Despite planned upgrades, park closure dampens Christmas spirit

Despite planned upgrades, park closure dampens Christmas spirit

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - $1 million will help give a south east Tucson park a pick-me-up, but it put a short-term damper on some neighbors' Christmas celebration.

On the west side of Sarnoff Drive, south of Broadway Boulevard, is Jesse Owens Park. It has sat there in the middle of the neighborhood for more four decades.

On the east side of Sarnoff Drive, south of Broadway Boulevard, is the Soto home. For 58 years the Soto family has lived there with a view, out their front door, of a park full of family memories.

"We have a bit of a luxury here because we can just literally cross the street," Robert Soto said. He said he's lived in the family home on Sarnoff Drive for 11 years.

"It was a safe place for us to go when we were kids. I guess it was kind of our Boys and Girls Club, huh? It was just where everybody in the neighborhood went," Robert Soto's mother, Laura, told Tucson News Now. "It was a lot of fun growing up in this house. You had a lot of community in that park."

That sense of community won't be going away, but will soon see some changes.

The Tucson Parks and Recreation Department has plans to renovate the grounds and give much-needed upgrades. Fencing has already been put up, surrounding the park grounds, keeping people out.

The upgrades will include a new soccer field with stadium lights, upgraded parking, areas with shade over the playgrounds, and replacing the irrigation system.

"Kind of a bad time. But then again, there's never a good time to really renovate a park," said one neighbor, Andrew Angel. "You've got kids, they're getting bikes (for Christmas). They're getting balls. They're getting things that you need an open space to play with."

Angel has lived in the neighborhood near Jesse Owens Park for 5 years with his two young children.

He could see the long-term benefits of an improved park. But on Christmas Day, there was some short-term strife in his and the Soto's homes.

"To tell you the truth, I was really psyched about taking the kids over to play with their new Christmas toys and stuff. Can't do that now. But hopefully next year it'll be looking better," Robert Soto said.

Instead, they'll enjoy family time inside. On Sunday, there were four generations under one roof for the holiday.

They know what could become of their beloved park, and it's keeping their holiday spirit soaring.

"There really isn't that kind of a place over there yet. So I'm hoping that will come. Better places for families to go," Laura Soto said. "There are a couple ramadas and benches but it's not as nice as I've seen in other parks, where you can take your family and enjoy it and bring a whole group in."

If all goes well, Laura Soto will see all of that and more when construction is completed in Spring 2018.

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