Mediator may enter fray over sports complex plans

When Spokane South Little League officials presented plans last week for the $4.5 million, 20-acre baseball complex the group would like to build at Glenrose Road and 37th Avenue, foul balls went flying.

The Little League group would buy the land from the Morning Star Boys Ranch.

“I’d say the meeting certainly galvanized our community’s opposition to the project,” said Peter Ice, president of the Glenrose Community Association. “This is not going to be good for Morning Star Boys Ranch. They are spitting in our eyes. It will cause irreconcilable differences in the long run.”

About 200 people attended the presentation at Southside Christian Church on Feb. 24. The church setting did not deter a small group of Glenrose residents from yelling profanity and allegations against both Spokane South Little League and the boys ranch.

The Spokane Regional Sports Commission may call in a professional mediator, if all parties agree to a meeting.

“I’m trying to keep this moving forward. As you could see at the meeting this is a toxic atmosphere,” said Doug Kelley, sports commission board chairman. “The only way we can take all the emotion out of the issue is by meeting with a smaller group of representatives from all sides. A civil dialogue would be good.”

Ice has maintained in e-mails and public presentations that Morning Star has to sell property to cover legal costs associated with several lawsuits alleging child abuse.

Ice said Dr. James Quigley, president of Morning Star’s board of directors, told him so over coffee in early January. “Quigley said they had a problem covering those fees, and should the land be sold the money would go to cover that,” Ice said.

Quigley has a different recollection of that conversation. “I have never said such a thing; the ranch is not in financial trouble,” Quigley said. “Peter Ice is not telling the truth.”

Ice said he knows exactly what Quigley said. “He’s just having trouble remembering the situation correctly,” Ice said.

Quigley, who was at the Tuesday meeting, said any sale of property from Morning Star must have the board’s approval.

“Nothing has come before the board yet,” Quigley said. “A woman said to me at the meeting that we need the money to cover those ‘pedophile priests.’ That is simply not true.”

Quigley added that this may be a personal issue for Ice, who was turned down when he applied for a position as development director at Morning Star a couple of years ago.

Ice said he was asked to apply for the position by the person leaving it. “I did so even though it wasn’t really up my alley,” Ice said, “and they weren’t interested.”

But the real issue, said Ice, is that Morning Star doesn’t care about its neighbors.

“This sports complex will have massive negative impacts on the community, and it seems like the ranch doesn’t care,” Ice said.

At the meeting, Glenrose residents said the sports complex would increase traffic, be a constant source of noise and light pollution, and take away habitat for deer and other wildlife.

Morning Star Boys Ranch has not sold the land, said Jenn Kantz, spokeswoman for the organization.

“We get e-mails both positive and negative, but more positive than negative ones,” Kantz said, adding that she hadn’t heard anything about mediation.

Spokane South Little League’s Brian Gosline, who gave the presentation last week, said he’s not deterred.

“We are definitely starting the fundraising component,” Gosline said. “And we’ll continue through the process of planning and permitting.”

Gosline said Little League would be open to meeting with a mediator.

The Sports Commission’s Kelley said youth sports facilities are a tremendous asset to the entire community.

“There is no question that Spokane is grossly underserved in this area,” Kelley said, “but we of course prefer that sports complexes are supported by the people around them.”

Reach Pia Hallenberg Christensen at 459-5427 or piah@spokesman.com.

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