Stone Field Park will likely get artificial turf, new structures providing shade for spectators and other fresh features under renovation plans in the works.
The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved an amendment on Tuesday, Jan. 17, on a joint use agreement with the Capistrano Unified School District for use of the park, which is near Capistrano Union High School and frequently used for soccer games. CUSD owns the park and leases it out to the city for use. The approved amendment extends the lease agreement through 2048.
The anticipated renovations are part of the lease renewal and will also include sports lighting and improved accessibility for disabled people.
“The proposed amendment to the Stone Field lease provides that the city and CUSD partner on a capital improvement project,” San Juan Public Works Director Tom Toman said. “All costs associated with the design, preparation, planning and construction of the project would be split 75% city, 25% CUSD—except for the costs associated with the lighting element, which would be the city’s sole responsibility.”
That split is based on a proposed proportional use of the park. CUSD-exclusive use would be from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, when school is in regular session. City-exclusive use would be for non-school hours including weekends, holidays and summer breaks.
“CUSD estimates the design and environmental cost for the project will be approximately $275,000, and the city’s current capital budget includes funding for the city’s share of these design-related costs,” Toman said. “Funding for the construction phase of the project has not been identified but is anticipated to be discussed in detail at the May 2023 budget workshop. The preliminary cost estimate for the total project is approximately $3 million to $4 million dollars.”
Councilmembers spoke about the expected benefits from the upcoming enhancements before signing off on the lease extension.
“The first time I brought this up, I don’t even think I was seated on the (City) Council, when I discussed this with the city manager. Part of what we were looking at was trying to expand usage,” Councilmember Sergio Farias said. “The fields were closed down for renovations often. Soccer has quite an impact on the fields. … How do you (expand usage)? You do that with artificial turf. Artificial turf is also all-season, at least in Southern California. Even if you get rain, people can use it.”
Farias said he expects the renovations to get done “like all the other great things we’ve done.”
Councilmember John Taylor said he agreed with Farias and also hopes artificial turf is installed.
“Soccer just destroys grass. The groups that play out there play weekends, Sundays, Saturdays, evenings,” Taylor said. “Sometimes, they play into the night. If we can figure out a way to get this funded, if there’s any potential donations other groups would like to help with, maybe we can pursue that as well. I’m really excited about moving forward with this.”
San Juan resident Heather Chapman, who works with local advocacy group UNIDOS South OC—which represents the Capistrano Villas neighborhood across the street from Stone Field—thanked the City Council and staff for their focus on the park and urged city leaders to incorporate residential voices when pursuing upgrades.
“Be broad in efforts to get insight on the renovation plans from residents of the Stone Field area. Stone Field is a very special and sentimental place for our low-income neighbors, and seeking their input on this project will be really important,” Chapman said. “There are already murmurs that the artificial turf may make it so desirable for clubs that residents will never get to use it.”
“My second request is that as things move forward, the (City) Council will protect a percentage of daylight hours for non-fee based open play so that participation in club or league will not be a prerequisite to access this important city resource,” Chapman continued.
Farias said conversations have never come up about raising revenue from the park. No fees have been proposed for use of Stone Field.
As part of the lease extension, the city will also continue to sublease use of the on-site community building to local nonprofit CREER Comunidad y Familia, which holds after-school tutoring sessions for kids and has given away food to needy residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That sublease runs through the end of 2027, with an optional five-year extension. CREER would continue to pay the city $74 per month for use of the building.