Should City Keep its Sports Park?

Sports Park employees, Imperial Beach Little League and some teens have been passionate about this issue. The city may hand control to an outside entity to save money. IB Patch asks Imperial Beach City Council candidates what they think.

Leading up to Election Day, IB Patch has asked Imperial Beach City Council candidates questions about the sort of issues they may affect if elected.

The previous question:

Imperial Beach has the second highest unemployment rate of any city in San Diego County. What can be done to help IB's unemployed? Should the city do something to help its unemployed citizens?

This week's question:

Should the City of Imperial Beach give control of its Sports Park and Recreation Center to the YMCA or another outside entity? Why or why not?

IB Patch reported last month that the city is currently in negotiations with the YMCA to have the nonprofit take over management of its Sports Park and Recreation Center. Handing control of the Sports Park to the YMCA is being considered to save the city money, City Manager Gary Brown told IB Patch.

In response, sports park employees and teens who spend time there attended a City Council meeting to encourage the city to keep the facility in city hands.

Due to concern about the fate of youth baseball and softball teams that use the park's facilities, the Imperial Beach Little League has also asked candidates to answer this question as well.

"There appears to be an umbrella of secrecy with this negotiations process.  The City Officials do not seem to be working for the best interest of the children of our community," President Don Spicer wrote in a letter to IBLL members last week. "Families are losing their homes, jobs, hours of work are being cut and the cost of basic needs continue to rise. It is imperative that costs are kept affordable for our families."

Since he entered the race after candidates were sent this question, write-in candidate Ron Moody was not asked this question. He will be included next week for the final Q&A.


Brian Bilbray

The first priority is to maintain the park so the kids of Imperial Beach can enjoy the park as I did. It should not be who is running the park but that there is a park to enjoy.

As a second generation Imperial Beach Little Leaguer this issue is very important to me.

Unfortunately due to the lack of revenue coming into Imperial Beach the city can no longer afford to run our sports park at this time. In order for the kids of the community to continue to enjoy the park we have to look at non traditional arrangements temporally.

At this point in the game no option should be off the table. One main issue that needs to be addressed is the Imperial Beach Little League. The land that the park is built on was originally owned by the IBLL. In order for the park to be built the city gave its word that IBLL would have first rights to the ball fields.

This agreement was put in place to insure that the kids of Imperial Beach always had a place to play ball, and I intend to honor this deal. Whatever agreement the city makes with a third party it must include this clause. In a perfect world I would prefer the city to maintain traditional operations of the park but the city does not have the option to do so at this time. We need to insure that we increase revenue in our city so hard decisions like this will not have to be made in the future.

The most important thing is that the kids of Imperial Beach have a well maintained park to enjoy and third party involvement may be the only way to achieve this at this time. But again the Imperial Beach Little League’s right to access to this property is not debatable.

Bobby Patton

The City of Imperial Beach, its elected officials and citizens must all work together to provide optimum services for our most precious resource–our children. Planning for a health community is a balancing act and there are difficult choices to make. In this case, youth recreation is at stake.

Imperial Beach Little League (IBLL) has expressed concerns that the City of Imperial Beach has been negotiating with the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA to take over the Sports Park, which includes the baseball and softball fields.

As a former Board Member and Safety Officer for IBLL, I believe that IBLL has made a good faith effort to work with the City. My wife has also served as an IBLL coach and both of our children have been active participants in the League. Imperial Beach Little League was chartered in 1957, the same year the City of Imperial Beach was incorporated and they have been providing affordable services to our youth ever since. Partnerships like these should be honored, not discarded.

The Mayor has assured the community that any tentative agreement with youth service providers will be subject to full public discussion at City Council meetings where the Council will consider all public comments before deciding on any agreement affecting Sports Park. He has also expressed a goal of keeping the Leagues and general public well informed about contract discussions to make sure the decision making process is transparent to all. If elected, I will fight to uphold this commitment to the IBLL and our community.

We can’t afford to sacrifice our youth services for a “quick fix”, simply to save a few dollars or bolster our revenues. Outsourcing youth services is a serious decision. It will take experienced and thoughtful deliberations to weigh all options with public input. As a teacher, parent, educational administrator and youth advocate, I know that our youth programs need to be safe, accessible and affordable for all. I would be honored to have your trust, support and vote so I may represent the community’s interest on this important issue.


Erika Lowery

The city developed the Sports Park. It was employees that have donated their additional talents for the kids who come. They have developed it into something the kids are drawn to, something that entices kids off the street. This is the form of redevelopment that I want for our city.

The Sports Park, being subsidized by the city, is affordable to almost all families. Personally, I see it as a real viable alternative to the streets and crime.

If the YMCA, or other entity, is not affordable or if they do not receive the income they need, will it remain? Will they give the community the financial break our citizens need, so that their kids can come? With about 25 percent of our population under the age of 18, we need a long term, cost effective outlet for our children.

When I heard the kids of the Sports Park stand up and speak before the city council, they are what I aspire my kids to become. I petitioned and spoke in front of my city council at a young age and know the commitment to a cause that these young people have. I admire and applaud them.

These kids, some of which would not have the same access to these facilities due to family finances, have what I am teaching my family–desire and strength; things that cannot be taught in school, things that come from a strong upbringing and a place that they are safe, a place that cares almost as much as their home does.

To those who pleaded, not necessarily for their jobs but more for those who can’t speak, I support you.

To the young people who spoke, you are the future leaders of Imperial Beach. Never forget where you come from and those things you strongly believe in. Be influential in the future, because you have already been influential in the present.

I support the city keeping the Sports Park under city control. I will also work closely with those who run the park to promote and keep the Sports Park. 


Valerie Acevez

I believe that the park should stay with the city, and we must find a way to fund those fields and the park itself. We have a large amount of children that play little league and girls softball and it is not an inexpensive activity, but the little league and girls softball has done a great job of keeping the fields busy during the season. It would be a shame to have an outsider running our parks. Loss of the fields and the snack bar would be a great loss for the groups that play there.

The snack bar is a great asset and helps offset costs that might otherwise have to be paid by the parents who may already be burdened with other things to worry about. I would hate to see children not be able to join in these activities.
The City of IB must find a better way to come up with a solution than to just hand over the parks to the YMCA or any other entity that might be looking at taking over the management. I believe that the city may be stalling the contract that is being negotiated so that they can finalize any new contracts that might be jeopardized if they allow the Little League to sign a new contract.
They have done a great job to keep the fields updated and clean. They manage to keep the park well maintained and I think that the city needs to find the time to sit down with the Little League and whomever is associated and give them a realistic opportunity to run the fields. Open discussions should be on the agenda for the city council and bring this to a conclusion that is workable for both parties.


Jim King

Unless and until the City has an assurance of maintaining a stable revenue stream, activities, services and even some personnel from the City's various departments will likely need to be reduced, or in some cases eliminated all together.

This is not a negative viewpoint but the simple reality.

As priorities for local government go, basic necessities such as public safety, sustainable infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, sanitary sewer, water, are the highest priorities. Administration of land uses laws and ordinances and coordinating development within a general plan framework is also a vital "core function."

Other services, such as parks, recreation, beautification, art, special events and the like are what I would classify as second tier priorities. Ideally, a City can provide all these "benefits" to its citizens but this is not always the case.

It is both unfortunate and true that when service reductions become necessary to achieve a legally mandated "balanced budget," City services are negatively impacted. After all measures have been taken to reduce costs and the bugdet still comes up short, the second tier services are looked at and often simply eliminated.

Cutting services or eliminating personnel is almost always a least desirable and last option. No one ever likes to use this option. Seeking and evaluating feasible alternatives then becomes an important process. In the case of the Sports Park and the baseball fields, if the choice was between losing their use or looking for alternatives that would still provide sustainable and viable services to the community, I would support doing the due diligence of investigating all options.

Each should then be evaluated on its merits as they relate to providing the best service levels at the best value to meet the community's needs, both short and long term. Be very clear that there are no foredrawn conclusions in this matter and it requires a very objective process to arrive at the best decision. 

Tim O'Neal October 30, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Imperial Beach residents and city leaders need to come together and do whatever it takes to keep control of the Sports Park and Teen Center in the hands of the city. Jim Coates, Fe Fernandez, Andrew McKee, and the rest of the Sports Park staff have developed a bond with Imperial Beach teens that cannot be duplicated. Their dedication and service to the youth of Imperial Beach warrant more than just lip service. I grew up on 5th Street, right across the street from the rec center. From the age of 8 until my junior year in high school if i wasnt playing a sport or in school, you could always find me at the Sports Park. I know first hand how important this facility is to our youth. My dad was President of the IBLL from '82-'92 and Chairman of the Imperial Beach Parks & Rec Committee in the early '90's. He said he doesn't understand the City's incessant need to control IBLL Any contract with the YMCA or other entity concerning the Sports Park should include the following considerations 1. Services and programs catered for IB's teens needs to be the TOP priority. 2. Any contracting entity should give serious consideration to hiring current Sports Park staff should their employment with the city be terminated. 3. IB's Skatepark remains a free facility. 4. In regards to the ball fields at Sports Park... IMPERIAL BEACH LITTLE LEAGUERS COME FIRST... PERIOD! In return for no fees for usage, IBLL pays for electricity during seasons and takes care of own field maintenance.
JC_4rm_IB October 30, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Libi Uremovic October 31, 2012 at 02:57 PM
can we get an update on this meeting ...
Tim O'Neal October 31, 2012 at 11:32 PM
The meeting had a great turnout and was VERY informative. It should be noted that Councilman Bilbray, and council candidates Erika Lowery and Bobby Patton also attended the meeting. While the futures of IBLL and IBGSA are still uncertain, the one thing we do know is that the city is purposely misleading the leagues and the public when it comes to their negotiations with the YMCA. I do want to give the Imperial Beach City Staff and City Council a little heads up...if you thought IB skaters and their parents were tenacious...you ain't seen nothing yet. SAVE IBLL SAVE IBGSA
West Coast Cafe November 04, 2012 at 03:17 AM
What is the true "cost" of these fields. Really. If IBLL pays for field maintenance and electricity than what in the world adds up to hundreds of thousand of dollars??????? I am not okay having replaced sidewalks all over town just to have Softball and LIttle League thrown away.


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