Soccer, horse racing coexist at Rillito Park

Published: Oct. 15, 2015 at 9:23 PM MST|Updated: Dec. 10, 2015 at 10:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Three new lighted soccer fields will be dedicated at Rillito Park on Saturday, Oct. 24, bringing the total number of fields at the park to 11.

It's part of a $5 million upgrade to the facility, financed by 2004 bond money. It's more than just lush new fields, however. It's an admission that horse racing and kids playing soccer can coexist.

For years, the arguments and bickering was whether the park should be a racing complex or a soccer complex. Now, it seems it can be both.

"It's a compromise," said Frank DeFazio, a member of the non-profit Rillito Foundation. "We tried to work it so they'd be happy and we'd be happy."

Unhappy with the past racetrack contract holders, Pima County reached out to the Foundation for a two-year deal in hopes of better times. They've arrived. The past horse racing season went so well, that they are in negotiations for a five-year lease and an extension after that.

Off track betting and the inclusion of the University of Arizona's internationally famous horse racing program have also given the track a boost. There is talk of a fall and spring racing season if the schedule works out.

"We can't have it all and they can't have it all," DeFazio said. "It's got to be that we all can use the facility at the same time."

The park has been one of the most prized pieces of real estate in Tucson, desired by developers for years.

Instead, it will act as a symbol of what can be accomplished with all sides sitting at the table and working out differences without legal challenges. And it's not just soccer - rugby, lacrosse, football and baseball teams will use the facilities as well.

It is truly multi-use and a win for the community, a different attitude than in the past.

"It's an attitude we're happy with," DeFazio said.

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