San Dieguito pursues pact with Carlsbad to manage sports fields

The city of Carlsbad is back in discussions to manage the San Dieguito Union High School District’s La Costa Valley fields. The 28-acre parcel on Calle Barcelona in Carlsbad, home to two baseball fields, a softball field and three soccer and lacrosse fields, was built using funding from Proposition AA and has been open to daily use for the last few months.

The San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) had been planning to approve a contract with Carlsbad to manage the fields but following the SDUHSD board’s July meeting, the message from the SDUHSD was that Carlsbad had withdrawn its offer. After seeing an article reporting that message in this newspaper, the city of Carlsbad reached out to say the district was mistaken and they did want to continue working with the SDUHSD.

At the Aug. 17 SDUHSD board meeting, SDUHSD Associate Superintendent of Business Services Tina Douglas said that there appeared to be a “communication gap.”

Douglas said the SDUHSD was slated to meet with the city next week to discuss the potential contract, “making sure that it’s a win for the district and that our students have first priority of the fields.”

According to SDUHSD’s master plan, the site’s athletic facilities will serve La Costa Canyon High School and San Dieguito High School Academy athletic program needs first and provide a community resource until such time that a new middle school is necessary.

The fields have not been made available for rent yet and two local Encinitas sports organizations have requested to use the facility.

“We have reached out to our schools so we can book their use first but once we do that we will allow those two organizations to submit their facility use request,” Douglas said.

SDUHSD Trustee Beth Hergesheimer said she wanted to ensure the district was considering concerns heard from groups such as Encinitas Express Soccer League, who worried that if Carlsbad managed the fields they might not get needed field space.

“(The fields) are for our entire district so we need to make sure there’s a way Encinitas and other local groups don’t get second-class consideration under Carlsbad,” Hergesheimer said. “As long as that’s being considered, that makes me comfortable.”

SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill stated that they plan to accommodate all community groups, not just Carlsbad.

“Before we enter into any contract with the City of Carlsbad, we should make sure our Prop AA-funded improvements are being used in a manner that is consistent with the Prop AA measure and meets the needs of our student and taxpayer community,” SDUHSD board member Mo Muir said.

Muir also reiterated her desire to hold a public forum to hear what the community wants for the property before the district moves forward.

“We could have collaboration and partnership instead of something happening and we have to react, again,” Muir said.

Dill said the district has focused its communication on surrounding residents and met with homeowners associations as they will be the most impacted by the field use. Dill said they have discussed the lights, noise and hours of operation in order to be good neighbors in the community.

Last month, Dill said that the district would consider approaching the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito and the YMCA to explore other long-term operations agreements, but the priority now will be the agreement with Carlsbad.

“We prefer to work with the city as they know and understand how to manage a city park and those fields are more or less like a city park,” Douglas said. “The city is our first option. If the conversations with the city are not successful, we will look at the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs as other options.”

The fields remain open to the public during the day. The parking lot gate is closed at night.

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