Council funds Imperial Beach Sports Park shortfall

"That is still less financial impact than when the city was running it."

The Imperial Beach Sports Park was awarded $45,000 to cover a budget shortfall Wednesday night (November 16) by city-council members who said they were pleased with efforts to offer more to the community.

It was a significantly different tone than in years past, when the sports park was a difficult subject for the community, vendors, and the past city council, which struggled to find ways to keep it open and running.

"Three years ago, the Boys and Girls Club took it over from the city and we hoped to be revenue neutral," said assistant city manager Ed Vea. "That is still less financial impact than when the city was running it."

The sports park is home to a skate park, a recreation center, and ball fields for a number of leagues and their teams. In 2014, the Boys and Girls Club of South County won the contract to run the recreation center and programs, following a contentious fight between residents who use the amenities and a city council that was in talks with the YMCA to run the park because the city can't afford to provide full financial support.

The Y ultimately withdrew its proposal, and the Boys and Girls Club began running the park. The city council approved an annual payment of $60,000 for electricity and other utilities.

In 2015, the club had a $50,000 shortfall, which the city also covered. Bowe Fertig, a former TV sports reporter who now runs programs, said that the club has added new programs and boosted participation in every area.

This summer, the club had its first weeklong sports camps, and participants went from 10 the first week to 30 during the last week — all by word-of-mouth.

The club offers everything from assistance with homework to zumba, he said, and the attendance numbers keep climbing. The club has just launched a teen night and is running tai chi classes.

"We want to be that one-stop shop for people to come in and do something worthwhile," Fertig said. "We now service 120 people a day — 60 to 70 indoors and 50 to 60 at the skate park." The softball leagues that use the fields are also growing — one coach for the adult league said the problem for them is that there are too many teams. "We ran out of nights," he said.

While councilmembers would like to see the sports park pay its own way, they made it clear that they appreciate the growth and new ideas coming forward.

"It has been an uphill battle," said councilwoman Lorie Bragg. "The numbers show we're winning the battle."

The city has just approved a grant application that is being submitted to California State Parks for about $770,000 for ball-field improvements.

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