Council awards contract for Leo Mullen turf


Artificial turf is coming to Leo Mullen Sports Park, but permanent field lighting is still up in the air.

The Encinitas City Council on March 23 voted 4-1 to approve a $1.03 million contract with the firm Bryom-Davey Inc. to install turf at the chewed-up sports fields.

“I look forward to this project being completed,” Councilman Mark Muir said at the March 23 meeting. “It’s not a project that’s been around for several months, I think it’s been around for several years.”

Originally, the city planned to put in 30-foot lights at the same time as turf, but the council on March 16 moved forward without concrete footings for lights to speed up permitting.

City staff recently told the council that the California Coastal Commission is requiring a study to gauge the impact of the lights on surrounding habitat. Getting Coastal Commission approval on lights could take up to a year, and waiting that long to install the turf would mean losing a $172,000 turf rebate from Metropolitan Water District.

The city expects to finish converting the grass fields into turf by late May, just meeting the June 8 rebate deadline. Parents and players from Encinitas Express Soccer have repeatedly pushed for both lights and turf at Leo Mullen to extend playing time.

Councilman Tony Kranz on March 16 said it’s important that the city switch to turf as quickly as possible so that the city can obtain the $172,000 rebate.

“I think it’s much more important that we get the turf and deal with the lights separate, as opposed to trying to process this together,” Kranz said.

The council also moved forward without light footings because of a recent city review of development documents for the area. City staff and some residents called into question if a public vote is necessary for lights, and even whether lights are allowed at Leo Mullen.

On March 16, the council directed City Attorney Glenn Sabine to look into these matters. At the March 23 meeting, Sabine said he’d report back to the council in the next few weeks.

The city last year stated it would offset the cost of the lights and turf with three funding sources. One of those is the $172,000 rebate, which the city is poised to receive, but another fell through, while the third is still uncertain.

The US Soccer Foundation originally pledged a $100,000 turf grant in the form of a credit with the firm Hellas Construction. However, it came to light in January that Hellas would have to submit the lowest bid for the city to accept the grant. Hellas’ bid this month was $271,500 more than the one Bryom-Davey submitted.

Encinitas Express Soccer also had offered $200,000 toward the project, but that’s contingent on installation of the lights.

Before the council vote on March 16, Encinitas Express Soccer officials said the council shouldn’t remove light footings from the bid package.

“My client has waited for over 10 years for lights on this field, and it’s extremely important for them that it move forward together (with turf), or else it may not happen,” said attorney Cynthia Morgan-Reed, representing Encinitas Soccer League.

Seeking to reassure the soccer league, Mayor Kristin Gaspar said lights are needed because it’s impossible to squeeze in all soccer games before dark.

“I want to bring to the council’s attention again the necessity of making sure those fields are lit,” Gaspar said.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, who voted against the contract, has expressed concern over allocating money without having completed a parks master plan that identifies needed projects citywide.

The council’s March 23 motion also amended a contract to award $40,250 in funds to Geopacifica Inc. to inspect the turf during construction.