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New pro women’s team Wave uses Surf Sports Park for training

Alex Morgan of the San Diego Wave stretches during a practice last month.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Neighbors continue to question city over ‘intensified’ field use

Since February, Surf Sports Park has been the official practice field for San Diego’s newest professional sports team, the San Diego Wave Fútbol Club of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Only practices are happening at Surf Sports Park as the Wave is playing its home games temporarily at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego. Starting on Sept. 17, the Wave will play its games at the new 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium in Mission Valley.

“Soccer is in our soul so if there’s a professional team that is trying to be successful, we’re always looking at ways to help them,” said Surf Cup Sports CEO Brian Enge.

The Wave sold out their historic home opener on March 26 at USD, a loss to the Portland Thorns.

“The crowd was awesome,” Wave goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan told The San Diego Union- Tribune. “We just fed off that energy. It was so loud. That kind of atmosphere is going to be great for us and bad for teams coming in here to play.”

The Wave will next host Angel City FC on Saturday, April 2 as part of the Challenge Cup series. The Wave’s regular-season opener will be played May 1 at Houston.

Surf has over 20 soccer fields at its facility on Via De La Valle and the Wave is currently using one for training: “On any given day they’re just one more team,” Enge said.

The Wave team practices in the mornings, which does not conflict with any youth soccer activities on the site. While kids are excited about the possibility of bumping into star forward Alex Morgan, the two-time World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist, there is no other formal partnership agreement between Wave and Surf. Enge said they’ve asked Surf families to be respectful of the professionals in their midst and so far it is working out.

San Diego Wave FC
Kelsey Turnbow (6) of the San Diego Wave FC talks with teammates during a practice on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022 in San Diego.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Wave’s presence at the Surf Sports Park, however, is among some neighbors’ latest concerns about expanded use at the fields.

Residents came before the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board (CVCPB) on March 24 to air their concerns during public comment and ask for a discussion about what they believe is an intensification of use at the fields. CVCPB Chair Frisco White said as there was no project before them to review, the board declined at this time to put it on a future agenda.

Scott Kameron, president of the Fairbanks Polo Club Homeowner’s Association, current holder of the grant deed to the property, said their goal is to ensure enforcement of the deed restrictions, which call for passive, non-commercial recreational uses and limits events to 25 days a year.

“The city has not enforced the terms of the grant deed and has allowed the land set aside as open space to be turned into a sports arena under its current lease,” Kameron said. “The uses continue to expand, the number and intensity of events have increased.”

Per the website, there were 15 sports tournaments held in 2021. Last year the park also played host to events such as Mainly Mozart and the San Diego Festival of the Arts.

Neighbors said multiple complaints and permitting inquiries have been filed with DREAM (the city’s Department of Real Estate and Airport Management), the mayor, council member and county supervisor and there have been no responses: “No one is taking accountability for the lack of enforcement,” said neighbor Rick Leyva.

Complaints filed with the city include the expanded use and subsequent traffic issues, road safety, noise levels, dust, hours of operation, lighting and fertilizer/pesticide use. In a March 10 letter to the city from the San Dieguito Community Planning Group, recent complaints include grading and new fields, new trailers, fencing, commercial signage for the Wave, 30-foot tall poles to string netting (which the planning board said could be detrimental to birds in the area) and industrial generators that cause “a loud sound and vibration that run continuously through the day and night.”

“It’s ramping up dramatically and it’s kind of mind-boggling that the city is not responding to complaints,” said Beth Nelson, a Rancho Santa Fe resident and member of the San Dieguito Planning Group.

Maggie Brown of the Friends of the San Dieguito River Park, said their group was able to obtain a copy of a license agreement for a future Wave training facility at the Surf Park through a public records request. The agreement is not dated or signed. Brown and the San Dieguito Planning Group’s concern is that Surf will acquire the adjacent Milan property, in development for several years as a senior living community, and build a soccer stadium for the Wave.

In an interview, Enge pushed back against the rumors of a stadium.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous that anybody would think that we would build a stadium at that facility in Del Mar,” Enge said.

When the team was introduced in December, the new $310 million Snapdragon Stadium was announced as Wave’s home stadium, boasting “elite facilities for its players and premium amenities for fans.”

Enge said as they are a city-owned property, they work with the city on anything they are doing and the city has said they are in compliance.

Under the terms of the lease, Surf Cup is required to obtain the city’s written consent prior to subleasing any portion of the premises. The modifications to the field and modular trailers for the Wave are allowed under the lease, according to Tara Lewis, senior public information officer with the city.

“While the lease and grant deed do not include any lighting or time restrictions on Surf Cup’s use, the lease requires that Surf Cup establish and post hours of operation,” Lewis said. “The lease prohibits the use of horns and noisemakers on the premises. Additionally, Surf Cup has taken steps to reduce the impact of lighting on nearby homeowners by facing lights away from homes.”

Lewis said Surf Cup Sports did recently submit a sublicense for a Wave training facility and it is currently under review. The unsigned license agreement acquired by the Friends includes plans for a temporary training facility that includes two enclosed fields and tent-like modular structures. It does not mention a stadium but includes the potential building of permanent facilities in the event that the neighboring parcel is acquired (permanent structures are prohibited on the Surf property).

Enge said at this point, Surf has dedicated the field for the Wave players to practice on but the rest is yet to be figured out.

San Diego hasn’t had a women’s professional soccer team since the Women’s United Soccer Association’s San Diego Spirit (2001-03) and Enge said their goal right now is just to help Wave be successful: “We should all be supporting them,” Enge said.

At the planning board meeting, San Diego City Council District 1 representative Ricky Flahive said they are aware of the training facility under review by DREAM and the city attorney’s office. He confirmed that there was no stadium planned for the Surf fields but as White noted, the rumor circulating is that a stadium would be built on the adjacent Milan property if acquired.

The 23-acre Milan property has its own restrictions as it is located on Prop A land. Prop A states that any development on agriculturally-zoned land is to be very low-density housing, open space or agricultural use. Any more intense development would require a city-wide vote.

Since taking over the property in 2013, Milan Capital has been planning for Hacienda Del Mar, a project that includes four one-story buildings with 150 independent and assisted living and memory care units and 11 acres of preserved natural habitat open to the public.

A representative for Milan did not respond to questions about the status of their project by press time.


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