With opening day of the 2015 Encinitas Little League baseball on March 7, until last week, the league wasn’t sure it would hear “play ball” this year. And this may be the last year they are allowed to play at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA's baseball complex — fields they’ve used for 25 years.
The league that produced an all-star team — which was one win away from making it to the 2014 Little League World Series — and the City of Encinitas both thought they were entering into a standard ten-year agreement with the Y for its four-diamond complex. The YMCA owns the property; the city leases and pays for field improvements. But the Y threw a curve ball.
According to community leaders, the Y added a clause that wasn’t in the previous 25-year lease; the clause says the Y can cancel the lease with only a 30-day notice. While the agreement was signed in December of 2013, the consequences of the new clause didn’t come to light until preparing for this year’s season.
It is believed by most in the community, including former mayor Jerome Stocks, that the Y had plans all along to expand their facility in the future, thus eliminating the ball fields. In recent weeks, several meetings transpired between city-council members and the Y. A verbal commitment was made last week that enables the 500+ ball players to stay through the 2015 season.
As reported in the Encinitas Advocate, Susan Hight, executive director of the YMCA, said the organization is, “Developing a master site plan to serve members better, including expanding its footprint. The plan could affect one or more fields.” For years, Y members have complained that the league takes up too much of their limited parking.
League officials have stated they might be able to use the fields at the newly opened 44-acre Encinitas Park, but there is no lighting for night games. Plus, having to share with youth soccer, adult softball, lacrosse, and other sports, would limit the number of games in their season.
Parents of upcoming Little Leaguers are concerned that because the city spent $40 million on the new Encinitas Park (over 16 years) and committed $10 million to purchase the former Pacific View Elementary School last year, funds could be limited to develop a city-owned baseball complex.
(corrected 3/9, 9:45 a.m.)