Editorial: Sports Complex, If we build it, they will come

BMXers want a course

Iceland, which had one of the worst epidemics of teen drinking and drug use 20 years ago, has had a huge turnaround, largely by using things we consider common sense.
Alcohol and drug use has plummeted in the country and Gilroy can learn a lesson in how it’s been done. According to a 1998 study 42 percent of 15 and 16 year olds had been drunk in the previous month. In 2016 the number dropped to 5 percent. Cannabis use for the same ages dropped from 17 percent to 7 percent and every day smokers dropped from 23 percent to 3 percent.
How did they do it? Brain chemistry. They realized that young people tried drugs and alcohol for the rush they gave to the brain and the way the stimulants can help overcome feelings of low self esteem. If they could make sure they got that rush from other things, drug use would fall.
The country invested heavily in sport, music, art, dance and other clubs, according to an article in Atlantic Monthly, to give kids alternative ways to feel part of a group, and to feel good, rather than through using alcohol and drugs. They gave a leisure allowance to low-income families of about $270 a year to enroll in classes.
They also banned cigarettes for anyone under 18 and alcohol for those under 20 (Europe is traditionally much more tolerant of youth drinking and smoking.)
They worked through drug treatment centers to make sure exercise and classes were part of the program–not just focusing on stopping drugs, but on positive alternatives.
Which brings us to the garlic city’s 79-acre Gilroy Sports Park, which has baseball and soccer fields, but is only 15-20 percent built out and has been languishing that way for a decade.
Now, a nonprofit group wants to build a BMX bicycle track at the park, something that had been in the early proposals for it, before money ran out and the city spent $12-!3 million on the Gilroy Gardens amusement park, rather than facilities that can be used by everyone year round.
We say, hell yes. Get this thing going and get the city involved. Why have our legislators been languishing on a park that should be crucial to keeping kids off the streets and giving them something positive to do?
We don’t recall one city council candidate talking about building up the sports center or adding more parks and recreation dollars. It’s as if youth are invisible to the people running this place.
Granted, we have some great school programs and afterschool programs (see this week’s story on Christopher High theater students performing in Russia). We are a school district that values the arts–with great help from donors–while other districts cut those programs first.
But now is the time to step it up invest more in sports and arts programs outside the schools, through the city’s parks and recreation department.
Let’s start by building out the Sports Complex and make it a centerpiece of Gilroy. It’s already great, but only 20 percent great. Let’s get to work on the other 80 percent and put Gilroy on the recreation map, the say, say that the Olympic swim center has helped Santa Clara.
And let’s start with a BMX track. That’s a healthy activity that appeals to kids and teens and gets all of their adrenaline flowing. It has them taking risks that don’t involve illegal activities. It requires serious training and practice to do it well. It’s a natural high shared by girls and boys.
To steal a line, if we build it, they will come. Let’s get to work on it right away.

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