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FAQ about "Tommy's Field"

Our parks and recreation centers are community resources, and Region 70 understands that soccer is not the only priority. While Region 70 is not taking an official position on building Tommy’s Field, we are concerned that there is a lack of accurate information in this debate, and in its absence, some misinformation has begun circulating. Below are answers to some of the questions that have been raised (skip to the bottom for the “what can I do” section):

What’s wrong with the current soccer field at Westwood? Nothing. But starting around age 12, soccer is properly played with teams of 11 versus 11, and by high school, fields are generally larger than an American football field. The current Westwood soccer field has been a wonderful addition to the local soccer community, but it is far too small to accommodate games for older players. (Adults may do well on the smaller field since they may not have full 22 player squads and may not have the conditioning to play on larger fields.)

In addition, the current soccer field can’t keep up with the demand for soccer space. The current field is generally full during evening and weekend hours when soccer practices and games are scheduled.

Why would they get rid of open space? Until this year, this section of Westwood Park had been mostly dirt, with numerous holes, for at least the past decade and has been unusable as a field. The space does have grass currently, but that is very unlikely to continue since it only now has grass because (1) the park fenced off the entire area for several months this past fall and (2) historic levels of rainfall this winter. Neither of these events is likely to be repeated, and the space will almost certainly return to dirt before long.

Why not simply keep a beautiful grass field at this location? Our Parks Department simply does not have the resources to maintain grass fields in a condition appropriate to athletic competition. Grass fields at Westwood, Cheviot, Stoner and other park locations are consistently in very poor condition.  Prior to the current turf soccer field, AYSO paid for fresh sod to be installed in that location several times, and it could not last even a few months. The Parks Department has encouraged the installation of turf fields at other facilities around the city.

How is this project being funded? The Tommy Mark Memorial Fund was established to honor the legacy of twelve-year old Tommy Mark, who died suddenly in April 2018. Tommy loved soccer and wanted to help improve the fields here in his local neighborhood. In his memory, his family and friends raised money from private donors and through various benefit events to build “Tommy’s Field”.

As part of the donation or otherwise, did any private group secure priority rights over the field? We have been assured that no special interest groups have been given any priority of the field.

What is the connection between the LAFC and LA Galaxy soccer clubs and this project?  Tommy played for the youth academies of both clubs. According to Tommy's mother, Nikki Mark, both clubs reached out to the family after Tommy passed away to ask how they could collaborate for the benefit of youth sports. Both organizations donated to the field, but Mrs. Mark has assured us that neither club has asked for or received any special permits, although the Mark family hopes that they might decide to host clinics or camps on the field. Mrs. Mark previously served as Executive Director of LAFC until 2017, but that club has not been involved in this project other than for their donation.

Isn’t AYSO just another soccer club? No. Numerous private soccer clubs exist in our area to serve the needs of the most motivated and talented soccer players. Reflecting the professional instruction and dedication involved, those clubs charge fees that run several thousand dollars per year per player. Participation in those clubs is only available to players who participate in and are selected during a tryout.

AYSO Region 70 is part of the national non-profit AYSO organization. Our program is open to any boy or girl age 4 to 18 who wants to participate. The program is run by volunteers, including all of our coaches and referees. We keep our fees as low as possible and offer financial aid to those families for whom our fee would be a hardship.

So who will be able to permit the field, private clubs or AYSO? The exact process is not clear yet. The field will likely be available to multiple organization from multiple field sports.

What size is the field? The field will be 300 feet long by 180 feet wide, which is about the size of a football field without the end zones. That is the minimum size necessary to qualify as a full-size soccer field.

Will the field be fenced or locked? If so, how will access be controlled? There will be a low four-foot high fence on the sides of the field to keep balls on the field and dogs off the field. The fence will have unlocked gates that will remain open to allow for free and unstructured play. Permit times for organized leagues will be limited to preserve meaningful free play hours for the community, although the details have not been decided.

Will the field have lights? Yes, although it has not been decided if the lights will be on only when the field is permitted, like at the existing soccer field, or on consistently even when they are empty, like at the tennis courts.

What plans are being made for maintenance? The park will be responsible for maintenance but the TM23 foundation (which raised the funds) may step in if it is not satisfied with the maintenance.

Why are existing tennis courts being destroyed? The city has identified the existing eight tennis courts as an underutilized resource. Two of the courts are in very poor condition. While the project will demolish two tennis courts, it will also fund upgrades of the surface on the remaining six courts.

Were other locations considered (e.g., Stoner or Cheviot Hills Recreation Centers)? According to Mrs. Mark, when the Mark family inquired as to the best location for the gift, they were directed to Westwood Park. The current space had been in poor condition for years and the city cannot afford to maintain it. A synthetic field would conserve millions of gallons of water, an important factor for the city. This field also fit into a master plan for the park put in place in 2013 that provides for a synthetic turf field in this location.

How can I express my support for or opposition to the project?

  1. Attend the Park Advisory Board (PAB) meeting on May 23 at 7pm at the Westwood Recreation Center to listen to the discussion or voice your opinion. The PAB will advise the Department of Parks & Recreation on whether to approve this project. A large crowd is expected.
  2. Contact The Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners at rap.commissioners@lacity.org and the General Manager of Rec and Parks Michael Shull at michael.a.shull@lacity.org.
  3. Contact City Council member Paul Koretz’s office at (213) 473-7005 or at jasmine.shamolian@lacity.org.

And each side has set up online petitions in support of their view: