Tag Archives: Silverlakes

Public Park Ends Up With Admission Fee, Sit-Down Restaurant And Bar

Staff Reports

Norco – The Riverside County Grand Jury is allegedly indicating Norco turned the 122-acre SilverLakes property that was intended for “public park, recreational and open space purposes” into a money-making venture that charges admission and features a full-service restaurant and bar.

The grand jury is calling on the district attorney to probe Norco officials’ handling of the project, the panel stated in a report issued last week.

“The SilverLakes Equestrian and Sports Complex is not a public park” as envisioned in a 2002 federal court order restricting use of the land north of the Santa Ana River along Hamner Avenue, the report states.

Norco officials dispute the grand jury’s contention and say the development is in compliance with the court-ordered restriction.

“They are interpreting it wrong,” City Manager Andy Okoro said by phone Tuesday, May 22.

The city intends to issue a detailed written response in a few weeks.

The park opened in September 2015. It hosts concerts, equestrian competitions, soccer tournaments and regional cross-country meets, among other events. The complex boasts 24 soccer fields, five equestrian arenas, a 12,000-square-foot outdoor cafe, a 10,000-person capacity concert venue called The BackYard and a 150-seat restaurant called The FieldHouse.

It drew 1.4 million visitors in 2017, said Cheryl Link, Norco’s city clerk.

However, SilverLakes has had a long and often troubled history.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued an investment company that owned the property until the late 1990s, alleging unethical practices, the report said. A judgment concluded that some Norco residents who invested in a Ponzi scheme associated with the property had been defrauded of their money. That led to the 2002 U.S. District Court order restricting the property’s use, once it was sold. The city acquired it.

Development was delayed for years, though, and it didn’t help that a 2010 flood along the Santa Ana River caused major damage. After site repairs, construction was finally underway in 2013, before wrapping up in late 2015. The developer is the Balboa Management Group.

While investigating Silverlakes, the grand jury took testimony from the city manager, former Norco elected officials and “concerned” Norco residents. Sara Lipchak, who headed the grand jury, said she could not elaborate.

The grand jury determined that the 2002 development restriction remains in place and the city unsuccessfully sought to alter it in 2004. The panel suggested that the city in 2012 misled the Riverside County Superior Court, which validated the city’s development strategy based on a submitted plan that was “substantially different from what was actually constructed.”

The grand jury report said that the “plans had no reference to constructing a full-service commercial restaurant and bar.”

The grand jury urged:

  • The district attorney to investigate why Norco officials accepted the developer’s bid to build a park with a major commercial component and provided “misleading documents” to the Riverside County court to obtain approval for “a commercial sports park rather than a genuine public park.”
  • Norco to stop charging admission to the park — $8 per walk-in visitor and $10 per carload.
  • Norco to add “actual recreational assets and amenities” such as shade trees, picnic tables, playgrounds, barbecue grills, tennis courts and bike trails.

Brian Petree, deputy city manager, acknowledged the admission charges, but said those are reserved for large weekend events and payments generally are not required from people who visit the park at other times.

As for the restaurant, Petree said it is an appropriate component because it has a concession operation that provides food and drinks for park visitors and is not unusual for a park of SilverLakes’ size.

“We’re not talking about a neighborhood park here. We’re talking about a regional facility,” he said. “And so, you have to look at it in that aspect.”

First annual SilverLakes College Showcase event

By  Lelani Kroeker of SilverLakes  

Over 250 college coaches from around the country and representatives of the U.S. National Team Scouts were on hand to evaluate aspiring female soccer players for scholarship and national team opportunities.  Photo courtesy: Lelani Kroeker

Over 250 college coaches from around the country and representatives of the U.S. National Team Scouts were on hand to evaluate aspiring female soccer players for scholarship and national team opportunities.
Photo courtesy: Lelani Kroeker

NORCO– Several thousand young female soccer players descended on SilverLakes, the newly minted 130-acre soccer facility in Norco, California, for the three day SilverLakes’ College Soccer Showcase, November 25-27, 2016. The young athletes participating in this signature event hoped to seize the rare opportunity to have their athletic prowess assessed by college coaches from around the United States. The annual College Soccer Showcase is focused on welcoming college coaches as well as U.S. Soccer youth national team scouts, to evaluate the skills and abilities of aspiring young female soccer players as they look to earn scholarship offers and invitations to attend U.S. youth National Team camps. More than 2,500 players from more than 140 teams, including some of the top clubs from the Western Region, were on-hand for this unique event.  A highlight of the showcase was an All Star Game between the Canadian Whitecaps and USA All Stars.

“We are incredibly excited to host this first-of-its-kind showcase event for young women at SilverLakes. The participation by high-level coaches throughout the country, including among others, Stanford, Texas A&M, Cornell, North Western, UCLA, Cal Berkeley and the thousands of young women was incredible to see. It is often difficult for youth players looking to take their game to the next level to gain access to key coaches who will enable them to fully realize their abilities and play at the collegiate level. Our first annual College Soccer Showcase has already succeeded in providing this access and it is our hope that this experience will be a ‘game changer’ for these young people,” said R.J. Brandes, President, SilverLakes.

As SilverLakes continues to build a full offering of programs and events to fulfill its mission to empower young athletes to reach their full plans to add an event for men’s soccer in the near future.  The competition for more than $2.7 billion in athletics scholarships granted annually by the NCAA Divisions I and II schools is extremely competitive and often comes down to demonstrating an athlete’s skill to a select few, and hard to access, coaches and recruiters. SilverLakes hopes to tear down the barriers for student athletes by convening showcase events, such as the November 25-27, 2016 opportunity.


Silverlakes: Back In Action

(Photo By: Randi Hauser) Spring has sprung in Norco as Silverlakes comes back to life after a long and fallow rest.

(Photo By: Randi Hauser)
Spring has sprung in Norco as Silverlakes comes back to life after a long and fallow rest.

By K.P. Sander

Norco – Think back to a year ago, when the Silverlakes Equestrian Center hit another barricade on a long and bumpy road.  Since the project began construction in 2007, it seems like one thing after another has prevented the 122-acre recreational facility from being completed.  The story – from financing issues to mistrust and lawsuits – has had a lot of drama.

On Thurs., Mar. 5, Eastvale’s Mayor Ike Bootsma announced that the project was a go.  “Funding is secured; bonds have been sold; and construction is going to start next week,” he said.  “Tournaments are scheduled to begin in September.”

As construction began once again on the barren field the week of March 9, interest has been renewed on the sports park that will ultimately contain an equestrian center capable of stabling and hosting world-class (possibly Olympic) events, 25 soccer fields, a 5,000-seat indoor stadium, an outdoor arena and event center, picnic areas, and more.  This beautiful sports mega-center could also bring in over $35 million to the City of Norco, and attract over a half million visitors…a boon for Norco, and Eastvale as well.

Steve King, Planning Director for the City of Norco, said that the project has definitely been approved.  “Synthetic and natural grass fields will be the first phase, along with some sand equine arenas,” he said.

The sports fields will be finished for use this year, and then other phases will commence construction thereafter.

Balboa Management Group, which has been at the helm (albeit on and off again) of construction for more than seven years, has secured $20 million in financing, according to the City of Eastvale.

Despite the ups and downs of Silverlakes, it’s not difficult to become re-enamored with anticipation over what is to come.  Citizens throughout Eastvale and Norco – and far beyond – will enjoy watching the construction process and look forward to enjoying the first fruits of the park come September.

As Eastvale’s Interim City Manager, Michele Nissen puts it, “Norco’s Silverlakes project has been a long-time coming, and we are happy to see the project start moving forward again.  Once this project is complete – assuming it is built out as planned – the regional benefits will be tremendous.  Invariably, there will be temporary construction inconveniences to Norco and Eastvale citizens, which go hand in hand with a project of this scope and magnitude.  This is a very exciting development that is poised to positively impact the trajectory of both cities.”

Well said.  This is definitely a project, that when completed, will place our communities in a more prominent place on the map.




By Jennifer Madrigal and K.P. Sander

Photo Courtesy: Google Images

Photo Courtesy: Google Images

Norco – Silverlakes Equestrian Sports Park, the highly anticipated 122-acre recreational facility that began development in 2007, has hit yet another roadblock. Financing for the park in Norco has been delayed as their latest financial backer has pulled out.

At a Norco City Council Meeting in December, Balboa Management Group Chief Executive Officer, R.J. Brandes, said he hoped construction would begin in early 2014 with the opening occurring six to nine months thereafter. However, at a Feb. 19 City Council meeting, Brandes informed the council that bank officials who had agreed to finance had withdrawn.

Silverlakes Equestrian Sports Park has been eagerly awaited for years and with the grand opening of Eastvale Community Park occurring on March 8, the barren field is even more of an eyesore. Silverlakes will be used for equestrian and sporting events, as well as dog shows, car shows, weddings, corporate and community events, circus performances, camping and more. Once completed, it will also join with nearly 120 miles of biking, jogging and equestrian trails.

The vacant land and unfinished project continue to be a source of controversy for both Eastvale and Norco residents. In a meeting back in October 2013, Norco Planning Commission member, Dave Henderson, and his wife Shirley, made a public presentation providing the facts on Silverlakes. Some key points were: $5.1 million was spent in 2012 when there was not authorization to spend above $3.7 million; water, sewer and road infrastructure were not in place; water/sewer municipal bond money appears to have been used for something else; and inspections were not made. With even more delays and no progress on what is now just vacant land with lots of dirt, many questions of poor planning have been raised.

So, will this project ever be completed? According to Brandes, at least two larger banks are considering financing the project and he is determined not to give up on this project until the deal is done. However, when questioned by Councilman Greg Newton at the Feb. 19 City Council meeting about a timeline for financing and construction, Brandes avoided answering.

According to a 2009 market analysis, Silverlakes (with an equestrian center capable of stabling and hosting world-class events, 25 soccer fields, a stadium field that can seat up to 5,000, an event center and picnic areas) could bring in over $35 million to Norco and attract over 550,000 visitors. These are funds that the City has been eagerly anticipating, especially since $5.7 million in water and sewer bond proceeds have already been released to the developer by the City.

The current situation involving Silverlakes Equestrian Sports Park continues to be waterlogged by a lack of funding, reimbursement legalities and general mistrust, but everyone involved still seems to remain hopeful that eventually the project will be completed.