City hands over maintenance of Stengel Field to Glendale Unified School District

GLENDALE — With no resistance at all, the Glendale City Council handed over management of Stengel Field to the Glendale Unified School District by approving a memorandum of understanding between the two parties at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“Rarely do we have an opportunity to bring you an item that makes sense to so many different stakeholders as we do tonight,” said Glendale City Manager Scott Ochoa in introducing the item to the council before it was unanimously approved, 5-0, with Frank Quintero and Laura Friedman absent from the meeting.

Before the council voted on or even discussed the matter, Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver wanted to make sure everyone in attendance knew the historical significance of Stengel Field.

“Stengel Field is named after Casey Stengel, probably the most famous manager in baseball with the New York Yankees, at least when I was growing up,” Weaver said. “Mark McGwire, you’ve probably heard about him, used to play on that field. He’d hit that ball not only out of the park but into the wash. That was before steroids.”

All jokes aside, the move is set to save the city approximately $120,000 annually, Glendale Director of Community Services and Parks Jess Duran said.

“This has a lot of merit and of all of these people who are stakeholders in this, I haven’t heard anything negative about it,” Glendale City Councilman Zareh Sinanyan said.

“How could you?” Weaver replied.

GUSD decided to step in and take responsibility for Stengel Field to secure a home field for the Crescenta Valley High baseball team after concerns were raised about the conditions of the field headed into the 2013 baseball season.

The Crescenta Valley, Glendale Community College and local Little League baseball teams will still be able to use Stengel as their home fields, according to the memorandum, but there’s no mention of the Glendale Angelenos summer collegiate team.

The Angelenos have used Stengel as their home in their three years of existence. While they aren’t mentioned in the memorandum, third parties can submit an application in the district to reserve Stengel Field.

The memorandum, which was approved by the district’s board of education on a 4-1 vote Sept. 17, will be in effect for two years, beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2015.

“This would allow us to divert resources from Stengel Field to our other park facilities,” said Duran, who added either party will be able to opt out of the agreement by giving 180 days notice or they can renew it twice for one-year spans each time.

At full capacity, Stengel can hold 1,000 people in its bleachers, but after continual water damage, all but two rows of the bleachers have been condemned, which leaves Stengel with a 300-seating capacity currently, Duran said. Both GUSD and the city will remain in discussions to find a resolution on the matter with plans to return to the council at the Oct. 8 meeting.

Ochoa said one of the possibilities currently being explored is demolishing what’s there and building it back up and putting in temporary aluminum bleachers for the upcoming 2014 baseball season. While the city will be expected to provide some “support” in bringing Stengel back up to par, the responsibility will lie with GUSD, Ochoa said.

“The school district understands completely that going forward if they endeavor to rebuild the structure we would love to support them and will support them, but ultimately that is their obligation,” Ochoa said. “So, we are not buying a pig in a poke by doing this and taking on a remodel project that could go haywire.”

While the city will no longer be on the hook for Stengel, it will still be able to use the field as a potential money maker. According to the agreement, the city has the right to reserve the field for 12 days out of the year for city events. It may also rent out the field for film or television filming with all revenue coming from the film permits going to the city.

While Weaver provided a short history lesson Tuesday, Bryan Longpre — a Glendale resident, Crescenta Valley High graduate and former Falcons baseball player who went on to play in the minor leagues for the Toronto Blue Jays — spoke about the sentimentality surrounding Stengel.

“Stengel Field is something very important to me personally and something very important to Glendale residents, as well,” said Longpre with Crescenta Valley baseball Coach Phil Torres in attendance. “My family played on that field and my dad coached on that field long before I was born and I know a lot of people who have the same story.

“To me and to many other residents in Glendale, this place is more just a baseball field, it’s a home, it’s a historical landmark and source of pride in this community.”

Weaver promised Longpre, Torres and a handful of other people with ties to Crescenta Valley baseball at the meeting Stengel Field’s glory days aren’t behind it.

“When it is rebuilt, there needs to be a museum wall or something that gives the history because most people don’t even know who Casey Stengel is,” Weaver said. “There’s a lot of history there.

“We’ll get it rebuilt, restored and the history along with it. We’ll make Casey proud.”

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