LJ Youth Inc. needs $100,000 for park

La Jolla Youth Inc. has something it would like the community to know: It still needs to raise $100,000 in funding to build more new parking spaces at Allen Field by the end of the year.

The non-profit, voluntary organization remains far short of that goal. Only about $35,000 has been raised thus far.

Parking lot improvement plans have been approved by the city of San Diego, and construction will begin as soon as the money has been raised.

“Parking has been an issue for quite some time,” said Murray Helm, president of the La Jolla Youth Inc. board of directors, “but it became a requirement with the city of San Diego when we renewed the Allen Field lease. Now that the plans have been approved, we are moving ahead.”

Helm said the conditions of the new lease to operate the soccer field set forth two capital improvements that must be complied with in both the short and long term. The more immediate condition involves improving parking conditions for the field. Later on, a restroom facility needs to be built.

“In the first five years, the lease requires that we double parking spaces from 14 to 27,” said Helm. “The parking lot is a mess up there during soccer season, before and after practice.”

The major problem with parking at Allen Field is not so much space as timing. With people coming and going, dropping off and picking up kids from soccer all at once at peak hours, parking and circulation tend to get tight.

“People are rushing home from work at 5:30 p.m.,” said Helm, “and particularly during daylight saving hour when it’s dark, on La Jolla Village Drive headed south, those cars are moving pretty fast.

“At the same time, you have soccer moms pulling in coming from La Jolla turning left across southbound traffic into that parking lot to pick up their kids from practice and games. All the parking spots are full. Plus, every movable space in the parking lot has a car waiting for somebody to jump in and jump out. We’re lucky a serious accident hasn’t happened up there.”

Letters asking for donations have been sent out to the families whose children play soccer at Allen Field. La Jolla Youth Inc. has applied for grant money, and the organization is holding a raffle in which the grand prize is a reserved parking space at Allen Field for one year. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $100.

Other prizes include a team pizza party, a private lesson from an Impact or Nomad soccer coach, a private training session with Paul Wright from Speed to Burn, and game photos from photographer Ray Mereweather.

Allen Field, thought by many to be one of the finest soccer facilities in Southern California, exists solely because of the effort of numerous La Jolla families and organizations who, back in the 1970s, made a major effort to transform the site into playing fields for youth sports groups.

“Willis Allen, Sr. (La Jolla Realtor) had some property over in Miramar that he donated to the city (of San Diego) and, basically, he took cash, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and gave it to La Jolla Youth to generate the lease and develop it into the soccer field,” said Andy Nelson, president/CEO of Willis Allen Real Estate in La Jolla Village, about the community soccer field’s origin. “That’s why it’s named Allen Field.”

Originally, the site was earmarked for a new playhouse/ theater complex to be run jointly by the city of San Diego and UCSD. In 1976, Dick Kohler, then president of La Jolla Youth, Inc. and Joe Hollow, one of the founders of La Jolla Nomads Soccer Club, persuaded the city Parks and Recreation Department to recommend that the site be taken off the city property sale rolls and be made available for lease as a soccer field.

During the course of the next five years, several local families and organizations worked hard to negotiate with the city and to raise the money to develop the site. The field was finally completed in 1981. Recently, the lease was re-negotiated with the city of San Diego. It is La Jolla Youth Inc.'s intention to keep this site as a playing field for the children of La Jolla.

Nelson added there’s a paucity of soccer fields to satisfy the huge demand for youth soccer. “We need adjunct fields,” he said. “We’re trying to raise funds for Muirlands Sports Field to be used for another soccer field for the kids in our community.”

The combination of the La Jolla Youth Soccer recreational teams, and the two club teams that use the field, Impact and Nomads, has increased the number of soccer participants to approximately 3,000 children from 5 years old to 18 years old.

On any given weekday afternoon it can be quite an ordeal to get children in and out of the Allen Field parking lot. By increasing the number of parking spaces and the length of the thoroughfare at Allen Field, children will be able to exit and enter cars in a much safer manner.

Numerous sponsorship levels to support parking expansion at Allen Field are still available. Families and/or businesses can make donations from $50 on up. At the $1,000 level the sponsor will receive field banner recognition. At $5,000 the sponsor will receive name recognition on a plaque at Allen Field. And at $10,000 the sponsor will receive both.

To make a donation, contact Jacqueline Fugitt of La Jolla Youth, Inc. at (858) 677-9810.