Can “Boomer”, SDUSD Save Game Over $2M PLHS Ballfield Upgrade?

A modern-day "Field of Dreams" is being planned for youth and adult baseball teams in Point Loma -- with help from a big-name retired major leaguer.

But city officials are looking to block the plate.

The showdown, headed for the City Council next Tuesday, is over a campaign to renovate the baseball field at Dana Middle School that serves as home venue for the Point Loma High School baseball team.

The San Diego Unified School District owns the land and will bankroll the project.

But there’s a hang-up involving the underlying property, David Wells Field, named after the retired major league pitching star who’s a graduate of Point Loma High, an assistant baseball coach there and a heavy hitter when it comes to upgrading the program.

The city of San Diego has a joint-use agreement with San Diego Unified for 7.3 acres on the Dana campus, encompassing two baseball fields and paved playground areas.

The district wants to work with Wells – affectionately nicknamed “Boomer” -- to upgrade his namesake field with money from Prop. Z school bonds, and change the joint use agreement so as to control and oversee the 3.5 acres comprising Wells Field.

But to the city, it's a loss of vital acreage from an inventory that officials say already has a 78-acre “deficiency” of “population-based” parkland in the Peninsula Community.

The Park & Recreation and Development Services departments are advising against the arrangement.

“With the current land values in Peninsula and limited available funding for the acquisition and development of new park space,” they said in a staff report to the Council, “The removal of 3.5 acres of joint-use will be difficult to make up elsewhere in the community.”

Activists involved in the proposal are pushing back with arguments challenging city staff’s zero-tolerance stance on the joint-use amendment.

“We’re surrounded by the beaches and Robb Field and regional parks and resource-based parks which are a benefit to our community,” says Point Loma resident Byron Wear, a former City Council member and longtime PLHS booster. “So these park standards really don’t make sense in their application. It's more of a technical, bureaucratic kind of a situation.

“Bottom line is, what's in it for the community? The community's going to get a $2 million baseball complex which is open to everybody … and if you want to lease it or use it, you go through the city schools for your permit versus Park & Recreation."

PLHS baseball coach Joe Radovich says Wells Field is long overdue for a major makeover, starting with artificial turf and state of the art-irrigation.

"The field right now takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and money to maintain the field as it is,” Radovich said Thursday in an interview with NBC 7. "When we talk about turning it into a turf field -- now it's all taken care of.”

Radovich noted that seating will be expanded, the outfield fences will be moved in, surrounding windscreens will be installed, and other upgrades will include overhauls to batting cages and pitching mounds.

“It's a win-win for everybody,” said Radovich. “It's a win-win for the high school kids. It's a win-win for the adults that play on the field on the weekends … so it's going to be a quality program for this community."

Editor’s Note: In an email sent after NBC 7’s broadcast version of this story aired, we received this email from Andy Field, Interim Park and Recreation Director:

“As stewards of the community we adhere to plan standards, however, the school district plan for the Dana Middle School ball field has been vetted by the Park and Recreation Board and will provide improvements to the facility. That’s why we are deferring to the community on the proposal before the Council on Tuesday.”

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