For 70 years the Palomar College football team has been a vagabond, playing its home games on the area’s high school fields. It’s the only major sport that doesn’t have its own on- campus facility – and has never had since the college’s inception in 1946. There is a basketball gymnasium, a baseball field; even a swimming pool. But no football stadium for the college’s premiere sport.
But this has been no deterrent in the evolution of a first-class community college (and its 20,000-plus students) that could rival a four-year university in its academic facility; nor has the absence of a football stadium been a deterrent in the recruitment of football players – even from outside the district and county.
So there must be something other than an on-campus stadium that entices a football player to attend Palomar! (But that’s another story).
In recent years, the football team has played its home games at Escondido High School’s Wilson Stadium. In the very early years – long before Palomar had ANY on-campus athletic facilities – its football games were played at the old Escondido, Vista and Fallbrook high school fields. (None of those fields or school buildings exist today. Each has since been replaced with a newer and larger facility.)
The basketball team played its home games in the gyms of those three old high schools and San Dieguito High School. (The basketball gym was the first athletic facility build on campus.
The baseball team played most of its games at Escondido’s Finney Field (now the site of the arts center) and some at the old Vista High School on Escondido Avenue.
It was in November 1971, 45 years ago, that a citizens’ football-support group, the Comet Quarterback Club, sought to alleviate the absence of an on-campus football stadium. Club officers, appearing before the college’s board of trustees, proposed a combination of private and public funds to finance construction of a 12,000-seat “all-purpose” stadium.
The club asked trustees to consider putting an 18 cent tax increase on the ballot! That was a whopping 18 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation to raise an estimated $987,000. The club would seek to raise $300,000 in private contributions, but was seeking support of college trustees before embarking on such a project. Trustees took no action on the proposal that night; simply took the proposal under consideration.
It was at a meeting the following February – three months after the proposal was first put forth, perhaps indicating the lack of interest on the part of trustees – that trustees rejected the request to place an 18 cent tax increase on the ballot.
Would such a proposal have had a chance? It was extremely doubtful in the light of tax increases (for far less than 18 cents) for classroom buildings often being rejected.
A Daily Times-Advocate editorial of February 17, 1972 (that I wrote) had this to say: “Proponents of the issue prefer to call the proposed structure an all-purpose bowl. But here we’re simply dealing in semantics: stadium or bowl. They’re essentially the same. But the fact remains that the primary motivation behind the drive for funds is the Comet Quarterback Club, a citizens’ group formed to promote Palomar College Football.
“The bowl would be constructed first and foremost with football usage in mind. All other uses would be secondary.
“Does one look upon the proposed facility as something to serve college students or the community as a whole? Is such a facility essential to the North County community? Will the overall college educational program suffer without such a facility? Will the North County community continue to function as effectively without such a facility?”
The answers to those questions should be obvious.
At the February 1972 trustee meeting, where the fate of the proposal was decided, no vote was actually taken when a motion to place the 18 cent tax increase on the ballot died for lack of a second. But comments by trustees made it obvious. Milo Shadle, a trustee from Vista, made the motion. Before the motion was made, Anton Simson, a trustee from Poway asked “How vital is this issue?”
After the motion, trustees Richard Kornhauser of Escondido and A.J. “Pal” Anderson of Valley Center spoke in opposition. Trustee Lucy Bayne of Escondido was absent, but sent a letter voicing opposition.
A T-A editorial of February 25, 1972 (which I also wrote) commented:
“How vital is this issue? It isn’t. It just isn’t that important to the growth of Palomar College as an academic institution. Palomar’s growth has not been and will not be contingent on the construction of an all-purpose stadium.”
The fund-raising project never got off the ground. And Palomar is will recruiting athletes from outside the district!
Ron Kenney was a reporter and editor for the former Daily Times- Advocate from 1952 to 1979 and was a copy editor on the editorial pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1985 to 1997.