Local youth sports groups see more lighted facilities to ease the strain on overburdened soccer and football fields in Torrance.

And city officials see an enhanced storm-water runoff program that will collect, conserve and clean water.

Both will come to fruition if a $6 million proposal to build three multiuse sports fields at the Bishop Montgomery Basin behind the Torrance Boulevard high school and a passive park at the Ocean sump near Sepulveda Boulevard occurs as envisioned.

The first public step in the process occurs at 7 p.m. tonight and again Nov. 18 in the cafeteria at Anza Elementary School, 21400 Ellinwood Drive, when city officials unveil plans for the 7-acre basin adjacent to Bishop Montgomery. Another meeting is scheduled for the same time and place Nov. 4 to discuss the trails, restored habitat and open space proposed for the 9-acre Ocean sump. "Neither of these projects would use any potable water," said John Dettle, acting city engineer. "We would use recycled water plus urban runoff to keep the grass growing." Municipal officials first proposed the idea in March 2008 and have been refining plans for the two sumps ever since. The idea is to help the city meet regional requirements for cleaning urban runoff in winter months while simultaneously creating two new parks. The function of the basins, which have existed for decades to help drain what was once a flood-prone city, would not change.
In fact, the goal is to improve how they work, enhancing both the quantity and quality of water that's collected and used to recharge groundwater supplies, Dettle said. The city has set aside $1million for preliminary design work and hopes to apply for state and local water improvement grants to create the parks. There's room for up to three youth soccer fields complete with lights at the Bishop Montgomery basin that could also be used for Pop Warner Football and other sports. "We get constant calls from people complaining they don't have a place to practice or play," said Mayor Frank Scotto, a long-time official with the Hawthorne-based American Youth Soccer Organization, which began in Torrance 45 years ago. "A lot of groups have such a need for more youth fields in the city, it would be very disappointing to me if we could not accomplish this." City officials don't expect many people to object to improving the landscaping and installing trails, but otherwise leaving the Ocean basin in a largely undeveloped state. But it's unclear how neighbors of the Bishop Montgomery basin will react to converting the quiet space into busy, lighted ball fields. With lights below the grade of surrounding homes, it's hoped the illuminated fields will not spill unwanted glare into nearby living rooms. Dettle said he has received only one call from a nearby resident about the project so far and that person was in favor of it. Still, youth sports officials acknowledge that playing games from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a weekend - complete with a blaring public address system in the case of Pop Warner Football - can create conflict. "When we play, the neighbors always complain about the noise or the PA system or parking on the street," said Dan Lankford, president of Torrance Youth Football & Cheer, whose 400 participants are spread over three different parks and school fields. He hopes a new directional sound system that doesn't blast the entire neighborhood will solve the noise issue. Parking isn't expected to be a problem since the high school already has large lots. Dick Monod de Froideville, AYSO commissioner for Torrance's Region 15, is also eyeing the new sports fields, which would sit on the border of two fast-growing AYSO regions. "It's in an ideal location," he said. "(Region 15) used to be a program of 900 (kids) and now we're a little over 1,000. The city of Torrance is running out of space for sports venues."