Mission Viejo City Council members voted against entering a negotiating contract that would have opened the gates for the city to create cricket fields.

The council expressed concern that the proposed space for the cricket facilities would take away space from youth soccer teams and an arts center.

“Soccer is a very important part of our community, and I’m not ready to lose that asset,” Councilmember Trish Kelley said during the Aug. 22 meeting.

The item came to the council after an Australian-based women’s cricket league reached out to the city with the idea of bringing a cricket center to Mission Viejo. Potential ideas included a cricket field, training resources, locker rooms and viewing stands.

The council members voted unanimously against the item at Tuesday night’s meeting while Mayor Brian Goodell recused himself from the conversation since he had a previous relationship with the proponent of the project.

Shaun Martyn, the founder of the FairBreak Global cricket organization, said during the meeting that his organization is looking to create a base for cricket in the U.S. and they wanted that center to be in Mission Viejo. 

But the facilities would have been at the same location as the Mission Viejo World Cup Soccer Fields and the Potocki Center for the Arts. 

Mark Nix, the city’s director of recreation, told council members that the soccer fields are currently in use most days of the week, especially during peak soccer season. 

“There are definitely more requests than we can accommodate at the moment,” Nix said during the meeting.

The council’s biggest concern was that the cricket resources would have taken away space for soccer and other current sports usage.

“I have absolutely no desire to put something where there is something thriving,” Councilmember Wendy Bucknum said.

About a dozen residents, including some parents whose children play soccer at the World Cup fields, came to last Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss whether or not the cricket fields would benefit the city.

“To think about taking away courts that are used right now would be a disservice to all the families that have been here raising their children,” Mission Viejo resident Larry Gilbert said during the meeting. “I don’t think it’s a high priority for us.”

Some people also spoke about the importance of the arts center and the impact of arts and culture in the community.

Others supported the item and said they play cricket on makeshift facilities like basketball courts and football fields, resulting in injuries and leaving them without any place to play the sport with their kids.

Although the council voted against the proposal, some council members seemed interested in bringing cricket somewhere else in the city in the future.

“I think cricket would be great,” Kelley said. “Let’s bring cricket to Mission Viejo, but let’s find a place for it where we’re not displacing our other programs that are so successful and well-loved and utilized.”

The council meets again on Sept. 12 at 5 p.m.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at ahicks@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

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