Michael Bushnell

What started as a funding request almost fifteen years ago by Lykins Neighborhood President Ron Heldstab culminated in a unanimous passing vote by the Kansas City, MO City Council during the Thursday, March 21st Legislative Session, sending $3-million to fund upgrades at the 9th & Van Brunt Soccer fields.

The journey to passage was a contentious one, pitting neighborhoods against club and pay-to play leagues that often dominated the park during peak hours. Additionally, during the last council term, then 3rd District Councilman Brandon Ellington redirected roughly $2.75 million in improvement funding for the soccer park, redirecting it instead to Bartle Hall for new carpeting, leaving neighborhood soccer leagues to play on a surface that often was torn, wrinkled, and in some places stripped of the synthetic grass turf.

This time around, neighborhoods and local leagues hammered out an amendment to the ordinance offered by 4th District Councilman Crispin Rea that creates a 9th & Van Brunt community advisory committee that provides for representation from the Lykins Neighborhood as well as prioritizing affordable youth soccer programs and neighborhood access to the fields.  The amendment also dictates that the Parks Department spend at least $40,000 per year in maintaining the new facility.

Scott Wagner, along with the Mattie Rhodes Center, had campaigned strongly for the improvements and expressed frustration when the ordinance was bogged down over the last few months. Thursday’s 13-0 vote to fund the much needed improvements to the park pleased him greatly.  “It’s gratifying to see this investment in Northeast and our kids,” Wagner said. “It’s a monumental step toward fulfilling the vision so many had for this place so long ago.”

Hector Soto, parent of a student at Ryogoku Soccer academy echoed Scott Wagner’s sentiments. “As a Northeast resident and parent to three soccer-playing kids, I’m happy the City Council unanimously recognize the value the 9th and Van Brunt fields provide the neighborhood,” said Soto,  “Projects like these are an investment in the people that use the facilities–it’s an investment in the residents of the Northeast.”

Improvements and upgrades funded by this ordinance are an upgraded synthetic turf, locker rooms, lighting, scoreboards, a press box and additional bleachers. As part of a separate funding mechanism, the Parks Department recently completed over $250,000 in upgrades including new synthetic turf on the main field, new gates, and sidewalk improvements.

Improvements associated with the $3-million appropriation could start as soon as late summer or fall of 2024 and be ready for play by spring of 2025.