A special committee focused on expanding sports fields in Santa Maria made five recommendations -- including making changes to the current inventory and asking Santa Barbara County for help -- during the city's Recreation and Parks Commission meeting Tuesday. 

The Youth Sports Field Committee was formed to secure additional field space in Santa Maria and work on challenges facing local sports teams and leagues, such as how to enhance or expand existing field spaces in the city.

The biggest challenge for local soccer, baseball, rugby, lacrosse and football programs is finding practice space, according to Jim Davis, Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department parks services manager.

Game time needs are usually met through the city’s parks department or at local school fields.

“The larger issue is finding adequate field space for individual team practices during the week at local parks or schools,” said Davis, who added that many of the teams and coaches are not using the current filed permit process.

To address some of the issues facing local sports teams, the committee recommended that the Recreation and Parks Department:

• Expand its policy about the use of portable lights during fall and winter months at more locations and times.

• Consider installing turf at Simas Park’s softball fields to add more flexibility of use by other programs, too.

• Consider changing downtown’s Elks Field from its baseball and softball focus to more diverse offerings.

• Explore the feasibility with the county of Santa Barbara to add more sports facilities at Waller Park.

• Explore the placement of additional fencing around playing fields at selected school sites to provide more access to fields and security to school campuses.

The first three items can be accomplished by the city’s staff with the Recreation and Parks Commission’s permission, said Davis, who will bring a plan to the commission’s next meeting for approval.

The last two items will need more work, he said.

“These items would require some level of financial commitment by the agencies,” added Recreation and Parks Department Director Alex Posada.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.