Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Neighbors Get In the Way Of Baseball Field
RT Staff Note: When I first read this story, I could not believe what I was reading. Homeowners that live near San Jose City College actually blocked the schools construction of a new baseball field for the school. They stated that the light standards...a common part of any baseball field in every community were an eye sore.
Instead, the school voted to convert it to a multipurpose site for apparently more aesthetically appealing and neighbor-friendly sports, such as cricket or soccer. HUH? Now that is an eye sore. Watching what could have been a beautiful baseball field being used for cricket? You have got to be kidding.
There's nothing more beautiful to baseball fans than driving down the road and seeing the lights of a baseball field at night. Adding to the beauty is the sounds of the announcer, the crack of the bat and the cheers from the crowd.
I am ashamed that people in my town would do such a thing. City College and its team needs to put up a fight. Here's the story...
San Jose City College drops plans for baseball field
By Sandra Gonzales
They're towering, thick, metal poles that stand 90 feet tall and ring the outskirts of a halfway built baseball field at San Jose City College. And, to most of the surrounding neighborhood, downright ghastly. So trustees called it a game and stopped construction of the field altogether.
No matter that it was more than 60 percent complete and the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District had already sunk $2 million into the field, trustees last week unanimously voted to convert it to a multipurpose site for apparently more aesthetically appealing and neighbor-friendly sports, such as cricket or soccer.
And, so the Jaguars baseball team will continue to be a team without a home, shuffling from one rented playing field to another.
"The past nine years have been pretty tough, not having a home playing field," said Doug Robb, the college's head baseball coach for the past 15 years. Not to mention the difficulty it creates in attracting top-notch players. "I feel like I've lost players already in the recruiting season."
San Jose City College began construction in late 2007 on the long anticipated baseball field using a combination of bond funds, approved by voters in 1998 and 2004. All appeared to be going smoothly, until those huge poles intended to hold safety netting went up last summer, prompting neighbors to cry foul.
"I just cringe whenever I look out the window, it's such a day-to-day intrusion," said Randi Kinman, president of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Association, who lives a block from the field. "The effect of those poles is the effect of being in a cage when you're sitting in your backyard. It's a visual blight."
Kinman said neighbors were left in the dark about what the field would ultimately look like, and no mention was made early on of the poles or the loudspeaker system that they feared would be far too noisy.
Vice Chancellor Jeanine Hawk insists it wasn't intentional. In fact, the original plan called for the baseball field to be in the center of the campus. "There wasn't any intention to hide anything, it was just a failure of communication," she said.
After the field struck out with neighbors, construction was stopped last summer and a supplemental environmental impact report was initiated. Though still in the draft stages, the initial findings more or less sided with the neighbors, concluding that little could be done to lessen the unappealing aspects of the field.
"This is not something where we are out to get the student-athletes, we are not anti-baseball," Kinman said. "This was a tragic mistake." Initially, the college offered to make the field more appealing to the eye and proposed painting the black poles sky blue or silver and changing the black netting to a lighter color, but soon realized that wouldn't solve the problem.
So at a cost of $250,000, down will come the poles and the wooden fence lining the field, which has been in limbo for a year.
San Jose City College President Michael Burke hedges on whether any blunders were made, conceding only, "We did not anticipate that the neighborhood would object so strenuously. Once we became aware of their objections, we stopped the project and initiated a supplemental environmental report."
Hawk maintains the money spent on the field is not a waste. "We are still going to use all the prep work. We are still putting in a playing field, it will just be a different configuration, those aren't sunken costs."
At one time, the Jaguars had their own playing field in the northeast corner of the campus. But that was cleared nearly a decade ago to make way for a parking garage and student center with the promise that the team would one day again have its own field.
Robb, meanwhile, is now scrambling for alternative off-site playing fields, which cost $10,000 to $20,000 a year to lease. He's also looking for long-term solutions because one thing's almost certain: If the team's going to have a permanent home field, it's unlikely to be on campus. Until last year, the college had a contract with the San Jose PAL Stadium, where it had been playing steadily for the past several years, Robb said. But the contract was not renewed because they figured the baseball field was going to be ready. So the team was forced to play at three different sites this past year, and it appears it'll be doing the same this coming year.
"It's unfortunate for myself and my team that we have to endure another year or two having to play on the road and look for practice fields, but the sun will come up tomorrow and the players will continue to play," he said. "It hurts, but I understand it's important for the district to do this."
One option being considered is moving the baseball program to Evergreen Valley College. However, it would cost $4 million to build a baseball park and even more to operate it. Funds for such a project would still have to be identified — a daunting challenge in the current budget climate.
Still, Burke said the college is committed to finding the team a home. "I want to have a baseball team, and I intend to have the Jaguars baseball team."
For now, Kinman and her neighbor's are elated that the huge poles will finally be coming down.
"Taking that away is going to be just a huge relief, not only a visual relief, but knowing that we actually had a conversation with the campus and they listened."