Isla Vista is one step closer to reaching its fundraising goal for the I.V. Community Center with the help of a $1 million grant from the California State Parks Dept.

The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) announced it had received the grant, which will help fund a soccer field at Estero Park, on Sept. 19. As a portion of the I.V. Community Center, the new soccer field will accompany a basketball court and a skate park – both of which are currently in their planning phases, IVRPD General Manager Derek Johnson said. At a press conference on Sept. 23, IVRPD Directors, representatives from the UCSB Division of Student Affairs and 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone discussed plans for the 8.14-acre park.

Johnson said the IVRPD has raised $132,000 for the soccer field and has received a $255,000 donation from the Orfalea Fund – a Santa Barbara based organization – to help pay for the field, which should be completed by 2007 or 2008. He said the money from the Orfalea Fund paid for the planning and research that led to the IVRPD receiving the State Parks grant. As soon as the IVRPD can raise an additional $271,000, Johnson said construction can begin.

Construction on the field will include the removal of existing utility lines, the relocation of buildings around the field’s site and the removal of most of the community garden. Johnson said the park’s playground will be the only structure to go untouched by the construction.

“The goal is to really preserve the space and create a multi-purpose space,” Johnson said. “It will allow youth in I.V. to have their own soccer league.”

Johnson said a 1999 study conducted by the city of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara School Districts showed the county does not have enough soccer fields to support the number of practices and games held by local soccer teams.

“People recognize there’s a huge regional recreation shortage – especially soccer fields, where there’s a documented 34 field shortage in southern Santa Barbara,” Johnson said.

In Jan. 2003 the IVRPD began planning for the soccer field, basketball park and skate park. Johnson said the IVRPD sent its grant proposal to the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation in Dec. 2004, and said the IVRPD still needs $450,000 to begin construction on the skate park and $148,000 to build the basketball courts.

Laura Lambert, director of development for Student Affairs, said her office has been working with the IVRPD to raise the remaining money they need. She said the $1 million grant from the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation is the largest possible grant the IVRPD could have received, but said they are still waiting for approval on several other proposals, including the request for the basketball courts.

If the IVRPD is going to meet its fundraising goals, however, Lambert said she thinks more money will need to come from the community as well.

“[Grants] are not the only source of funding,” Lambert said. “Public funds are important because they show state interest, but community funding is important too.”