School board fields other options

The Los Angeles Fútbol Club Foundation wants to keep its joint-use contract for La Cañada High’s football/soccer field alive despite its failure to make scheduled payments, a foundation official said in an interview late last week.

At its March 29 meeting, the La Cañada school board postponed making an amendment to the existing agreement between the Fútbol Club, district and La Cañada High School Boosters. The board directed the district staff to speak with the soccer club about reducing its use of the field and paying for the electricity costs needed to light the field at night.

The amended contract would have allowed the Boosters to drop out of the agreement after paying $25,000 and would transfer rights to use of the field from the Arroyo United Foundation to the Los Angeles Fútbol Club, which would pay $121,500 by Dec. 31, 2017.

“We will do whatever it takes to continue this agreement,” said Barry Ritson, the Los Angeles Fútbol Club’s director of coaching and head coach of the La Cañada High boys’ soccer team. Options include paying more money or spending less time on the field.

Mike Leininger, the district’s assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, said it’s good to know the club has the field’s best interests at heart.

“It’s nice to know you have a single person that takes pride in that facility, so we need to work out the remaining details and see what the board wants to do moving forward,” Leininger said.

An alternative proposal for use of the field, from F.C. Golden State soccer club in Pasadena, was also submitted the board on March 29. F.C. Golden State offered to pay $216,000 by 2017, $94,500 more than Los Angeles Fútbol Club, while also using the facility less than the current club.

“The postponement was made because the district received a written submission of proposal to lease the field, which would result in more money and reduced usage of the field,” said school board member Cindy Wilcox.

Don Sheppard, under the banner of the Arroyo United Foundation, paid to install a new artificial field and rubberized track at LCHS in September of 2003. In exchange, the Arroyo United Foundation received use of the facilities when they were not being used by the district. Arroyo United is now known as the Los Angeles Fútbol Club, and Sheppard is still the organization’s president.

“We are very appreciative of all the money and innovation Don Sheppard brought to the field many years ago, so we want to consider both offers,” Wilcox said.

Arroyo United entered into an agreement with the district and Boosters for joint-use of the facility until 2018. The inability of both the foundation and Boosters to keep up with their scheduled payments of $8,000 and $5,000, respectively, moved the district to looking into nullifying the agreement and pursuing other options for the field.

The Fútbol Club proposed March 29 a contract that would give the school district the opportunity to nullify the agreement immediately if the club didn’t meet its scheduled payments.

The Los Angeles Fútbol Club currently trains on the field Monday through Thursday from 5:45 to 9:30 p.m. The club season runs from December to the end of February, giving the field two months of rest from mid-June to mid-July and mid-December to mid-January.

“People think we’re out there all night and have games going on all day on the weekends, and that’s really not the case,” Ritson said.

Ritson said the Los Angeles Fútbol Club has no desire to see the field overused, because many of the club’s players go on to play under him during the high school soccer season.

“I’m on both sides of the fence, so I don’t have a horse in this race,” Ritson said. “I want the best for the high school and the club.”

The amended contract is scheduled to reappear before the Governing Board’s Tuesday meeting, and a decision is expected be made then. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the round building at district headquarters, located at 4490 Cornishon Ave.

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