Merced Indoor Sports Center to close to cultivate weed

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Outrage in the North Valley now that a beloved indoor soccer facility in Merced will be turned into a Marijuana cultivation and distribution site.

This could be the last goal Alexis Rodriguez scores on the indoor pitch in Merced. "It's kinda sad; a lot of kids play here," she says.

Xitlaly Lopez, who's played at the complex for more than six years says, "They just made me feel so welcomed here. They really love what they're doing."

As the clock winds down for the Merced Indoor Sports Complex, owner Fernando Aguilera says he's heartbroken trying to explain to his athletes why they have to close, "they hug me crying saying 'don't close this place this is my life.'"

The Merced Indoor Sports Center home to Aguilera's soccer league will soon become a site for growing, manufacturing and distributing marijuana.

Merced County Supervisor, Rodrigo Espinoza says, "They should have the decency to send him a notice. This is the biggest program in the county."

Aguilera says he did not receive proper notice.

According to the City's director of development services Scott McBride, the application process for Organic Trichome incorporated, to take over operations, started in April. It was approved by the planning commission after a background check and a review of security protocol. They sent notifications to registered property owners within 300 feet of the facility.

As a tenant of the building, Aguilera has run the soccer league for 15 years.

McBride says, "the city values the relationship we have with Fernando Aguilera and we're going to work to find them a permanent location."

Property owner Jim Houlton didn't want to speak on camera but tells Action News by phone that he is trying to do the same. He says, "We have chosen a different path to move forward with in regards to our rental properties. At the same time, we respect Merced Indoor Soccer and are actively working with them in order to secure a new location."

Aguilera says, "they don't understand the impact this will have on thousands and thousands of kids and adults that come here." He adds he hopes to find a way to either reverse the decision or at least be heard by city council. He's planning a march before next Monday's meeting starting on Main street at 5 p.m.
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