Leo Mullen Sport Park returns to council next week

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council will consider potential changes to the Leo Mullen Sports Park turf and lighting project, including pledging more city dollars to the project.

The City Council in May approved a $1.135 million budget item to replace the grass turf at Leo Mullen with artificial turf, which will allow sports teams to use the fields year round without long closures due to turf replanting, and 25-foot-field lights, which would allow for increased practice time.

The approval came in response to the Encinitas Soccer League’s lobbying efforts to improve the organization’s home field as the league faced the potential loss of field space at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA.

The council in late November was prepared to consider an item that called for the city to increase the project’s $1 million budget by more than $310,000, partly as a result of being unable to accept a $100,000 grant that it applied for earlier this year.

The item was abruptly pulled from the council agenda indefinitely.

The grant, which was through the US Soccer Foundation, called for the city to receive $100,000 in the form of product or work credit with Hellas Construction, meaning the city would have to guarantee the contractor would be awarded the project.

As a public works project, the city can’t make that guarantee, as all such projects are subject to public bidding.

“They can bid on the project and if we select them, potentially we may be able to get the rebate,” Encinitas Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Rudloff said. “But we can’t give them the project.”

The other $200,000 in increases includes the cost of a project consultant and a 10 percent contingency that the city did not include in the original budget approval in May.

There has also been recent speculation that the Jan. 13 council discussion could also deal with the field lights that are supposed to be part of the project, and the council could potentially delay that portion of the project.

The Coast News asked Rudloff about the field lights, but she was unable to speak about it in detail until the release of the City Council report, which is later this week.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar said in an email response that the city is still reviewing the lighting component, but needs to move forward with approval of the turf in order not to lose a $172,000 turf replacement grant from the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles.

“Given there is a tight timeline to take advantage of the cash for the grass program offered by the water district, the City needs to move forward with council approvals, and come forward at a later date with the discussion on lights,” Gaspar wrote.

The Coast News will update the story as more information becomes available.

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