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Council earmarks money for field lights at Leo Mullen Park

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council recently earmarked money to install artificial turf and 25-foot field lights at Leo Mullen Sports Park as part of its six-year big-ticket budget plan.

The City Council on April 29 advanced its $47.7 million capital improvement budget, which earmarks money for major infrastructure, planning, construction and maintenance projects from 2015 to 2021.

The current iteration of the budget includes a $1.14 million project to install artificial turf and lights at the sports field, in response to the Encinitas Soccer League’s lobbying efforts to improve the organization’s home field in the wake of imminent loss of field space at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA.

Soccer league representatives implored the council on March 25, and again on April 29, to consider the project. Before the council revised the most recent budget, staff originally proposed only earmarking money for the field turf installation. However, following discussion among the council, staff and council agreed that it could find the additional $130,000 to do both turf and lighting.

“I think that is a number we can work with and try to fine tune some of our estimates a little bit and get that,” Finance Director Tim Nash said.

The lighting and turf installation, however, is contingent on two major sources of outside funding that are not guaranteed — the soccer league pledged $100,000 towards the project, and the city is pursuing a $368,000 grant from the Metropolitan Water District for pulling out the grass and replacing it with artificial surfacing.

The regional’s primary water wholesaler provides rebates of $2 per square foot or more for turf removal, but the city must apply for the approval.

“I just want to clarify that none of this money is for sure, and that we are not committing to doing this even if these funding sources fall through,” Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said to staff, which reaffirmed that the project hinges on those funding sources.

Despite the conditions, soccer league officials were pleased that the item was included in the budget.

“It’s a great first step for us,” interim President Rick Lochner said.

The revised capital improvement budget also includes funding for several other key projects:

  • $1.5 million for a roundabout at Hygeia Avenue and Leucadia Boulevard, contingent on the city receiving a $1.3 million grant.
  • $150,000 toward traffic safety improvements around Paul Ecke Central Elementary
  • $500,000 toward the restoration of sand dunes at Cardiff State Beach, which will largely be grant funded
  • An increase of $300,000 toward the construction planning of the second phase of the North Coast Highway 101 streetscape.

The City Council will vote on a final draft of the capital budget May 27, and final approval is expected in early June.