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Bocce blight?: La Jolla’s temporary bocce court proves popular, despite need for repairs, rec group says

City Councilman Joe LaCava throws out the first bocce ball at the new court at the La Jolla Recreation Center on June 30.
San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava throws out the first bocce ball to officially open the new court at the La Jolla Recreation Center on June 30 after receiving tips from experienced bocce player Vito Formica (right).
(Elisabeth Frausto)

However, the popularity may be causing a problem with access, leading to discussion of a possible reservation system.

Despite needing repairs, a temporary bocce court at the La Jolla Recreation Center is growing in popularity, according to local recreation leaders.

The bocce court, which opened June 30 after being in the works for years, “has had huge attendance,” La Jolla Community Recreation Group Chairwoman Mary Coakley Munk said at the group’s Jan. 26 virtual meeting.

The CRG is the advisory group for the Rec Center.

However, the court needs repairs to its surface, Coakley Munk said.

“I don’t know if we have the wrong surface down,” said La Jolla resident and experienced bocce player Vito Formica. “I’m not a technician.”

He added that the current surface has holes and needs redoing. “For something that costs so much money and is a legitimate court, it’d be a shame to let this all go to waste,” he said.

The bocce court, which was installed temporarily to gauge whether a permanent one should be incorporated into plans to revamp the Rec Center, cost about $23,000 to build, funded by the nonprofit Friends of the La Jolla Recreation Center.

“We are desperately trying to find out what happened,” Coakley Munk said. She added that she is working toward a solution with those who designed and built the court — Tom Grunow of Grunow Construction and Jose Perez of J.J. Perez Landscape Inc.

“There’s a problem with the material,” she said. “It’s not just a matter of taking what we have and being able to make it work.”

Formica said there also is an issue with the west end of the court. “There’s a big drop and it’s dangerous. We need dirt to be put down around the back and the side.”

Members of the La Jolla Community Recreation Group and others discuss the Recreation Center's temporary bocce court Jan. 26.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

CRG board member Jan Harris said she “would like to know what the city can do to help” in funding the repairs. “We’ve provided this facility [many members of the CRG are part of the Friends group]; it seems like the city could put in money to keep it up.”

San Diego Parks & Recreation Department area manager Rosalia Castruita reiterated her statement from the November CRG meeting that because the bocce court was built under a right-of-entry permit, which gives non-city employees the right to undertake projects on city grounds, maintenance of the court is the responsibility of the organization that requested the permit.

The repair issue aside, Formica said he has taught more than 100 people to play the game since the bocce court opened, including residents of local retirement communities as well as passersby who see him playing at the Rec Center a few times a week.

“All the people are having a very good time,” he said.

But Formica and Coakley Munk agreed that the court’s popularity has become an issue in itself, as organized groups using the court leave little time for individuals to play.

“We’re trying to figure out how best to deal with the fact that it’s becoming overly popular,” Harris said. “I guess that’s a good problem to have.”

The group discussed implementing a reservation system, though Harris expressed concern that groups would take all the reservation slots.

CRG member Jon Wiggins suggested having limited reservation slots, leaving other times open for first-come, first-serve free play.

He also suggested that reservations could be made for “a nominal fee that could at least go to the upkeep of the court that … would put it on a sustainable path.”

Castruita said she would check with the Parks & Rec Department about protocols for imposing a reservation system.

The CRG agreed to place the bocce court issues on the agenda as an action item for its next meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, online. For more information, call (858) 552-1658. ◆