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CdM High sports complex brings up traffic worries

February 06, 2014|By Jeremiah Dobruck

In front of a sometimes hostile crowd, Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials laid out two possible plans to revamp outdoor sports facilities at Corona del Mar High School.

School administrators convened the Wednesday night meeting at the Newport Beach Public Library to hear residents' opinions about a planned new track, artificial field and stadium seating, but skeptical questions about traffic and parking impacts dominated the night's discussion.

The school board has already allocated $7.4 million to replace the current athletics field with all-weather turf, upgrade the aging track with new synthetic turf and install up to 600 additional seats on the home side of the field bringing to total up to no more than 1,000. The visitors' side would remain without seating.

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CdM boosters want to expand that plan. They're trying to raise money to add team rooms with bathrooms, a snack shack and lights. The school board would have to approve the additions.

"I don't want a big stadium going in my backyard either. This is not a big stadium; this is a sports complex" said CdM track and field coach Bill Sumner, drawing a chorus of jeers from the crowd. Sumner has been spear-heading fundraising efforts for the larger plan.

The project is in early stages, and residents can voice their concerns when the school district starts studying what environmental impact the project would have, administrators said.

Administrators said the entire construction process can take years and that they haven't hired an architect yet.

Most of the inquiries submitted Wednesday complained about congestion and parking around the campus and expressed worry that 1,000 spectator seats for sports events would just create more gridlock.

"You're doing something to draw even more people to a very limited footprint," said Paul Doremus, president of the homeowners association in the Villa Granada neighborhood near CdM. "That's the problem."

If school events are not scheduled to overlap, the new seating wouldn't cause more crowding, administrators said. The school's gym, with 2,000 seats, already handles larger crowds than the new field would, administrators said.

But traffic and parking conditions are already untenable, according to residents who complained of nightmarish congestion that traps them in their neighborhood.

"How you could defend the status quo is incredible to me," Doremus told administrators.

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