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Encinitas Little League pitches field plan

Encinitas Little League officials have pitched a plan that they say would keep most of its games at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA Sports Park, while giving the YMCA space to expand.

League officials on March 10 submitted their proposal to the city and YMCA. Under the plan, the league would give up one of four YMCA fields at the end of this year, in exchange for the removal of a controversial contract clause that would let the YMCA (or city) cancel the lease agreement with 30 days’ notice.

“This proposal would keep our league largely intact,” said Rick Ritchie, former League president. “If we lose two playing fields or more there, it would be devastating.”

The YMCA owns the fields, and the city leases and maintains them. In 2013, the Encinitas City Council approved a 10-year lease extension, but with the new 30-day clause that came to light last fall. That led the league to worry it could be displaced with little notice if the YMCA needs the fields for its planned expansion.

Councilman Tony Kranz said the league’s proposal is an “excellent compromise.”

He agreed that the proposal would give the YMCA room to grow and allow the league to stay. He added while the YMCA might prefer to take additional fields for expansion, it should consider that the Ecke Family donated the land and Little League has historically been played there.

Kranz said he’d like the proposal to be placed on a council agenda. But ultimately, he said, the YMCA has to be willing to come back to the table and talk about expunging the 30-day clause.

“We can’t force the YMCA to do anything,” Kranz said. “So if they’re not willing to come back to the table to reconsider the contract, I don’t know what our options are.”

Previously, the YMCA has said its expansion plans could take one or more of the fields. Two weeks ago, YMCA officials said in a statement the organization plans to complete its master plan before this July, when the sports leagues’ games are scheduled for the upcoming year.

Susan Hight, the YMCA’s executive director, did not respond to a request for a phone interview by deadline. Mayor Kristin Gaspar also couldn’t be reached by press time.

Encinitas Little League and other sports leagues that use the fields have been promised they can stay through 2015, with no commitments beyond that.

“Although 2015 usage has been assured, Encinitas Little League continues to worry, on a daily basis, about the 30-day termination clause and ongoing uncertainty about the future,” the proposal states. “Encinitas Little League wants to proactively solve the problem.”

Ritchie said the league is offering Field No. 1, the easternmost field adjacent to the YMCA’s main parking lot. The League is then looking for the 30-day clause to be dropped for the three other fields.

He said the league’s junior program, 13 and 14 year olds, plays on Field No. 1 and they would have to relocate, potentially to the Encinitas Community Park. However, Ritchie said it’s totally unrealistic for the entire league to move to the community park or elsewhere in the city.

“The new Encinitas Community Park is wonderful — but was not intended as a full-time sports park and is not close to a comparable facility, with its lack of lights, only two unfenced baseball fields with no infield turf, and no batting cages,” the proposal states.


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