ENCINITAS — Encinitas is still in line for a $368,000 grant to replace the grass turf at the Leo Mullen Sports Park with artificial turf, even as the water district behind the popular grant announced it had exhausted funds for the program last week.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region’s largest water wholesaler, announced July 8 that it was closing the program after earmarking nearly all of the program’s $450 million to homeowners, public agencies and other entities looking to swap natural grass for artificial turf.
The program originally awarded applicants up to $2 per square foot of lawn they were placing, lowering the amount in the program’s final month to stretch the funding as far as possible. Demand outpaced funding almost from the outset, water district officials said.
Encinitas officials said they were able to get their application in to the water district in May, and that the funding had been earmarked for the Leo Mullen project.
“We got it in on time,” Encinitas Parks and Recreation supervisor Lisa Rudloff said. “We got it in under the old rebate incentive of $2 per square foot.”
The rebate was a critical piece of the $1.1 million turf replacement and field lighting project at Leo Mullen, which serves as the home field for the Encinitas Soccer League, one of the area’s largest youth sports teams.
The council’s approval was contingent on securing the grant as well as a pledge of $100,000 from the soccer club.
But the city’s work is not done: Rudloff said they will have to submit a timeline to the Metropolitan Water District in the next few weeks that will show the project is on track.
“We will need to show progress and no down time,” Rudloff said.
A lack of progress could result in the city losing its earmarking for funds in favor of an applicant on a waiting list that the water district set up after closing the program.
Metropolitan’s program, the nation’s largest such turf-removal program, originally started out with $40 million, but water district officials increased it to $100 million in December due to the program’s popularity. The water board increased the program by $350 million in late May following Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order to reduce statewide residential water use by 25 percent.
It took six weeks for all of the funds to be spoken for, Metropolitan officials said.