Toney Wright has a plan for an outdoor sports fields complex at Richmond’s Point Molate, and it will not cost the City of Richmond anything. In fact it will generate about a million dollars per year for Richmond and the developers of the fields – possibly under a Joint Powers Agreement similar to the way that the Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex was built in Berkeley. Wright, who has lived most of his life in Richmond, runs a highly successful soccer league that faces a constant shortage of playing fields.
Each year sports clubs, schools, leagues and just people seeking pick up games for soccer, rugby, baseball, softball and cricket (yes, cricket) go wanting for lack of playing fields.
Nowhere in the East Bay is the shortage more acute than in Richmond, Wright’s home town. But Wright has a plan that can bring the much needed sports fields to Richmond, generate about $1million per year, and in the process open Richmond children’s eyes to the magnificence of nature at Point Molate. Wright is supported by Diego Garcia, founder of the soccer Club called Richmond Sol, a Richmond based club that wrangles with the same lack of playing fields. Both Toney and Diego have been seeking a solution to the shortage.
Modeled loosely on the successful joint effort to build the Tom Bates Sports Fields at Gilman Street in Berkeley (smack in the middle of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park) Wright’s idea would showcase all the advantages of the Point Molate’s natural beauty, with soaring raptors (including osprey and the occasional bald eagle) and stunning Bay views, but would provide close access for Richmond kids and teams.
Right now Richmond kids have to travel to play. With the challenges of getting around, the travel itself is sometimes enough of a barrier to exclude Richmond youth and adults from playing. Wright wants fields close by so local kids can get preference – to do everything to maximize participation in sports by Richmond youth.
Cost is always a factor. Building and creating fields is always a challenge, but Wright is not a novice – he runs a very successful league and knows every playing field in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is demand from not only the East Bay but from Marin County and even San Francisco for playing fields and Wright has commitments from teams and leagues to help him raise funds for playing fields at Point Molate.
Soccer is a big part of the youth experience in Richmond according to Wright. He explains the only thing holding players back is the lack of playing space. His goal is to broaden the coalition to include cricket players, La Crosse players, baseball and softball players so that the financial base is stronger and so that kids, and adults, who are motivated by different sports can have options and get active. He knows that if this is done correctly there will be tremendous activity at the new playing fields and income to support the fields. Wright has a sparkle in his eye and a determination in his voice when he discusses opportunities that would be offered by new playing fields opportunity.
He is already laying out the space on maps and has drawn up a detailed business plan to show how this can be successfully done. His colleague Doug Fielding, who was one of the prime movers in the creation of the Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex, agrees. Fielding committed to help and gave an enthusiastic response to the plan. He also pointed out that it will take a lot of work and money, something that does not daunt Wright.
In his presentation on the need for the fields and the need to serve Richmond, Wright points out: “Each spring and each fall, up to 300 organizations bid for the use of four soccer fields in Berkeley. This highly competitive process leaves out Richmond soccer clubs for 6-8 year olds, other sports for girls. The pattern is similar around the Bay Area, especially in Marin and Contra Costa counties. City fields can cost as little as $12 per hour for residents, and as much as $130 per hour for non- residents. This business model will open the fields to Richmond clubs at affordable rates and divert income to our inner city fields and parks. No child will be turned away due to inability to pay.”
According to Wright: “Richmond needs to allow Point Molate to become a world-class park with a world-class sports field complex. That will be the best way to serve the kids of our Richmond and the surrounding community.”