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AYSO ‘optimistic’ about Kiwanis Park

DeKALB – DeKalb’s youth soccer regional commissioner is “cautiously optimistic” that players signing up for the spring season will compete on the same fields they have been on for many years.

When parents press Norden Gilbert DeKalb AYSO’s regional commissioner on where their kids will be playing, Gilbert responds with “we’re working on it.”

Kiwanis Park, which DeKalb AYSO has used for 35 years, is owned by DeKalb School District 428. The school district wants to trade the roughly 41-acre park for about 34 acres of land next to DeKalb High School, which is owned by ShoDeen Construction. Leaders from the homebuilder and the youth league agree the league eventually will have to find a new home.

“It came out of the blue for us,” Gilbert said.

District officials see the land by the high school as more valuable because it could be used for future expansion. The deal also would free the district from paying $42,000 a year to ShoDeen starting in 2013 – a debt the district incurred when it was bought the land for the new high school.

David Patzelt, president of ShoDeen, said Kiwanis Park will be open for at least a year for DeKalb AYSO to use. The DeKalb AYSO’s last games of the fall season are on Saturday.

“Between the school district and ShoDeen, we’re trying to be flexible and help DeKalb AYSO,” Patzelt said.

Depending on market conditions, Patzelt said that one-year reprieve for Kiwanis Park – located next to Huntley Middle School and Fairview Cemetery – could last longer. Both Gilbert and Patzelt said they’d be willing to sit down and work out an agreement between the two entities while the youth soccer league tries to find a new home.

Patzelt said depending on when the school board approves the land swap agreement, the behind-the-scenes process of development would take at least a year to play out.

“We are not going to tear up the fields right away,” Patzelt said.

Patzelt encouraged the youth soccer league to work out an arrangement with the school district and the DeKalb Park District. Although it doesn’t own the land, the park district does maintain Kiwanis Park for the school district as part of an intergovernmental agreement, park district executive director Cindy Capek said.

Capek said the park district does not have facilities available for DeKalb AYSO to use. The largest park available is Hopkins Park, but the rolling hills and numerous structures make it unsuitable for the 750-player league.

“We don’t have a flat piece of land that could accommodate DeKalb AYSO,” Capek said.

Patzelt did not attend the Tuesday night school board meeting, at which Gilbert and a number of other people voiced concern on how the land swap agreement would affect the soccer league.

One of Tuesday’s dissenters urged the board to take time because Bank of America was suing ShoDeen for $40 million for defaulting on a loan.

However, Patzelt said ShoDeen is no longer being sued. He said a settlement was reached Oct. 19 on the issue, and the property involved is no longer in foreclosure.

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