January 30, 2007

Palomar College to Move Baseball Field to Back of Campus

By David Garrick, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.

Jan. 30--SAN MARCOS -- Palomar College officials have decided to relocate the school's baseball field several years earlier than planned to save money and prevent flying baseballs from hitting cars on Mission Road.

Officials at the two-year community college were planning to spend nearly $300,000 for an 80-foot netted fence between the baseball field and Mission Road. The fence would dramatically reduce the number of baseballs flying into car windshields and causing crashes.

But now that the school has nearly $700 million from a facilities bond passed by local voters in November, officials plan to spend $2 million to create a new baseball field in the northeast corner of campus near Borden Road.

The existing baseball field will be converted to softball, which will solve the problem, said athletic director John Woods, because those balls don't go as high or as far.

"I think this is a great solution for everybody," Woods said Monday. "It would not have been ideal to spend $300,000 for something that would have been an eyesore, but we would have had to do it because of fear that someone would get seriously injured on Mission Road."

All of Palomar's athletic facilities are slated to move to the northeast corner of campus eventually, but previous plans put the timeline for those relocations at six to 10 years, according to Bonnie Dowd, vice president for finance and administrative services.

While planning the first wave of bond projects this month, Dowd said she asked facilities director Mike Ellis to determine which renovations and new construction could be completed within three years without creating significant campus disruptions.

"An obvious choice was moving the baseball field early, which will save us the money we would have spent on the netting," said Dowd. "This is a project that would not impact any other buildings, so there would be no domino effect."

Ellis said ground could be broken on the new field as early as this fall, once environmental and planning reviews are completed. He said the field could be ready for use one year later, in late 2008.

The baseball field was slated for relocation four years ago as part of a joint-use effort with the city of San Marcos, but the college ran out of money and built a new soccer field near Borden Road instead, Ellis said.

The other athletic projects funded by the bond, including relocation of more fields and construction of a new gym and pool complex, will probably remain in the same spots on the bond timeline because they are interrelated, said Ellis.

When all the athletic facilities are relocated, Palomar plans to use that acreage for a large parking lot near the campus entrance on Mission Road, he said.

Statistics on the number of baseballs that have crashed into cars were not available Monday, but Woods said the problem has been significant.

"I'm afraid someone will get seriously injured on Mission Road," he said. "This is not a slight problem, it's a significant one."

An increase in traffic on Mission Road and greater strength among modern-day athletes have exacerbated the problem, Woods said.

Ken Jay, director of business services for Palomar, said the college has been concerned about a worst-case scenario in which a car windshield gets smashed and the driver then veers into oncoming traffic. Jay said the relocation will alleviate those concerns.

Woods estimated that a half-dozen balls per year are hit into the roadway. Jay said the problem has been significant at certain times, but he said the school has had no claims for damages in the past 12 months.

Low interest rates have prompted Palomar officials to consider a more ambitious approach to early bond projects, because the bond money will not go as far when interest rates go up, said Dowd.

College officials will decide by Feb. 20 whether to sell $232 million or $150 million in bonds for the first wave of projects. The amount will depend on how many projects are planned for the first phase of renovations, said Dowd.

Other projects that could be included in the first phase are a new library, an industrial technology building, and a theater addition on the main campus in San Marcos, plus upgrades to the Escondido campus and construction of new satellite campuses in Fallbrook and the Poway area.

Dowd said the first phase will probably include an upgrade to Palomar's nursing facilities and a multistory academic building.

The price of the bonds and the interest rate will be determined April 3, and the college is slated to receive the money April 19.


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Copyright (c) 2007, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.

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