Location: 69-400 30th Avenue, Cathedral City
Soccer is popular among Cathedral City’s youth. We are a family-oriented community with a young population (median age is 32). One third of the population is under the age of 20.
Cathedral City only had one school soccer field and children had to leave the city to play, or join teams in other cities where fields were available, or didn’t play at all because of transportation issues.
Several years ago, the City was forced to eliminate its Parks and Recreation department due to budget shortfalls.
To meet the growing community’s fitness needs, the City found and secured redevelopment funds, grant money and private donations to establish a 17-acre soccer park. However, the City’s General Fund did not have the money to pay for its operation or ongoing maintenance.
The local chapter of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) headed by Dennis Keat, aware of the City’s financial challenges, committed to maintaining the park on an ongoing basis – using volunteer labor and their own equipment.
This commitment included: scheduling activities, mowing the turf, repairing and replacing irrigation equipment, picking up trash, cleaning restroom, watering costs, and repair and fertilizing and repairing the sod among other duties.
This saved the City over $130,000 a year if it had to provide these services itself. With that generous commitment, the City was able to move ahead and build the park.
In addition to receiving a state grant to help pay for construction of the park itself, the City also submitted was to the Desert Healthcare District for a wellness walking fitness track (2/3 mile) and five exercise stations around the park. The City, in partnership with the Palm Springs Unified School District, developed and proposed a youth fitness program. The School District participated in the proposal because the new soccer park was built next to a middle school.
The program identified 7th grade students judged to be at risk for diabetes to participate in what would come to be called the “Take the 90/180 Challenge.” These students substituted their regular physical education class with walking 90 miles on the fitness track over a 180 day period and performing exercises on the fitness equipment three times a week. The program was then opened to the public.
Additional community partners came forward to support the proposed program. The Desert Regional Medical Center agreed to supply health professionals to perform fitness assessments on the students before they began the program and after they had completed it. The assessments included a body mass index, height and weight measurements, resting heart rate, blood sugar and pressure tests. Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia endorsed the program because it complemented her Assembly Bill 2226 bill, which requires 7th grade students who show warning signs for diabetes to be screened for the disease by a qualified physician.
On the strength of the proposed program, the Desert Healthcare District granted the City $350,000 to build the fitness track, purchase the exercise equipment and administer the program for three years. This is one of the largest grants the District had ever granted to a single organization. As a result of these partnerships the City built a soccer park and wellness fitness track that otherwise would have remained only a community dream.
The 17-acre Soccer Park and fitness track is now in regular use by over 1,300 kids. The AYSO scheduled 148 teams for the first 14-week season. This is 74 games per weekend. The first season had over 1,000 games played. The spring season included an additional 100 games. 21 AYSO parents volunteer their time to maintain the park.
Locals of the soccer park neighborhood use the fitness track and exercise equipment daily as part of the 90/180 program or to enjoy a family walk.
After his passing in March 2010, the park was renamed the Dennis Keat Soccer Park.
City of Cathedral City, 68700 Avenida Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City, CA 92234. Tel: (760) 770-0340