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Santa Barbara Explores Recreation Makeover For Cabrillo Ball Field at Waterfront

Sports courts, adult fitness area and dog park among ideas on the table, but nearby hotels may balk at basketball

The ball diamond at Santa Barbara’s Cabrillo Ball Field is expected to get an outfied fence under city Parks & Recreation Department plans to improve the site at the intersection of Cabrillo Boulevard, Milpas Street and Calle Puerto Vallarta. Also under consideration are possible basketball courts, an adult fitness area, a dog park or a skate plaza in the west corner, near the Chromatic Gate art installation in the distance to the right. Click to view larger
The ball diamond at Santa Barbara’s Cabrillo Ball Field is expected to get an outfied fence under city Parks & Recreation Department plans to improve the site at the intersection of Cabrillo Boulevard, Milpas Street and Calle Puerto Vallarta. Also under consideration are possible basketball courts, an adult fitness area, a dog park or a skate plaza in the west corner, near the Chromatic Gate art installation in the distance to the right. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

One of Santa Barbara’s most visible waterfront corners could soon get a recreation makeover, with everything from beachview basketball and a fitness area to an off-leash dog run and youth skate plaza up for consideration.

The city’s Parks & Recreation Department met recently to talk about options for renovating the Cabrillo Ball Field where Cabrillo Boulevard, Milpas Street and Calle Puerto Vallarta come together on the eastern end of the waterfront.

The ball diamond will remain and likely get an outfield fence, but the city is looking at ways to enhance the other end of the green space, closer to the Chromatic Gate art installation on the west corner.

The commissioners showed enthusiasm for building basketball courts and an adult fitness area at the site, but were not supportive of an off-leash dog park, which would require a six-foot fence surrounding it, or a skate plaza.

“There is a segment of our community that is oftentimes overlooked: The Lower Eastside teenage kids who love to play basketball need facilities to go and play,” said Chris Casebeer, a member of the Parks & Recreation Commission. “I think this would be a fantastic opportunity to open up our community to this segment.”

Sharon Byrne, who identified herself as representing the Blue Sands Inn and The Fess Parker, said the latter objected to the basketball courts because the noise from people playing basketball might disrupt weddings and the stays of business travelers at the hotel at 633 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

“The Fess Parker’s concern is a valid one for basketball courts, and their concern is they have weddings on the east side of the building and very often people rent those rooms and sit on the balcony and have receptions,” Byrne said.

She said the hotels supported the dog park as long as any required fence was designed well. The commissioners leaned toward putting an off-leash dog area at Dwight Murphy Field a few blocks to the east, across from the Santa Barbara Zoo on Niños Drive. 

Talk about the future of the Cabrillo ball field began in 2011. The city has set aside $713,000 for capital improvements at the site, which is one of the gateways to Santa Barbara’s waterfront.

The ball field is used as a practice site for Pony Baseball and a home field for Major League Softball, the city’s adult softball league. Officials have worked hard in recent months to reduce loitering in the area, including fencing off the restrooms behind home plate. Now the city is looking to improve the area beyond the baseball and softball uses.

Jill Zachary, the city’s assistant parks and recreation director, said plans include a new pedestrian pathway to connects Calle Puerto Vallarta and Cabrillo Boulevard. The city also wants to add landscaping, with possible art elements, at entrance points to make the park area more attractive.

City Councilman Gregg Hart spoke in support of the basketball courts. He said Curt Pickering, coach of the Santa Barbara Breakers, and Bill Bertka, a former assistant coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and the team’s current scouting director, are in favor of the idea, too.

“There may be perception issues about these kinds of things that could be worked through with discussion,” he said.

Lesley Wiscomb, chairwoman of the Parks & Recreation Commission, said she supports basketball courts and an exercise area.

“I understand the comments from the surrounding hotels,” she said, referring to the basketball courts. “I think we should give it a shot. I think it could be a really wonderful addition. This is an active park. Basketball could show some vibrancy.”

Commissioner Beebe Longstreet said the site was not appropriate for a skate plaza or a dog park, largely because there’s so much traffic in the area, and not a lot of safe spots for parking and drop-off.

She said she supports the adult fitness area.

“I would love for us to be able to see a basketball court area, too,” Longstreet said. “I just don’t see compatibility with the dog park, or skate park or children’s area.”

No vote was taken at the Wednesday meeting as the city only wanted to get the commission’s feedback before pursuing design options. The project would need a Coastal Development Permit before moving forward.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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