WAIKAPU - Attempting to hit home runs on a dusty parcel in Waikapu, county and state officials gathered for a mock softball game Monday afternoon on the future site of the county's Central Maui Regional Park complex.
Dressed in his softball uniform, Mayor Alan Arakawa announced the county's recent $5.2 million purchase of 209 acres of old cane field land from Alexander & Baldwin. The county plans to develop the land, which sits between Honoapiilani Highway and Kuihelani Highway and is on the Maalaea side of Waiko Road. The community park will contain multiple fields, including those for soccer, baseball, tennis and football.
"This is a dream come true," Arakawa said of his 20-year effort to get the park going.
Mayor Alan Arakawa (center) delivers a pitch at the future site of the county’s Central Maui Regional Park Complex in Waikapu on Monday afternoon. He is assisted by state Rep. Justin Woodson (left) and Council Member Mike Victorino. Arakawa announced that the county had recently finalized a land purchase of $5.2 million for 209 acres from Alexander & Baldwin for the park.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
Alluding to the mantra from the baseball movie "Field of Dreams" "If you build it, they will come," Arakawa said: "We can build this. We know our community will be here."
"This park is going to be the center of Maui County's population base. This is going to be the core area," Arakawa added, referring to future housing developments planned for the area as well as its location in the center of the island.
The county closed the land sale Sept. 27.
Arakawa said that the park will likely take four to six phases to be completed. Phase 1 of the project could begin construction in fiscal 2016. Phase 1 will include basic infrastructure and facilities. Design and planning work still needs to be completed.
The announcement comes just days after Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui's office announced that the state had enough money to start the first phase of construction for the state's nearby regional park.
That approximately 65-acre park will be built in an area bordered by the Maui Lani subdivision and Kuihelani Highway. Proposed plans include a full-size baseball field, four softball fields, four Little League fields and four soccer fields. Construction could begin in June.
Arakawa said that the state eventually will turn over the park to the county and together there will be the Central Maui Regional Park System. He also thanked Tsutsui, a Maui resident, for getting the state park effort underway.
Data provided by the county show that it currently has 640 acres of parkland in the central district, although 222 acres of that inventory consists of the Maui Raceway Park. That leaves less than 420 acres of actual park space for sports, events and other gatherings, the county said.
Arakawa said it is hard for parks crews to maintain the county's current playing fields as they are in so much demand that the county does not have ample opportunity to conduct the maintenance work.
He said that the county hopes to construct some practice fields in the new park prior to its completion so that it could relieve some of the burden of the other fields.
Council Member Don Couch, who attended Monday's game and press conference, said that he often hears complaints from the community about why the county does not build infrastructure prior to letting areas be developed. He said that, with the new park, the county is trying to put up important park space prior to housing developments.
Council Member Michael Victorino, who holds the Wailuku residency seat, said that many youth state tournaments - whether it be for high school sports or others - may now have the opportunity to come to Maui once it has its facilities in place.
"I agree with the mayor, build it and they will come," Victorino said.
He joked that he and Arakawa also need places to recreate.
"We are getting older, we need playing time. . . . Keep us off the streets. I think this is good for our senior and kupuna who play softball," Victorino said.
Arakawa thanked former A&B Properties Vice President Mercer "Chubby" Vicens for his work in coming up with the proposed park site about 20 years ago.
Arakawa, who was part of a citizens advisory group for the Kahului and Wailuku area, worked with Vicens and a subcommittee on finding a park site.
The 209-acre park is adjacent to an earlier purchase of 100 acres that the county would like to use for its future Waikapu Baseyard.
Because the baseyard portion is close to homes, Arakawa said Monday, the county is seeking to switch the location of the park with the baseyard so that the park is closer to homes and the baseyard is closer to Kuihelani Highway.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.