Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone criticized for indecision

By Angela Woodall, Staff writer.

Sunday, March 18, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—Ohlone College trustees seem to have a problem with commitment—at least when it comes to campus athletic fields.

They can't seem to decide—once and for all—what to do about worn-down, soggy and uneven sports fields. The latest plan involves rehashing a land exchange deal that could pave the way to putting the fields on the Ohlone Newark campus.

In the meantime, as trustees begin on the fourth generation of plans, athletes end up covered "head to toe" in mud because the drainage on their field is so bad, a captain of the Renegades baseball team told trustees Wednesday night.

Matthew Wismann complained that the "student athletes have had to suffer the consequences" of the board's inaction.

The other dozen-or-so teammates who showed up in their green-and-gold team jerseys and caps applauded. So did the softball players who had similar complaints.

"The purpose of the board is to serve students and student needs. We look forward to a rapid response to our request," said Isabel Ramos, the captain of the Ohlone softball team.

It's just a matter of finding funds and prioritizing the projects, Trustee Nick Nardolillo said. "We certainly know there's a need."

But the closest the board came to tackling either task was to reconsider swapping a 19-acre parcel on the southeast side of campus that trustees refuse to sell for an empty Agilent Technologies building and 9 acres in Newark, worth as much as $12 million.

Swapping land would give the college the money it needs without selling off long-term assets, college President Doug Treadway said.

It would give the college enough money to invest in a deal with the Golden Baseball League, a professional outlet that includes minor leaguers as well as ex-major league players.

The Pleasanton-based group wants to build a ballpark and stadium on 7 acres at the Newark satellite campus site.

When the athletic field project originally was proposed in May, the board reacted cautiously because of the past record of projects on the Newark campus. All three plans proposed in the past have fallen through.

"We're zero for three," Trustee Bob Brunton said at the time.

This time, trustees need to decide fast or the deal will expire, Treadway said.

The land swap is straightforward and would take 90 days, he said, adding that the college needs about $4 million soon to kick-start the athletic field project—otherwise the fields likely would stay on the Fremont campus.

The discussion, originally prompted by Trustee Garrett Yee, led to criticism by administrators over the members' decision several years ago not to sell the southeast parcel—after they said they would sell or lease it.

If the land—valued at about $25 million—had been sold "we'd be building the fields right now," Vice President of Instruction Jim Wright said.

The refusal by trustees Brunton and Bill McMillin left a land exchange as the only option besides letting the land sit unused, as Treadway predicted at the time would be the case.

The outlying parcel originally was included in the project to create stores and housing along Mission Boulevard between Anza and Pine streets, which Sobrato Development Cos. was likely to carry out.

That deal fell apart recently, along with the $25 million in expected revenue from the frontage property that Sobrato originally agreed to pay Ohlone upfront. Of that money, $8 million was budgeted for new athletic fields and another $16 million for five other projects before the deal was ever finalized, although Treadway called the move "realistic."

Yee wanted the board to consider ways to fund projects that were high on its list of priorities instead of counting on money before it was available.

"It's not really money because we don't have it yet," Yee said. "We're putting all our eggs in one basket."

But the idea of changing course again prompted frustration from administrators.

Treadway told trustees that "we have given the board options" and that they "should keep on course instead of going off in a new direction."

Staff writer Angela Woodall covers Newark, Ohlone College and Washington Hospital. She can be reached at (510) 353-7004 or at awoodall@angnewspapers.com.

[ View Articles Index. ]

Related Links at Ohlone College