District taps brakes on additional seating for new Costa Mesa High stadium


The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is shying away from a proposal to install portable bleachers at Costa Mesa High School’s upcoming sports stadium, contending the bleachers would cause “significant damage” to the facility’s landscaping and present other “operational difficulties.”

The bleachers were among possible additions to Mustangs Field outlined in a feasibility study paid for by Costa Mesa City Hall, where some officials have argued the stadium’s planned 1,000-person capacity won’t adequately fulfill the campus’ needs.

But in a letter this month to city Chief Executive Tom Hatch, district Supt. Fred Navarro was less certain. Along with raising the concerns about landscaping damage and operational problems, he wrote that the district wants to “accurately assess” how well Mustangs Field will work out for the campus.

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The estimated $8.5-million facility is under construction and expected to open in time for the fall football season.

“Basically, with the new field being built, there is a potential for an increase in attendance, so we want the time to be able to monitor changes in attendance patterns” to determine the need for future additions, district spokeswoman Annette Franco said in an email Wednesday. “We believe that it is prudent and responsible to have this data before moving forward.”

Navarro has asked the city to hold off, for at least a year, on its willingness to put city funds toward additional seating at the stadium and other upgrades, such as a special building for team rooms.

Navarro’s May 4 letter was met with disdain by Costa Mesa High football boosters, including its president, Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Katrina Foley, who helped persuade her council colleagues to contribute $25,000 in February toward the feasibility study of how much larger Mustangs Field could be.

The study, completed in April by Riverside-based Ruhnau, Ruhnau and Clarke, presented three options for more seating.

The cheapest was $435,603, most of which would go toward buying and installing temporary bleachers for 900 people, bringing the stadium capacity to 1,900.

The most expensive was $1.32 million toward permanent and temporary seating allowing up to 2,900 spectators. That money included corresponding additions to the men’s and women’s restrooms.

The other option was $939,000 to make the capacity 2,000.

In a statement posted Monday on the Costa Mesa High School Football Boosters Facebook page, the group’s board scoffed at the district’s assertion that it needs time to assess campus needs.

“We don’t need to assess the stadium for a year to determine need. It’s not just about football,” the board stated. “We already know we need more bleachers today for other sports, band and school activities.”

The boosters said the band can’t host a tournament without at least 2,000 seats, the track team can’t host a CIF meet without at least 2,500 seats and, with a campus population of about 1,200, the new stadium couldn’t even accommodate a full school assembly or graduation ceremony.

“We’ve been trying to get the school board to do this for almost nine years,” the boosters stated. “Enough already. Just do the right thing and build for the future, not for today.

“There is no rational reason to deny this project.”

Franco noted that the district hasn’t finalized any decisions yet, including whether to add portable bleachers.

“I want to emphasize that, other than the board’s approval to accept funds and move forward with the feasibility study, there has been no board action on this, nor is it expected until we revisit with the city and determine next steps,” Franco wrote in her email. “Until then, there is no action to be taken by the board.”


Bradley Zint,

Twitter: @BradleyZint