Costa Mesa's City Council is poised to spend millions of dollars replacing Costa Mesa High School's much-maligned track and field, according to city staff and council members.
Parents and coaches have lampooned the current facility, as dirt, dying grass and broken water mains continually cause injuries and disrupt practices, they say.
Tuesday night, the City Council will vote on an agreement with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District that would kick off the design process to build an all-weather replacement using city money.
Newport-Mesa would also have to approve the agreement. Its next school board meeting is March 12.
The design includes a synthetic track and field, fencing, lighting and a limited amount of seating.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger and City CEO Tom Hatch envision the facility as quasi-parkland funded by $3 million to $4 million of city money.
The two bodies would split upkeep costs based on the school's use during the day and the public's use after hours
Community games could be programmed throughout the evening, and the public would have access any time the district doesn't need it, Hatch said.
"When we ultimately build this and light it at night, it's going to be a magnet for the public to come out and do exercise," Hatch said.
That, plus a benefit to the school, they say, is the reason taxpayers should invest.
"At the end of the day, we want to be the destination for every new family in Orange County," Mensinger said, adding he believes attractive schools and facilities are the No. 1 way to achieve that.
City funds, school land
The agreement up for a vote would hold Newport-Mesa to a tight design timeline, funded by $15,000 from the city.
Within six months, the school board would receive a report on design concepts and what is feasible at the site.
"We're not looking to do this in the next 10 years. We're not looking to do this in the next five years. We're looking to do this as soon as possible because it's a priority of our City Council," said Mensinger, who last year floated the idea of allocating funds for the project.
With the city driving the process, school district staff said they had to insist on taking two steps to even do a feasibility study.
"It's not just a, 'Gee, thank you very much for your offer, thanks, let's build it,' " said Paul Reed, Newport-Mesa's deputy superintendent.
He stressed it's a multi-million dollar, long-term agreement that the city has spearheaded without much school board input.
"While they've spent quite a bit of time determining what it is they need, we haven't spent an equal amount of time determining what we would require for the educational program," he said. "And the educational program comes first."