By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

The members of Strawberry Manor Neighborhood Association took the time to enjoy the settings of four futsal courts built at the site of the Del Paso Heights Sports Complex. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at the location last week. Shown left to right are Grant Youth Sports (GYS) founder Mervin Brookins, GYS director Michelle Gladney, Strawberry Manor Neighborhood Association vice president Phyllis Burden, president Louise Williams, and vice president Eddie Burden. (Antonio R. Harvey, OBSERVER).

The City of Sacramento and community partners celebrated the opening of the Del Paso Heights Sports Complex on the north side of the Robertson Community Center on Norwood Avenue Nov. 29.

The complex, which converts a park and vacant lot into sports fields, will host local youth and adult sports leagues, and regional tournaments on weekends. These events are expected to create job opportunities for youth and new business opportunities in the North Sacramento neighborhood.

Mutual Assistance Network, a social services organization, said it expects the complex to generate about $344,000 annually from tournaments, field rentals, snack bar operation and sponsorships. 

“This is a powerful show of commitment and investment,” said Danielle Lawrence, the network’s executive director. “You are going to see people take pride in this project. It’s an investment in the neighborhood and investment in the people.”

Tournament revenue will support the Robertson Community Center’s youth and adult activities, as well as complex maintenance.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Sierra Health Foundation and The Center CEO Chet Hewitt, Mervin Brookins of Grant Youth Sports, members of the Strawberry Manor Neighborhood Association, and Republic FC players and General Manager Todd Dunivant participated in the ribbon-cutting.

“This originally started with Allen Warren when he was the city councilman of this district and Richard Dana,” said Brookins. “After both of them moved on, Danielle Lawrence and (current) Councilman Sean Loloee came in to carry it forward. So here we are. It’s a beautiful thing.”

 City Councilman Sean Loloee, left, talks with Grant Youth Sports founder Mervin Brookins. The construction of the Del Paso Heights Sports Complex started in 2015 when former District 2 City Councilman Allen Warren was in office. Loloee helped keep the project in place when he entered office in 2020. (Antonio R. Harvey, OBSERVER).

The project — which had been in the making since 2015 — received an investment of $200 million over the past 36 months through a combination of Measure U, General Fund and American Relief Act dollars.

Two baseball fields are expected to be built and a softball field renovated as part of the project, which also includes courts for futsal — an indoor version of soccer played with a smaller ball. Completion is expected by January 2022.

“This is going to be great,” said Phyllis Burden, vice president of the Strawberry Manor Neighborhood Association. Ms. Burden was raised in Del Paso Heights, which has about 35,000 residents, 23% of whom are African American, and her family has continuously worked in the community.

Mutual Assistance Network is rooted in the belief that residents have the power to create economic change in communities.

“Once we are done with the park expansion there are more opportunities for social connections,” Lawrence said. “Our mission at Mutual Assistance Network is centered around social and economic infrastructure. It’s an opportunity to build partnerships with other groups in the neighborhood who are interested in bringing youth to sports and youth to programming at the Robertson Center.”