By Danny Restivo
City officials hope the introduction of a particular sport will spark interest in a fading park.
Mayor James Melfi and council are working on a plan to bring soccer to Liberty Memorial Park to revitalize the recreational area. Council and the mayor have agreed to use 20 percent of all future income-tax revenue from V&M Star’s construction and state grants to improve the park.
“Traditional natural parks don’t get a lot of use like they used to,” said Melfi. “We’re hoping with the introduction of soccer, more families and kids will utilize the park.”
Sonny Schulyer, councilman at-large and chairman of the economic-development committee, said the city is exploring other funding options for the soccer field, including a $40,000 recreational-services grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“The more money we can get, the more fields we can build,” said Schulyer.
Dr. Tammy King, an associate dean at Youngs-town State University’s Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, is writing the recreational-grant application on behalf of the city. The 20-year Girard resident lives along Mosier Road near Liberty Memorial and has seen the park’s transformation over the years.
“I’ve noticed the deterioration going on,” said King. “I then met with the Mayor and Schulyer to see if there was any way I could help.”
King said the $40,000 would help with one large field, but the total cost of a project with two large fields and three smaller ones would be $150,000. King said a second grant application would help, but it wouldn’t defer the total cost.
She said the city would be required to contribute manpower and raw material for the grant as well.
“There’s no guarantee on this, but at least we’re going to submit it,” King said.
The mayor and council met recently with representatives from the city’s youth soccer programs. They said the number of kids involved in their leagues is more than 500 and growing.
Melfi said most youth soccer games are played at David Tod Memorial Park off Park Avenue, but he believes it will benefit the whole area if soccer came to Liberty Memorial Park.
“We’ve always felt we could do better with this park,” said Melfi.
The park, which was established in 1926 to honor World War I veterans, is one of the oldest in the city. It hosts high-school cross-country meets and baseball practices. Schulyer and Melfi said the soccer fields will be built near where the baseball fields are located.
The city still has to put engineering drawings out to bid, but Melfi said development of the fields should begin by the end of the year.
“We are out of fiscal emergency, and we have a positive balance in all funds,” said Melfi. “I’ve always wanted to make improvements here, and now I know we can.”