07/30/10 — Allen: Berkeley Park is ideal for proposed soccer complex

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Allen: Berkeley Park is ideal for proposed soccer complex

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 30, 2010 1:46 PM

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Fifth District City Councilman Chuck Allen talks about the idea of turning Berkeley Park into a soccer park with multiple soccer fields as he walks on the cracked pavement of the park's basketball courts.

The notion that Berkeley Park has an image problem is not lost on Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen.

"I wouldn't take my daughter out there," he said. "What it needs is a revamping."

So he recently pitched an idea to other members of the Goldsboro City Council -- one he believes will create a reputation for the grounds more in line with their namesake.

"If I was Mayor Berkeley, I would be concerned," Allen said.

So when members of the Neuse River Youth Soccer Association and local Kiwanis clubs presented plans for construction of a soccer complex near Waynesborough Park, he came up with a plan.

"I think they have a great idea, but I don't see them ever getting off the ground without some help," Allen said. "Now Berkeley Park might not be big enough, but if we could use (it), I think the development costs would be cheaper ... and anything we could do to bring that park up would be good."

Using the park for the soccer complex would accomplish several things, he added.

For starters, it would bring the city government into the project as a partner.

And it would also create a significant tourist attraction near the heart of the city.

"These soccer tournaments draw hundreds of families," Allen said. "They are doing it in Greenville and in Wilson and Raleigh, so why can't we do it here? Right now, all our folks are leaving to go to these other places, so there is a huge tourism potential there."

And the crowds a soccer complex would draw would also help the park overcome its current reputation as a place associated with illicit activity -- from alleged prostitution to drug deals.

"We, the city, have not done a great job cleaning up that park. Part of it is just the location and the other thing is the fact that it's so closed off," Allen said. "So somehow, we need to open it up."

But bringing the complex to Berkeley is not just about redefining the park's identity.

It also solves problems Allen said would likely come with the current proposed location.

"Even though (the site near Waynesborough Park) is free land, it's also still flood land," he said. "So if we do ... have another flood ... it's going to hurt it. Plus, there are no restaurants out there, no hotels out there."

But one thing is clear Allen said -- something needs to be done to bring Berkeley Park up to the standards he and other city officials expect have been set for property they are charged with facilitating.

"I totally think something needs to be done," he said. "So even though I want to give the Police Department credit for making it better than it was, it's still not where it should be."