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Fundraising goals met for Allen Field

It took about 18 months, but La Jolla Youth Inc.'s goal of raising $100,000 to expand parking at Allen Field along Torrey Pines Road has finally been met.

A $20,000 grant from Las Patronas, a La Jolla philanthropic group, put La Jolla Youth Inc. over the top.

“It was the final installment necessary to achieve full funding for the project,” said Murray Helm, president of the recreation support group founded in 1958 to oversee local youth soccer, baseball and softball programs serving more than 2,000 youngsters.

Donations came in a wide range. “Contributions were anywhere from $25 to $30,000 by an anonymous donor,” Helm said.

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Those - besides Las Patronas - donating in excess of $1,000 were: $10,000 by Doug Manchester, $5,000 from Chris McKellar, $5,000 from Art Grosvenor and $5,000 from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

“There were several at $1,000,” Helm said, “and many at $500.”

The new 25-year lease Youth Inc. signed with the city of San Diego at Allen Field requires it to do an expansion of the existing parking lot within five years, and installation of a permanent restroom within 10 years.

Parking lot improvements will add 21 spaces to the existing 17, including providing parking for people with disabilities.

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“It also includes resealing and restriping the existing spaces so it will all look new and match,” Helm said. The groundbreaking is planned for June.

“We expect construction to take no longer than 30 days, hoping to be done in mid-July in time for the soccer season, which begins toward the end of August,” he said.

Timing has been as much of a problem as space at Allen Field, with people dropping off and picking up children from soccer all at once at peak hours.

Las Patronas public relations spokeswoman Maree Mossmer said Allen Field’s proposal met the criteria for the grant it received, namely that it had a long-term capital need.

“It had to be an immediate, critical need and something that would still be used at least three years from now,” she said. “Clearly, this project met that threshold.”

Mossmer also pointed out that Allen Field’s playing fields hold sentimental significance for La Jollans. “My husband grew up playing on that field,” she said. “Everybody’s kids go through that field at some point.”

Thought by many to be one of the finest soccer facilities in Southern California, the Allen Field site on North Torrey Pines Road near La Jolla Village Drive was originally designated as a new playhouse/theater complex to be run jointly by the city of San Diego and UCSD.

In 1976, La Jolla Youth Inc. and La Jolla Nomads Soccer Club persuaded the city Parks and

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Recreation Department to take the site off the city property sale rolls and make it available for lease as a soccer field. With a large financial contribution from La Jolla Realtor Willis Allen Sr. and the aid of several local families, the field was finally completed in 1981.