Concord council ponders new options for naval base

New Cal State study adds to Concord’s dream of campus at base

New Cal State study adds to Concord’s dream of campus at base
Concord Naval Weapons Station

Sports complex also central to city plan

Just days after the city’s Blue Ribbon Committee presented ideas for a “multi-versity” in Concord, the city became one of five sites being studied for a possible new state campus.

In an agreement reached June 9, the state will fund a feasibility study of a Cal State campus in Concord, San Mateo, Stockton, Chula Vista or Palm Desert.

“The inclusion of Concord in the study is a huge step toward bringing world-class higher education to the doorstep of Contra Costa residents,” said Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord.

Concord already has a branch of Cal State East Bay, but Grayson noted that Contra Costa is the largest county in the state without its own four-year public university. “Our residents who cannot afford to move elsewhere for college would welcome an option closer to home,” he said.

At the June 4 meeting, the Concord City Council explored concepts for an education campus and a tournament sports complex at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station.

After nine months of research, the Blue Ribbon Committee for the Campus District Visioning Project unveiled its final report. The 120-acre district, located near the North Concord BART station, could include a higher education campus, a research and development facility and cultural venues such as a library and performing arts center.

“Most campus models point the way toward a multi-versity, potential hybrid campus that involves research and development and other job-creating land uses,” assistant city manager Kathleen Trepa told the council.

A time to ‘aim high’

John Cumbers, founder of SynBioBeta in Pleasant Hill, said the city had an “amazing opportunity” to develop a campus combining technology and biology.

“If you aim low and create an institution to train workers, then you will train workers who will go work in companies and they will join us in the rat race on the 680 and the 24,” he said during public comments. “If you aim high and you create a world-class research institution here, then you will create entrepreneurs and those entrepreneurs will want to build companies – and some of those companies will be here in Concord.”

The council directed staff to form an advocacy team to generate regional support and research partnerships. Many members of the Blue Ribbon Committee, including local and statewide educators, are interested in continued involvement in the process. Staff will bring an initial implementation plan back to the council in late summer.

“Our committee was very strong in saying we don’t want to lock it down too tightly at this point,” Trepa said. “We need to retain the flexibility to see who comes forward, who wants to be part of this.”

Looking to the future of sports

Flexibility was also key to the discussion of the concept plan and feasibility report for a tournament sports complex.

Steve Voorhies, director of Parks and Recreation for Concord, said the group strived to create “an aspirational vision” for a sports complex as part of 850 acres designated for parks and open space.

“Concord’s unique position as the largest city in Contra Costa County and ideal central locale near prime transportation corridors result in a strong potential target market for sports tourism,” he said. “This directly taps into the sports economy while benefiting the entire community.”

Working with consultants from LPA, staff recommended studying two options in the Draft Specific Plan for the base site. The council voted to evaluate a 175-acre complex that could accommodate national tournaments as well as a 75-acre one for regional events. Voorhies noted that new survey information may affect the site sizes and require some design modifications.

The smaller venue is estimated to cost $214 million, with $290 million for the larger site. LPA projects a 64 percent to 77 percent cost recovery ratio after five years. That assumes the facilities are built, owned and operated by the city, although public-private partnerships may also be explored.

Variety of uses

While the report detailed a specific number of fields and indoor facilities for each option, Arash Izadi of LPA said it was still “a conceptual process” with no defined outcome.

Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister asked about the addition of things like a swimming pool or courts for bocce and pickleball. Guy Bjerke, the city’s Community Reuse director, said the group studied “the maximum potential impact.” He said uses such as those suggested by Hoffmeister would have less impact and could be considered later.

Residents offered mixed reactions to the sports complex, with some complaining about the larger option. “It’s disingenuous that because there are 600 acres in the rest of the park that is a reason why the sports people should take over a citywide park,” said Hope Johnson.

Last month, the city’s Community Advisory Committee voted 7-1 against considering the 175-acre tournament complex. However, John Courtney of LPA said that in stakeholder interviews, people wanted to study the bigger site.

“There was a common consensus that there was a shortage of soccer fields and a shortage of tournament facilities and a need for multiple sports to be in the tournament sports park so that it could be operated year-round,” he said.

Courtney said residents also wanted a community park and gathering space with things like an amphitheater, open lawns, picnic areas, gardens and trails, “In the conceptual design, there is space allocated for all those things,” he said.

Kandi Lancaster, a 22-year member of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission, said the city needed to “dream big” with the sports complex.
“Concord is going to change,” she said. “And this can be the change that we really will be known for.”