority for us.”
Waikoloa Village residents may not want to wait much longer.