Following complaints from area residents of rundown facilities and an inquiry from a local TV news station, the City of San Diego, Calif., said it has closed some of its outdoor fields for maintenance.
North Park Little League President Greg Spielman told KFMB-TV that the ballparks in the city's heart, in underserved communities, are maintained the worst. “If you look at the struggles leagues in the south of the eight have, in the heart of our city, people in the northern areas wouldn't tolerate it. There’s no maintenance. There’s no cleanup. There are no funds for it.”
KFMB-TV said it started contacting the city about ballpark maintenance and closures last week, as well as complaints about worn-out fields, rundown bathrooms and rusty and broken fences.
"We tried to get someone to do an on-camera interview, but the city could not find anyone available by airtime Wednesday afternoon," the news station reported Wednesday. KFMB-TV reported that the station received a statement last week when the city was first contacted about the quality, maintenance and status of the fields.
The Parks and Recreation Department tries to be as mindful as possible not to impact user groups and the public, but of course, fields have to be closed for regular maintenance as it’s impossible to renovate an open area.
Currently, North Park and Golden Hill are closed. They each had a field renovation, and we must allow the fields to rest once that work is done. The typical closure time after renovation is 10-12 weeks. Both sites have multi-purpose fields that are heavily used for soccer, flag football, and baseball/softball. When closures are done, signs are usually placed indicating that renovation occurred, stating a “closed until” date.
Often, fields will “look” ready, but the turf still needs time to settle, and if they were opened prematurely, it would set back all of the work that had been done. This is currently the case at Golden Hill. It looks pretty ready to go, and it may appear like nothing is happening, but the grass is recovering, rooting, and growing, necessitating it to remain closed until July 11.
Over at Morley Field Sports Complex, the fields are typically closed for maintenance between sports seasons. This is typically done for one month for renovation, aerification, or rest. Outside of this maintenance schedule, there are typically no other park closures.
The department does its best to keep the fields as accessible as possible while doing what is needed to maintain these areas for optimum use.
No one can use the field at Golden Hill until July 11. It closed on April 10.
The league has over 40 teams, 430 kids, playing 750 games.
North Park Little League plays at Morley Field. He says his league invested over $35,000 into the fields at Morley Field Sports Complex so they would have good areas to play on. He says the difference in city parks and fields outside town is staggering.
“Deferred maintenance has devastated the fields," Spielman told KFMB-TV. "The hardscaping at the park is falling apart. The plumbing and the bathrooms are constantly closed.”
KFMB-TV reported that staff asked an employee at Golden Hill, where the fields are closed for repair now but where kids have typically play during baseball and soccer season. He pointed to a slight stretch of grass and said soccer teams played there.
“It's easy to pass it off on Golden Hill, Sherman Heights, and East Village. Give them something to be proud of," Spielman said. "A field says you have worth if it's a good field. Right? You will play at a higher level if you feel at a higher level. It's our inner city. It's our urban area of San Diego. We don't provide a commitment to excellence.”
Spielman said the city needs to do more.
“Parks and Rec staff are trying to help as much as possible. City Council is not giving the resources," he said. "The mayor's not giving the resources. I just heard the mayor on a news show tout that Park and Rec was one of his shining achievements. And I voted for the man every time, for every office he's been in, and I was like, wait, what? We can’t say that our park system is our shining achievement."