RANCHO SANTA FE — To the chagrin of many polo players and other athletes, the fate of a Rancho Santa Fe field is still up in the air. The San Diego Polo Club signed a 25-year lease with the city of San Diego when it first moved onto the property, home to polo matches that are open to the public from June to October. But the polo club’s lease expired in March. The city of San Diego declined to renew the lease and announced it would go out to bid on the property and request proposals. That has yet to happen, though.
Dirk Wray, a Solana Beach resident, is among the polo players who hopes matches will continue at the field, which is located a mile or so east of the Del Mar Racetrack, off of El Camino Real.
“It’s one of the best all-time sports and would be a huge loss to the community,” Wray said, adding that there are few other options for polo players in San Diego.
“I’m sure a lot of people would stop playing if we lost the field,” he said. “The club’s future could be in doubt.”
The city of San Diego has said a request for proposals would be issued sometime this summer. But Steve Lewandowski, community relations director of the polo club said he hasn’t received word on proposal requests. Calls were placed to Mayor Jerry Sanders’ spokesperson, but were not returned.
A new tenant, possibly one that doesn’t want to support polo events, could be operating the field in the future. But for now, the polo club is still leasing the field on a month-to-month basis, said Lewandowski. He said the city of San Diego wasn’t legally obligated to renew its lease with the polo club.
“They’re trying to get the best deal possible, and we think we can offer that,” Lewandowski said.
He said the polo club eagerly awaits the opportunity to place a bid and hopefully secure a longterm lease.
“We’re really determined to remain there,” Lewandowski said. “We feel we’ve been good stewards of the field.”
According to Lewandowski, the polo club has given the city of San Diego $3 million throughout the 25-year lease and has also generated more than $650,000 in property taxes. Additionally, he said, the polo club has put on numerous fundraising events at the field for more than 80 charities.
To fund operating and maintenance costs, the polo club uses membership dues and subleases the property to various sporting events, including cricket, rugby, lacrosse and soccer games, according to Lewandowski. Organizers behind those events are also vested in the future of the polo field.
“They are uncertain about what would happen if the city awards the lease to someone else,” Lewandowski said. “Nothing is guaranteed at this point.”
Lewandowski said polo has been in San Diego for 106 years, calling the sport “a fabric in the community that can’t be replaced.” If the club’s lease isn’t renewed, there are small polo fields in Lakeside and Poway, but those may not be large enough to accommodate the polo fans and players in coastal North County, he said.
But Lewandowski hopes it doesn’t come to that. He said the polo club is fighting to gain community support on the lease. They’ve given presentations to a variety of community leaders and groups, and also asked people to back them by signing a lease on their website.
“We’ve dedicated a lot of time to the field,” Lewandowski said. “We’re passionate about what happens to it.”