For those who use it, the Keller Sports Park is an important community amenity, but the city and the youth sports associations are looking at ways that it can better support their needs.

City Council has made developing the sports park one of its top priorities—one way to support the goal of making Keller the most family-friendly city in Texas.

There have been attempts to develop the park in recent years, but this time the city has taken concrete steps toward progress by establishing a Sports Park Task Force representing the youth sports associations, the City Council and parks and recreation board.

Mayor Armin Mizani said the task force hopes to have a plan and a budget to develop the park prepared by the end of this year.

“It’s a great amenity for the city, because it provides that open space and recreational amenities that we don’t have in some of our other parks,” Keller Director of Community Development Cody Maberry said.

A destination for Keller

The Keller Sports Park was built in stages. Land was originally deeded to the Keller Youth Association in the 1970s, and the first three baseball fields were built there, according to past KYA President Mark Morgan, who serves on the task force.

The association turned that land over to the city, and fields for soccer, softball, football and more were added over the next few decades, according to Maberry.

“Back when this thing was originally created, it was a destination,” Mizani said. “I think it’s still a destination, but the problem is now a lot of surrounding cities have renovated or have expanded, and so now we’ve kind of fallen back.”

While the park has been well-maintained, he said, there is room for improvement. In 2017, the parks and recreation board brought in outside consultants to create a proposal to develop the park—and ended up with a design that would cost $49 million, Mizani said.

“Part of the issue was the city, at the time, didn’t give a very hard budget of, ‘Hey this is what we can do, this is the budget,’” he said. “Well, when it came back ... that kind of shocked everybody, and they stopped the conversation then.”

That was not the only problem in developing the park. The land available to develop was sold to the city by Hillwood, the real estate developer behind the Alliance master-planned community. The sale came with the condition that development of the land would not compete with Hillwood’s projects, but the city negotiated to remove the restrictions since then, said Keller public information officer Rachel Reynolds.

Another issue: The space left will not be easy to develop, Maberry said.

“The land that’s available ... has significant drainage challenges. The majority of [the acres] are either in floodplain or floodway,” he said. “So to make those a viable option to utilize for park land is going to require significant investments.”

Looking forward

In addition to the creation of the task force, 2021 saw the first major change to the park since 2004.

In the spring, the Keller Lacrosse Association established a playing field on a previously vacant piece of land next to the equestrian arena. Expanding the number of fields at the park is a top priority, Morgan said, as is enhancing the older ones that are already there.

“The various executive officers at KYA agree that we want the Keller Sports Park to be really a place on the map, an identifying feature for the city of Keller,” Morgan said.

Expanding could also open opportunities to practice at the park. Now, fields are only available for games. Mizani said his son’s baseball team practices in the coach’s backyard.

Local parent Carly Alacahan, who has three children who play sports in Keller, said she has concerns about the quality of facilities at the park for the families who use it. The safety and sanitation of the restrooms—some of which lack changing tables or locks on stalls, she said—is her main concern. There are other ways the park could provide higher quality of life Alacahan and Mizani both pointed to, such as providing more food options and eating areas, or adding play spaces to support families with multiple children, like Alacahan’s.

“It’s all geared towards family, and that’s really what the sports park is about,” Mizani said. “It’s all in line with what we’re trying to do elsewhere in the city.”