Parks commission talks about field use
If Costa Mesa sports boosters had their way, there would be light.
Enough of it, at least, so that the throngs of children and adults could toss, punt, pass, kick, bat and throw the ball around until 9 or 10 p.m.
Such was the prevailing sentiment Thursday evening at the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. The five-member body received a staff report about field use in Costa Mesa, including challenges faced by the youth and adult sports communities.
Staff noted that few city sports facilities have permanent lighting. Those that do are the Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex, formerly known as The Farm; the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex; and Luke Davis Field at Lions Park.
Temporary lighting can be found at the state-owned Fairview Developmental Center and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s Parsons Field, Davis Magnet School and Harper School.
Within the facilities are 21 lighted fields, including two for baseball and three for softball.
The field shortage is “most acute,” according to city staff, during daylight savings time, when more than 60% of athletic fields are not available after 5 p.m. because of the lack of lighting.
Adding lights would require a “potentially significant” capital investment vetted through the usual city budgetary process, staff said.
City officials also have to do their “balancing act” each season, the report said, meeting the needs of players and the residents near the fields. Residents pay attention to parking, noise and other quality-of-life issues that can arise from athletic field usage, it said.
To that point, Commissioner Bob Graham said that if Costa Mesa bought Balearic Park — the city leases the 10-acre facility from the school district — and added lighting for sports fields there, officials could consider one potentially “overlooked” opportunity that may gain nearby residents’ support.
“Why don’t we offer them money?” Graham said. “Let’s buy some deed restrictions.”
Chairman Byron de Arakal called the suggestion “hush money.”
Graham then replied, “People respect that, in a sense. We’re not buying them. We’re respecting them. They’ve got something to sell, and that’s their support for this. Let’s maybe give them something that’s fair in return.”
The city manages or allocates 43 fields and 24 baseball/softball diamonds within 27 sports facilities. Of those 27, 21 are owned by Newport-Mesa Unified, which has had a joint-use agreement with the city for fields since 1984.
The city pays the school district $188,000 annually for use of its fields.
Costa Mesa officials manage field allocations for about 20 youth and adult sports organizations that serve more than 5,000 people during the fall and spring seasons. During the 2012-13 fiscal year, 51,016 field-use hours were scheduled.
The demand from sports users has consistently increased systemwide, staff noted. In the past 10 years, 19 organizations say they have seen “significant growth,” the report said.
The greatest growth has come from youth and adult soccer, including AYSO 97, AYSO 120 and the Newport Mesa Soccer Club, as well as Newport-Mesa Friday Night Lights, Matt Leinart Flag Football and Costa Mesa Boys of Fall Youth Flag Football programs.
The study of athletic field usage will continue as the city updates its Open Space Master Plan of Parks and Recreation, said Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz.
The plan, last updated in 2003, acts as a blueprint for parks and their programs.