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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Name the sports park for Ken Mercer

Uploaded: Apr 8, 2014
Pleasanton's parks and recreation commission will have the opportunity this week to celebrate the life of a man who gave hugely of his time and talent to help shape the city into the community it is today.
The commission will consider Mayor Jerry Thorne's suggestion that the sports park on Hopyard Road be named in honor of the late Mayor Ken Mercer. The commission will have the opportunity to either ignore or modify the city's policy of waiting five years after a person's death before naming a public facility for them. It was adopted after an earlier council named the swimming center on Black Avenue in honor of retired parks and community services Director Dolores Bengston.
Thorne was a key leader in convincing a City Council 20 years ago to build a 50-meter pool on Black Avenue—a pool that allowed the facility to become a magnet for competitive swimmers in the valley as well as Northern California for regional meets.
Dolores was running the parks and community services division at the time. Later, after she retired, the swimming complex was named in her honor.
Some people questioned whether it was appropriate to do that for a living person, let alone a person who was doing her job as a city employee. Thus the five-year policy.
Dolores made major contributions to the city (I serve with her on the Pleasanton Gardens' board and appreciate her wisdom and experience). That said, there is a major difference between an employee and a citizen essentially volunteering their time. That was Ken Mercer—as well as a number of other quality people I have known in elected office over the years.
Ken started his service to Pleasanton as a parks and recreation commissioner. He was an active user of the parks as well as a key advocate so say nothing about all of his other contributions to guiding Pleasanton into the community it is today.
There are a few of us around—me being one of them—who knew Bill Herlihy who as a councilman pushed former Congressman Pete Stark (one of the few good things he did for the valley) to transfer the sports park from federal ownership to the city. That land became the sports park that was developed over a number of years.
Bill contributed during his four years on the council and the sports park that has been enjoyed by tens of thousands is part of his legacy.
Ken was a major political and non-profit player through the valley and the region. Along with his council colleagues, he executed on the vision that prior city councils had established to guide Pleasanton to where it is today.
Naming the major sports park for Ken is a fitting tribute to the service and the five-year waiting period should be simply irrelevant in this case. Somebody grabbed a number to establish a policy.
How many of us would love to still have Ken with us and be able to tap his wisdom and passion to make this city and the valley better places for people.

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Posted by IBBillyJ, a resident of Downtown,
on Apr 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I could not support this more. Ken had a fabulous vision and played a big part of making Pleasanton the town it is today.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Birdland,
on Apr 11, 2014 at 9:15 am

Ken is missed. I was at a get-together last week with a wide range of people in attendance; politicians, us "common folks", business leaders, and what most people commented on was that it was not the same without Ken there. His views and wit were, and are, sorely missed. I cannot tell you how many times I saw Ken at the Sport Park watching and supporting his grandkids. This is a 'no brainer' for the City of Pleasanton.

Posted by Egil Oftedal, a resident of Livermore,
on Jul 4, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Wow, there are times when even a hardheaded Norwegian, who knew more than anyone what happened in the Amador Valley from October 15, 1964 until June 1973 when we returned to Norway.

My best friend was Gary D. Patton and we were involved from the beginning both locally and in the meetings establishing the CYSA-N. Gary became the first District 3 Commissioner and I became the second. I still remember the day Gary called me at work to tell me that he was going to establish a club in Pleasanton he anted to name Ballistic. He came up with this name because he had started the Livermore Atomics while he was working in Livermore. During the same phone conversation he told me he had purchased uniforms and soccer equipment for $2000.

This was the day after my team had beaten Dublin United 7-2 in the Oakland Coliseum. That was a very special game for me because it was the first time we had beaten them. During the first half, my only substitute, Danny Payne, who at that time was only 10 years old, kept asking me to play and I told him he would take is older brothers place in the second half. Well, if any of you were there, you may remember that this wonderful soccer player scored goal 7in the first minute.

I know that Gary was very impressed with that game and soon after that he founded the A Caffodio Soccer League in order to have a local league where the Dublin, Livermore, and Pleasanton teams could play.

I also remember the day when Gary called to let me know about the arrangements he had made to secure what is now known as the Soccer Park.

I remember a referee who's name was Ken Mercer in those days, but I don't think he even lived in Pleasanton.

Tim Hunt, I believe you remember my involved at the time and you probably remember what I have written today. You may even remember in the early days when Marcario and I had to referee our 1/2 of our games in Livermore, but it did not take long before Gary would help me out.
In fact in the early days of the Liver Atomic U15 team, we had lost every game to teams from other areas. To keep the team going I would call Gary in Pleasanton and ask him to get a team together so we would have a chance. Well,we did have a chance, we won handily, however, it lasted a couple of months and I asked Gary to put together another team and we again won handily. Well, then things began to change when Edie Meyer became the goalie!

This is the truth and I am hoping that the Commission will decide on honoring this Gentleman,who made it happen, not only in the Valley, but also the birth of the CYSA where Gary became Don Greer's right hand together with George Sundquist, who lived in the San Francisco area.

Again, I know a lot about this because I was involved in a couple of the organizational meetings. In fact Gary designed the logos for the CYSA, Livermore Atomics, Ballistic United, and the All Caffodio League and the By Laws and Constitutions of all of them and he was very involved in the CYSA-N constitution.

From his best friend in soccer both in the CYSA-N and the CYSA-S where we both became volunteered for making soccer an American game.

Best regards,

Egil (Gil) Oftedal

Posted by Tim Hunt, a blogger,
on Jul 13, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Tim Hunt is a registered user.

Great to hear from Gil--a name that is truly from my past when I was a young sportswriter for the Tri-Valley Herald and a recent high school graduate when Gil, Gary Patton, Lou "Frenchy" Macario and others started the Livermore Valley's soccer program at the grassroots level.
I write this after watching the Germans edge Argentina in the World Cup final and listened to the announcer shamelessly promote the Seattle-Portland game Sunday evening as more great soccer--Give me a break.
The World Cup and memories of soccer a few decades ago are a bit poignant this week. One of the other mainstays of the Ballistic United program--club president for many years, Larry Boldrini, passed away last week at 90. His son, Brad, and my ACES Golf partner Dennis Miller are very close friends.
It is one of the blessings and the challenges of living in the same community for so many years. We all age and, at some point, pass on. When folks have lived for a few years in one place and do not have the history with people, it's quite different than when I can read Gil's post and bring to mind memories of each person--the late Mayor Ken Mercer among them.
Thinking of where the soccer programs are now, I suspect most of the founders could never imagine what has developed and how dominant youth soccer is today as an activity that most kids will play in their formative years.

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