Proposal for SouthLake Park in West Linn has been the subject of a years-long land-use battle.

COURTESY PHOTO: WUFC - The proposed park has been the subject of a years-long land-use battle. With land use permits finally in hand after several years of decisions bouncing between Clackamas County and the Land Use Board of Appeals, Willamette United Football Club hopes to begin construction on SouthLake Park, a youth sports complex to be built on Borland Road, early next year.

The final decision granting the club the right to move forward with the project came from LUBA in November 2021 after neighbors near the proposed complex site appealed Clackamas County's conditional use approval to the state board for a second time.

Brian Gerritz, president of the club's board of directors, said they now have not only the right to move forward with construction but the duty to do so within the next four years.

WUFC, a youth soccer club serving kids in West Linn and Wilsonville, has planned for new sports fields in the area for over a decade. Their plans for SouthLake Park, located next to SouthLake Church in the Stafford area of West Linn, include three turf fields, an indoor training field, club offices, concession stands, a playground and a walking path.

Now that the club has the necessary permits, Gerritz said it is focused on financing the project.

"We're gearing up for some intense fundraising," he said.COURTESY IMAGE: GOOGLE MAPS  - The proposed SouthLake Park would go next to SouthLake Church off of Borland Road just south of I-205.

The club also has met with banks to discuss nonprofit loan structures and will conduct a market study to learn how much money the facility could generate. Club leaders hope to have the loan established, market study complete and fundraising plan in place by November.

Though the club already has millions in financial support pledged to the project, Gerritz said there are millions more that need to be raised. This is partly due to rapidly rising construction costs seen over the past two years. The complex is now estimated to cost $21.5 million, up over $7 million from the estimated price tag of $14 million in 2019.

Gerritz, who also is president of Pavilion Construction, said he was not surprised to see the cost of the project increase by that amount given inflation rates of 19-22% per year that the construction industry has seen over the past two years.

While Gerritz believes the club has contributed to the community, through college scholarships, volunteer efforts and all the benefits of youth sports, he wants to hear from families what Willamette United means to them, how soccer has enriched their lives and how the club could better serve the community.

The club's board is also looking for a new executive director with the know-how to lead the club forward and run the sports facility. Gerritz said the new complex could open between late 2023 and mid-2024, meaning most of the kids in the club today will get to use it.

The neighbor who led the land use fight against the park, arguing that it does not fit the rural character of the Borland area, did not respond to requests for comment.

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