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San Clemente Journal

Sports Park’s A Comin’

Feb 01, 2011 10:00PM ● By Brian O

by Bill Thomas


The views of our long-awaited recreational venue from those on the community hilltop, a facility investor, youth group leaders, and the park developers are collectively enthusiastic and rosy – all looking forward to the site’s completion at the intersection of La Pâta and Vista Hermosa. 

From City Officials
San Clemente’s Mayor, Lori Donchak, is very optimistic about the new complex, remarking, “I visualize La Pata/Vista Hermosa as more than just ‘a park.’ It's a sensational recreation destination for everyone, from the younger generation who will use the sports fields and playground to the older set who will enjoy the pools and the tranquility of the park’s quiet spaces. What a point of pride for San Clemente. The community really stepped up during the master-planning phase of the park's development, and the high quality of the input is evident across the board. Not only is the park magnificent, but thoughtful, upfront planning included a way to maintain this gorgeous facility. The tax revenue from the new Target will go a long way to make sure La Pata Vista Hermosa is well cared for now and in the future.”

Sharon Heider, Director of the City’s Beaches, Parks & Recreation Department said, “It’s so exciting to see our new park taking shape and anticipating how many people it will serve.  One of the best things about this whole process has been how different parts of the San Clemente community have come together to make this park a reality. At this point, we’re looking at a January opening, delayed by the rains we have received  – but, of course, we can’t control how much rain we get between now and January, so that date is still an estimate.”

Landscape Architect Tim Shaw, who has spearheaded the new park’s development, commented, “Working on the design and construction of La Pata Vista Hermosa Sports Park has been one of the most fulfilling projects in my professional career. With all the unique features, the park will be an incredible asset to the community. A park project of this size and scope does not come around too often, and the City has not undertaken a similar sized project in decades. All of the fun and unique features in the park create a synergistic effect, and I think everyone will realize this once the park is up and running.”

Chairman of the seven-member Beaches, Parks & Recreation Commission, Dr. Tom Wicks, indicated, "The new park is an incredibly valuable and exciting addition to San Clemente. With its multitude of venues enhancing the lifestyle of all age groups and physical capabilities, it will be a resource for which we will be increasingly thankful as we enjoy it over the years. We can all take pride in what is being provided for both present and future citizens."

According to Friends of Beaches, Parks & Recreation Foundation (FBPRF) President, George Caravalho, “The Foundation continues to work diligently to assist the City in getting this wonderful recreational facility built, so our youth can truly have a quality sports complex to enjoy their leisure time.” 

Recent fundraising efforts include Foundation partnerships with other non-profit groups, including the Sunrise Rotary Club’s eventful “Dancing for a Cause,” and the forthcoming Foundation Golf Tournament on June 17 at the municipal golf course. To help celebrate the park’s development, leaders of youth groups are banding into foursomes to compete in the neutral recreational activity. Prizes will be awarded by the Foundation to the winning foursomes. Additionally, the Foundation has contracted with a local advertising firm, TKO, headed by Rory Oldham, to seek an over-all park sponsor for naming right recognition, as well as tax-deductible sponsoring of fields, facilities, and other amenities. The City has been assisted in fundraising, naming rights, and donations by the Foundation. Over 131 paving tiles have been sold, drinking fountains and benches have been contributed, and such organizations as Breakaway USA, Dish Magazine, San Clemente Rotary Club, and Pacific Coast National Bank have provided funding, along with money-raisers, including two most successful San Clemente Carnival Colossal and Expo events. The Foundation has raised $152,000 to date. 

From the Private Investor:
In a unique private/public mutual venture, local businessman Scott Melcher has contracted with the City to build an 18-hole miniature golf course and a wave pool on one acre of the park. 
According to Melcher, “There is still lots to do before we actually break ground and begin construction. I’m hopeful we can get going in the next 60 to 90 days. The tropically-designed, mini-golf course shouldn’t take that long to lay out. The Flow Rider system will be of the “double” variety, 32 feet across and 49 feet long, accommodating 30 riders per hour. The estimated construction time for the entire project is approximately six months. We’re coordinating our efforts with the City’s to open the same day the rest of the Sports Park opens. We also plan to offer delicious food and beverage items, along with beer and wine for our adult guests. Additionally, we’ll have a learning center available both to children and adults with WI-FI access. This room can double as an indoor birthday party room with additional retail space for t-shirts, hats, etc…” 

From the User Groups:

The leaders of the City’s numerous youth sports groups are unanimously anticipatory. Little League guru, Sam Masotto, can’t wait for the baseball hub, which consists of three baseball fields, one “regulation” sized (300 feet on the 1st and 3rd base lines and 350” in the center) and two for Little League (200’ to the fence). Ground layouts, score boards, and the restroom/snack bar building and fences are already erected. Masotto estimates that close to 2,000 children playing on 96 different teams will be using the fields for games and practices. 

Image titleHe was relieved to admit, “We won’t allow double practices on a single field any more. We’ll provide a much safer environment and not have to play as late as we have, or on Sundays.”  
Even girls’ softball may get into the LaPata/Vista Hermosa act, although teams have been pretty active already at Steed and other local parks. 

Coach Jack Cann wrote, “As San Clemente Girls Softball celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2011, we look forward to the opening of the newest park at Hermosa and La Pata. We plan to use the many facilities for the enjoyment of our players and families. There have been many plans discussed, such as season-ending pool parties for the teams, family barbecues, and miniature golf tournaments between teams after games of softball. We’ll have 250 girls playing this spring through July. We also have a fall season that runs from September through November.” 

Jack, as did others, acknowledged P&R department staff members Laura Barnett, Carol Gibson and Chris Watkins “…for helping our kids and their families reach their dreams. The new park will be a great asset to the community and our league.”

The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) is also alive and flourishing in our fair city. Two thousand three hundred kids, ages 4 to 19, are expected to register for the 2012 fall season, 

According to Board Member/Field Director Kent Yomogida, “AYSO will use the new sports park soccer fields (three 195’ wide X 330’ long) for practices and games Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 9 pm during the fall season (Sept thru Dec). Saturday and Sunday’s schedules will run from 8 am to 8 pm spring season (Jan thru May) use during the weekdays will be from 3:30 to 7 pm and weekends from 8 am to 6 pm. We’re excited about 2,300 kids playing in AYSO soccer here in San Clemente. We think the entire sports park will be used by our players and families, not just the soccer fields.” 

Kent also asserts that AYSO soccer annually donates approximately $40,000 to $60,000 to field renovation and maintenance here in the city to insure fields are safe and in prime condition for soccer. The organization plans on continuing to donate funds to keep the Sports Park operating as a first class soccer complex in San Clemente for many years to come. It is anticipated that soccer teams representing United Soccer and Elite Soccer will also utilize the forthcoming fields.
New sports such as rugby and Lacross, which are rising in numbers and popularity, are, hopefully and prayerfully, planning for park usage. 

“San Clemente Youth Rugby,” reported Karl Terrey, “has 110 players in elementary and middle school playing rugby. Our hope is to use the new football field and one of the multi purpose fields for our Saturday home games and to make the new complex our home field. We also hope to organize events that will use the fields such as the Girls’ U19 Rugby National All Stars Championships with six teams from all over the country flying in for a weekend competition that also requires hotel rooms, transportation and dining.”  

“Victory Lacrosse could not be more excited about the new Vista Hermosa Sports Park,” emailed Glen Miles, a three-time Lacrosse All-American and 1990 Team USA World Champion. “Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the U.S, and we’re mirroring that growth here in San Clemente. Beginning as Wave Lacrosse four years ago, now called Victory Lacrosse, the City has embraced this sport and is poised to explode onto the National Lacrosse scene. We’re serving over 250 youth in our community. The Sports Park will enable Victory to teach and coach its players more effectively with more space and access to this great high end facility.  I can't wait to share this great game with more families in our fair city.” 
The football and multipurpose fields will not only be used for football, but also for soccer, Lacrosse, rugby, outdoor volleyball, and other activities. Lance Scott of the  local Pop Warner Football Club anticipates that 12 teams, numbering 350 young men, will don their uniforms for next year’s football season. 

Use of the 50 by 25 yard, Olympic sized, competitive, swimming pool, will enable the San Clemente Aquatic Club (SCAT), our 40-year-old competitive community swim program, to expand. 

Image title“We currently have 170 kids utilizing Ole Hansen Swim Club,” SCAT president and San Clemente’s first female lifeguard, Sandy Kos, wrote. “For the past 10 years, the Club has raised funds and worked with the Friends of Parks Foundation to provide more than $40,000 for the pool. From a competitive perspective, we foresee that the Olympic-size pool and our planned coaching expansion will enable us to train our talent within San Clemente to compete at a national level. Receiving a strong foundation in advanced swimming techniques perfectly aligned to competitive standards will allow students to move directly into future programs of their choice. San Clemente Aquatics, San Clemente Junior Lifeguard programs, community water polo programs, surf programs, or the back yard pool parties will all be results.” 

The pool will have two one-meter diving boards, a scoreboard, and shaded bleachers. Next to it will be a 25’x25’ u-shaped activity pool for both fun and therapy with a water play feature and shade structures. Additionally, the 7,600 square foot pool house under construction has ample bathroom and locker facilities. 

Another unique park element is Courtney’s Sandcastle (CSC), a “tot lot” designed for both able and disabled children. Mina Santoro, former president of San Clemente’s Jr. Women’s Club, which started fundraising for the Sandcastle over ten years ago, is now president of a new foundation, totally dedicated to its current and future development.

According to Mrs. Santoro, “The CSC universally accessible playground will be unlike any other playground in the City of San Clemente and perhaps the region. It will provide a comprehensive array of equipment and interactive features that will be appealing and fun for every child in our community regardless of their abilities. Thus, the value of this unique playground will not only provide amazing play and fun opportunities to every child, but will add greatly to the quality of life in our community by fostering diversity awareness, compassion and acceptance. Courtney's SandCastle will also allow disabled parents to actively engage in playground activities with their children.” Consisting of the replicas of a pirate ship and a castle with ramps, as well as a sensory garden rising up as a hill, with slides, swings and other adaptable apparatus, the play area abounds with elements appealing to the basic senses of taste, smell, sight, feel, and sound. Named in honor of one of our City’s wheelchair-bound youngsters, Courtney Faye Smith, this playground has been 11 years in the making, and thanks to the Jr. Women’s Club, the Friends of Parks Foundation, the City’s Park Commission, and the Sandcastle sub-committee, and, eventually, the City Council, it is finally becoming a reality. Currently, there is $82,000 in the CSC bank account, primarily donations and personal tile sales. Additional donations are expected from the PTA - Blue Ribbon Week Wristband Sale and Talega Mom’s Club Boutique. Proposals for funds are being sent to Pepsi Refresh and Kaiser Permanente Foundation. 

From the park’s building contractors:
ValleyCrest is constructing the playing fields, restroom buildings, Courtney’s SandCastle, parking lots and site landscaping. Lighting is sub-contracted by MUSCO lighting. The Jaynes Corporation is the contractor for the aquatic complex, including the pools and pool house, working with Mission Pools. 

John Lisabeth, ValleyCrest Project Manager, reported, “The City of San Clemente representatives are partnering well with ValleyCrest’s construction team in order to maximize the Sports Park design to serve a wide range of community interests and user groups. We are creating a visually appealing end product while keeping maintenance costs and park longevity in mind and also working out cost-effective solutions to constructibility concerns. What’s unique about this project team is that all of us live/play in South Orange County. Essentially, your local park is being built by locals. As a result, the project team has a great sense of pride and ownership for what’s being constructed. I’m looking forward to watching my kids play ball here.” 

Jaynes Corporation Executive Vice President Richard Cohen emailed, “As grandfather to two kids who make San Clemente their home, I am especially proud to have Jaynes involved in the construction of the La Pata Vista Hermosa community park. When completed, this park will be a wonderful addition to San Clemente, and I will certainly enjoy watching my grandchildren competing on the ball fields, playing miniature golf and, of course, enjoying the aquatics complex being built by Jaynes.”

And how is our magnificent, new mega-park financed? 
According to figures presented by Assistant City Manager, Pall Gudgeirsson, the entire park is expected to cost $23 million. The funds come from the developer improvement fund ($4.5 million), General Fund transfer ($9.1 million, including proceeds from the Target sale), the Target land sale gap funding ($3.2 million), and the Park Acquisition Fund Balance ($6.2 million). There are also numerous opportunities for community members and organizations to gain tax-deductible contribution credit for the fields, pool lanes, landscaping, benches, drinking fountains, and additional amenities. b

If interested in contributing, contact the Friends of San Clemente Beaches, Parks & Recreation Foundation at or (949) 276-8866.