Residents Oppose Baseball at Nearby Oxnard College

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Martin Jones can already hear the screams of cheering crowds and excited announcers over the public-address system.

He can see those glaring field lights beaming down from their 80-foot-high perches, lighting up the sky for another nine innings.

And he can just picture the hundreds of cars traveling through his Oxnard neighborhood for minor league baseball games next summer--that's 45 games next summer.

This is not the piece of Americana that Jones is after.

But city officials said Friday that Jones and the 285 people who have signed a petition against minor league baseball being played at Oxnard College have nothing to worry about.

In a report released Friday, city planners concluded that the impact associated with transforming an Oxnard College baseball field into the home of the Pacific Suns minor league baseball team can be easily remedied before the ceremonial first pitch is thrown.

"It's doable," city planner Deanna Walsh said Friday, "but we have to go through the process. This is just the very first stage."

Walsh's report concludes that a lengthy and costly environmental impact report will not be necessary to gauge the impact of the proposed project.

Instead, a scaled-back environmental study, called a "mitigated negative declaration," can be created within two months and satisfy all state environmental laws, Walsh said.

Still Jones, chairman of the College Park Neighborhood Council, believes the concerns of his neighborhood are being ignored.

The nearest home sits about 250 feet from home plate, Jones said, and many residents do not welcome the amplified sound, cheering fans, glaring lights and hundreds of additional cars on neighborhood streets that the games would bring.

"It's just totally bogus when they say they can mitigate these problems," Jones said. "The idea of putting in a PA system where none had ever existed, lights where none had ever existed and increasing traffic . . . is just outrageous."

On Thursday, 250 residents of the College Park neighborhood handed the city a petition opposing plans to allow the Pacific Suns to play at Oxnard College.

However, Pacific Suns owner Don DiCarlo argued Friday that Jones is part of a very vocal minority opposed to his project, one to which the press has given far too much attention.

"This is not a community of upset people," DiCarlo said. "This is a couple of upset individuals who are stirring up a pot."

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DiCarlo said new technology exists to direct lights and speakers at the crowds in the stands. Traffic will be routed to avoid affecting the neighborhood. And the 2,500 people who might be motoring in for a sold-out ball game would pale in comparison to the thousands who show up for school each day, he said.

"All of us are concerned about that community," he continued. "The city has killed themselves to schedule meeting after meeting after meeting to be sure all of the impacts are addressed."

Last December, both the Ventura County Community College District trustees and the Oxnard City Council signed off on a licensing agreement that would have allowed the Suns to begin playing ball at Oxnard College last summer.

However, those approvals came too late, and the Suns were forced to sit out last season.

Since moving the team here from Palm Springs a year ago, DiCarlo and the Suns organization have embarked on an aggressive marketing effort to promote the team, becoming involved in dozens of youth organizations, community clubs, charities and fund-raisers.

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DiCarlo said the Suns have already sold 300 season tickets and more than $200,000 in advertising and sponsorships for the coming season.

Based on an annual attendance of 120,000 people, the Suns project that the team's economic impact--including player salaries, ticket sales, new jobs and concessions--will top $5.3 million this summer.

"We want to be the very best community members we possibly can be," DiCarlo said.

Walsh said city officials have spent the better part of six months meeting with about eight different neighborhood groups to keep residents apprised of the plans and to hear their concerns.

To play at Oxnard College, the team needs to build new bleachers that would accommodate an extra 2,000 fans in the 500-seat park.

Plans also call for eight new 80-foot-high light poles, two new clubhouses, restrooms and a new public-address system.

The environmental document, to be drafted by consultants Impact Sciences, will gauge impact to air quality, traffic flow, emergency response, police and fire protection, noise levels exceeding state and city standards and glare from the stadium lights.

The studies may still show that those problems cannot be adequately remedied, Walsh said. If so, the project could still move forward if the City Council approves a so-called statement of overriding consideration, which would conclude that the project's public benefits outweigh the environmental concerns.

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