District says time out for sports complex project

After significant pushback from the Corona del Mar community over the past six months, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District announced this week that it is halting the development of a new sports complex at the high school.

The item won't be back on the board's agenda until the fall.

"We're trying to be better neighbors and take more concerns that the neighbors have into consideration when we make these plans," said board President Karen Yelsey. "Still, I think there's a need for the field and track renovations. People like living around schools that are high quality, and part of that is facilities."

In December, the school board allocated $7.4 million to replace the current athletic field with all-weather turf, upgrade the aging track with new synthetic turf and install 600 seats on the home side of the field, bringing the total number of seats to 1,000.

The move angered homeowners from the Eastbluff, the Bluffs and the Plaza communities, which border the high school.

Residents packed meetings with district officials to voice concerns about the potential for added traffic and parking problems, as well as increased noise and trash produced during games.

They also complained that lights from the athletic complex would shine into their windows late at night.

Corona del Mar High School officials have been attending the Eastbluff area homeowners association meetings in an attempt to improve the relationship with the community. Tensions were heightened when the district announced that track and field Coach Bill Sumner wanted to expand the plan to include a restroom facility, press box, snack bar, team room, field lights and an additional 500 seats, bringing the total to 1,500.

"The district and city of Newport Beach also continue to work together to find possible solutions to some of the mutually responsible issues raised," according to a statement from the school district.

The district plans to share the action it will take to address issues like campus parking and traffic flow late in the summer.

In the meantime, a similar project at Costa Mesa High School continues to move forward. District trustees hired an architect to begin drafting plans for the high school's complex in March.

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