MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Merced residents are celebrating the completion of a multi-million dollar renovation project at a 70 year old park.
This new facility at McNamara Park is a field of dreams for many young soccer players and their coaches.
"I think this is the best thing they ever do. This is it. This is what we need to keep our kids out of the streets," said Fernando Aguillera, Merced Atlas Soccer President.
Fernando Aguillera says this was the ugliest park in the city when his players first began practicing here 15 years ago, and some felt it was too dangerous because of gang activity in South Merced. But now it's getting a fresh start with three brand new fields, including two made of drought-friendly artificial turf. Surveillance cameras have also been added for security.
"Really with the cameras, hopefully it will deter a lot of the stuff that's happened, and just the presence down here will deter the undesirable element from being down here," said Josh Pedrozo, Merced Mayor pro tempore.
Residents gathered to celebrate the $2.6 million revitalization project on Tuesday. It also includes wrought iron fencing designed by local high school students, new playground equipment and restrooms, a landscaped picnic area, and a splash pad that was especially popular on this hot summer day.
"My son loves the splash park. As soon as he saw it he wanted to get right in there," said Denise Pelton, mother.
The city received state funding for the project and hoped to complete it last spring, but the playing surfaces developed dips that had to be fixed. Officials closed the soccer fields until they could reach an agreement with the contractor on paying for the repairs.
"This park caused me a few sleepless nights because of what we went through to make it perfect for the young people of our community," said John Bramble, Merced City Manager.
But residents say it was worth the wait. "Before every game I always tell my soccer players to have faith in each other, have faith in your team and your coach, and now they can have faith in our city," said Sonya Severo, Merced Youth Soccer Association.
McNamara Park gets a fresh start in Merced