ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Union High School District is close to commencing a $27 million athletic facilities project at Torrey Pines High School, a three-phase effort that will conclude with constructing a long-awaited pool.
District officials are preparing to kick off the first phase, renovating the school’s athletic fields, in the coming weeks. The $11 million effort will replace the school’s two grass fields with synthetic turf, add new fencing, resurface the tennis courts and add ADA improvements at the football stadium.
This phase will also address Title IX complaints against the district regarding the school’s softball fields, which have fallen into disrepair, by adding new bleachers, backstops and scoreboards.
At the district’s June 15 board meeting, staff requested trustees to approve the final price for the athletic fields renovation and give the green light for construction. However, in a 3-2 vote, the board decided to delay approval until staff could address concerns that the girl’s softball program was not sufficiently included in the planning process.
“I’m worried about moving forward without more information on this,” said Trustee Jane Lea Smith, who voted in favor of the delay along with trustees Rimga Viskanta and Katrina Young.
Interim Superintendent Tina Douglas warned that a delay could impact construction and affect when teams can use the fields in the fall but agreed to bring back more information for the board.
“If we were to pause, my worry is that it could potentially set us back longer, with the way things have been going for construction,” Douglas said.
The concern in question came from Torrey Pines parent Kim Klekotka, who claimed during public comment that the girl’s program was denied the opportunity to give input on whether to have turf on their varsity outfields. District spokesperson Miquel Jacobs denied this.
“I can confirm unequivocally that the softball leadership at Torrey Pines High School was consulted regarding planning for the upcoming field renovation project, which includes consultation regarding the implementation of turf fields,” Jacobs said. “Additionally, SDUHSD district leadership will always continue to work with all of our sports and athletics teams on issues that affect their programs. The softball program at TPHS is no different.”
Allman stated Monday on his trustee Facebook page that he requested a special meeting to approve the contract and allow construction to proceed.
The following two phases of the Torrey Pines project include the $6 million modernization of the locker rooms, the addition of team rooms, and the $10 million construction of the district’s first aquatic facility.
The aquatic center is expected to go to bid in January, with the board scheduled to approve a contract and guaranteed maximum price in the spring. Trustee Michael Allman hoped to see a faster timeline for this phase.
“It just seems like we keep delaying, delaying, delaying, and now we’re not even looking at getting to the [price] until spring,” Allman said. “Is there anything we can do to speed that up?”
Douglas said staff is already busy preparing bid documents for the locker room modernization phase, which goes to bid in November, and that the pool process could not begin until afterward.
Parents, students and coaches have lobbied leaders to build a pool for decades, noting that the swim, dive and water polo athletes have practiced entirely offsite at rented facilities. Torrey Pines’s diving team currently practices at Cathedral High School, while the water polo club has utilized pools at UC San Diego and Mt. Carmel High School.
“The amount of money they’re spending to have all those other high schools rent a pool, when there could be a multi-use facility there … that would be a huge win for the district. They’re spending tons of money every year just to make sure they have those aquatic programs,” said Torrey Pines head dive coach K.C. Tudor.
Adding an onsite pool will also help recruit more athletes and build a more extensive fan base, Tudor said.
Coaches at other schools are also eager to see the Torrey Pines pool come to fruition, as the facility could be shared among various teams.
La Costa Canyon swim team coach Don Miralle said the team currently practices at the Encinitas YMCA two mornings and five evenings a week. However, morning practices are shared with another team, usually leaving just two lanes for LCC’s 50 athletes to use.
Miralle said it’d taken so long for the district to pursue a pool that he’s almost lost hope. However, it would undoubtedly benefit future generations of swimmers, divers and water polo players.
“You would never have a school with a baseball team that doesn’t have a baseball field or a football team that doesn’t have a football field, but aquatic athletes have done that going on for 30 years,” he said.