Burbank Cites Traffic, Noise; Puts Plans for Sports Center on Hold

Times Staff Writer

Burbank city officials have put plans for an $8-million sports and tennis center on hold, saying the hillside complex may cause traffic and noise problems in nearby residential neighborhoods.

Richard R. Inga, the city’s Parks and Recreation director, said a master plan for the area should be completed to determine the impact of the Stough Park Family Sports Center and other planned recreational facilities in the Verdugo Mountains.

“There is nothing wrong with the concept,” Inga said. “But we have a lot of unanswered questions, especially in light of the possibility of more recreation in that area.”

Inga said the decision was based largely on community opposition to concerts at the Starlight Amphitheatre, which is near the site of the sports center. The summer season at the Starlight was canceled after homeowners living below the theater complained that the resulting traffic and noise would disrupt their neighborhoods.


Other Attractions

In addition to the amphitheater, there are other attractions in the area, including the DeBell Golf Course, the Castaway restaurant and Wildwood Canyon Park. Inga said the city plans to improve parkland in the area, and the Castaway has announced intentions to expand the restaurant, both of which would increase traffic in the area.

“We just have to take a step back and see what the cumulative effect of all this would be,” Inga said.

The decision disappointed Steve Starleaf, a former All-American tennis player who first suggested building a championship-caliber tennis and family sports complex in Burbank.


Starleaf, 33, had hoped the facility would not only become one of the largest of its kind in Southern California, but develop into one of five regional training centers of the United States Tennis Assn., the official sponsor for national tennis athletes.

“People don’t understand what we’re trying to do,” Starleaf said. “People up there are overly concerned about traffic, but I don’t think this would cause that much traffic. And this center would raise property values, not lower them. It would be a beautiful complex with health-conscious people.”

Another Pitch

Starleaf said he plans to make another pitch for the center at a public hearing July 19 at John Muir Junior High School, sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department. The hearing is being held to gather public comments on the center.


“Once people get the facts about it, I think they will support it,” Starleaf said.

The complex would include 30 tennis courts, a center court with seating for 2,000 spectators, a swimming pool, a clubhouse and a “five-star” 8,000 square-foot restaurant.

The city had asked for other proposals for the sports center, but Starleaf and his group of limited partners were the only ones to submit plans. Inga said the group appeared to lack experience and the ability to finance the project. He also said the center provided only a “weak financial return” to Burbank--a lease rate of $25,000, with an annual increase of not more than 5% or 1.5% of the profits, whichever was greater.