I have lived in Albany since 1977 and I served as President of from 1998 through 2003. My son started playing in Albany Little League in 1993, so I have been involved in the League for almost 20 years.
Because of my involvement in Little League I think I have some historical insights on issues involving the Gill Tract. I would like to give my perspective.
In 1998, my first pressing issue as President was Albany Little League’s negotiations with the Regents of the University of California involving our baseball fields at and the then-planned reconstruction of the married student housing at the Village. We were not alone in this, as Albany Berkeley Girls Softball and Albany Berkeley Soccer Club were also impacted. These negotiations had been going on for some years before I became involved.
The University of California plan at the time was to include three phases and entailed loss of fields by each group at different times. The University of California had first offered to move our fields to an area that went along the railroad tracks from Fielding Field to the USDA that we unaffectionately called “The Swamp” because it was located in a flood plain bounded by two creeks: to the south and Village Creek to the north. In addition to being subject to flooding, the suggested site was much smaller than what the League had at University Village and lacked parking.
The situation changed about two years into the negotiations, when the University of California revised its plans in such a way that soccer and girls softball would not lose their fields and in the eventuality that it became necessary to construct housing on the League baseball fields, they would be moved to open space on part of the .
The League did not then nor does it now want to move its fields, as having a space dedicated for community recreation close to our current fields is a great resource.
The Gill Tract has been part of the discussion about the future of youth baseball fields in Albany for at least the past 14 years and not just the last five years of negotiations on the Senior Housing / Whole Foods Project.
Which brings us to that project. As part of the city of Albany’s negotiations with the University of California and with the close cooperation of City Council members and UC staff, the University of California has agreed in writing not to move the baseball fields for at least 10 years and to pay for the costs of relocation if the fields are moved after that time. League use of fields at University Village had been a major concern for the Albany community and the agreement with the University of California was reached through a lengthy and exhaustive process in which all community members had a voice.
So imagine my dismay when I found out that an Albany City Council member . Such a major change at this late date threatens to scuttle the whole project and, by forcing the University of California to revisit its development plans for University Village, directly threatens the existence of the Albany Little League baseball fields. Moreover, it sends the message to our community and our kids that good faith negotiations don’t mean anything in the face of the illegal actions of a small but noisy minority. More than 600 current players, their families and countless League alumni have been cast aside as if they didn’t exist.
Albany Little League fields have been at University Village since 1956, thanks to the generosity of the Regents of the University of California. If we have no fields in Albany, Albany Little League will cease to exist as we don’t have enough playing fields as it is.
I can grow a garden in my back yard but I can’t play a baseball game.
It is my belief that families move to Albany for the benefit of their kids and to take advantage of the rich and supportive environment our town provides for children.
If you care about the future of the Albany Little League, please get involved. Follow the story in Albany Patch and, especially if you’re an Albany resident, let your elected representatives know what you think!