UCLA files motion to keep its baseball stadium on veterans’ land
UCLA has gone to court to overturn a decision that could force it to give up its baseball stadium on land leased from the U.S. veterans agency.
The university described itself as a “surprising casualty” of an August ruling that the Department of Veterans Affairs violated federal law by leasing part of its sprawling West Los Angeles campus for commercial use.
In court papers, UCLA asked to be heard by the court before the order is enforced in February. The motion was joined by the Brentwood School, whose tennis courts, fields, gym and aquatic center occupy 20 acres of the 387-acre property. UCLA also asked permission to appeal the court’s ruling.
UCLA has had its stadium on the property for nearly 50 years, but did not participate in the class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of four homeless veterans who wanted the badly neglected property rehabilitated for housing and healthcare for injured soldiers. In its papers, UCLA said its lease is set to expire just as baseball season opens.
The “team just won the national championship in baseball, but it has, at present, no place to practice or compete should it be evicted from Jackie Robinson Stadium,” the university said.
The move angered veterans, who have long accused the federal agency of neglecting Los Angeles County’s estimated 6,000 homeless vets.
“UCLA and the Brentwood School are doing an end run,” said Bob Rosebrock, a 71-year-old U.S. Army veteran who demonstrates outside the property every week.
Gordon Duff, a U.S. Marine veteran who edits a veterans newsletter, said he had asked the NCAA, which oversees collegiate sports, to investigate the lease.
“UCLA boosters went to [veterans affairs] employees and had them award land to the university,” Duff said. “You can’t give a team a facility in less than public circumstances.”
A UCLA spokesman said the NCAA has no rules on leased stadiums.
In its court filing, UCLA argues it operates the stadium for the “shared use” of the university and the veterans agency, letting veteran patients into non-playoff games for free and hosting an American Legion baseball league.
UCLA could not immediately say how much it has paid in rent, but said that faculty and hospital residents provide mental health services, reconstructive surgery and prosthetics to wounded soldiers.
“The stadium was named in honor of one of UCLA’s most celebrated alumni and himself an Army veteran,” the university said in its court filing. The university added that it supports providing long-term care and housing “that is desperately needed by many of our most seriously disabled veterans” on the West L.A. property.
The Brentwood School said it has spent $15 million on improving its leased parcel and $4.5 million in rent. According to the school, all its athletic facilities are open to therapeutic programs for veterans, and the school currently employs nine veterans.
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