Bocce park rolls towards approval

Bocce rendering_for website

A four-court bocce park proposed for the corner of Main and Oak Streets is expected to provide a much-needed kick start to Clayton’s commercial district by mid-summer. The Ipsen Family Bocce Park is a major “give back” to the community, says Skipolini founder Skip Ipsen.

Barring any last minute surprises, the Clayton Planning Commission was expected to approve a four-court bocce park for the corner of Main and Oak Streets Tuesday, Jan 28. The park is part of a major remodel project for Skipolini’s Pizza which will include a bigger kitchen, new outdoor lighting, playground and upgrades to the patio.

“We’ve wanted for a long time to give something back to the town that has been so good to us,” said Skipolini’s owner Kent Ipsen. The family-owned business first opened on Main Street in 1974 and now includes six locations in Northern California.

The Ipsen Family Bocce Park has had wide support from local merchants and the Clayton Business and Community Association. According to city staff, there has been no opposition.

“We’ve had no emails, no letters and no phone calls,” said Community Development Director Charlie Mullens. There were no objections to the project at the first public hearing on Jan. 14.

Local merchants are hoping the bocce park will generate some much-needed economic energy to the town.

“Anything that brings people downtown is good,” says Steve Barton, owner of the Clayton Club Saloon.

The bocce park will encourage pedestrian traffic downtown, a goal consistent with the Town Center Specific Plan.

With the growing popularity of this sport, local parks in Concord and Martinez are booked to capacity. Clayton Business and Community Association member and vice-commissioner of the Concord Bocce Federation, Ed Hartley, projects the Clayton courts could see full league play all week, bringing upwards of 80 people into downtown four or five nights during the week.

“They have to eat and drink somewhere,” says Hartley. “It should be in Clayton.”

The city has long hoped for a bustling commercial Town Center with a retail base to generate sales tax revenues. But, with Clayton’s relative isolation from any other commercial center, a major recession with a slow recovery and the demise of the Redevelopment Agency as a source of funds, developers have not been beating a path to Clayton’s door.

Over the years, there have been several serious attempts to bring bocce courts to Clayton—first as a part of The Grove design. In 2005, a private group proposed a 7-court park on city property. The cost proved prohibitive and the plan died until the Ipsens proposed the courts for the vacant gravel lot they own next to the restaurant.

The Ipsens will retain ownership of the land and commit the first $125,000 toward the park’s $250,000 construction cost. The CBCA will donate the other $125,000 and will solicit donations from the community for benches and naming rights. Ed Moresi, owner of Ed’s Mudville Grill and Moresi’s Chophouse has pledged $25,000 for naming rights to the first court.

The CBCA will partner with the Ipsens to operate the park which will include open time for community use. The Planning Commission was expected to approve the project on Tuesday on the condition that the Ipsens and CBCA submit a final operations and management plan prior to final approval.

Construction is expected to begin immediately and the park should be ready for play by this summer.