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Petition Started To Preserve Oceanside's Junior Seau Amphitheater, Community Center

Pictured, the stage of the Junior Seau Amphitheater in Oceanside. August 26, 2021.
Tania Thorne
Pictured, the stage of the Junior Seau Amphitheater in Oceanside. August 26, 2021.

Oceanside’s bandshell is a landmark that's hard to miss when visiting the city’s beachfront. It was built in 1919 and has since undergone various renovations.

Movies, protests, concerts, cultural celebrations, and various events have taken the amphitheater’s stage.

Oceanside’s first beach bandshell built in 1919.
Oceanside Historical Society
Oceanside’s first beach bandshell built in 1919.

In 2012, the amphitheater and a nearby community center were named for the late Junior Seau, an Oceanside native and pro football player.

Petition Started To Preserve Oceanside’s Junior Seau Amphitheater, Community Center
Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.

Mary Seau, his sister, said she can't help but think of him whenever she walks the strand.

“I can feel the spirit down here. Freedom, joy, happiness. Just excited to be around the people,” she said.

Now, the ampitheater, community center and the pier plaza are the subjects of a city study, part of an ongoing beachfront improvement project that's already bringing new restrooms, viewing and seating areas, and a police substation to the area. The ampitheater, community center and plaza would be the second phase of the overall project.

“The study is going to look at the existing site conditions of these facilities, and also look at potential improvements, and some of the constraints that are on site. And then involve public input as to what improvements they would want to see, if any,” said Darra Woods, a senior civil engineer with the city of Oceanside who is managing the project.

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Rumors have swirled in the community of a parking structure taking the place of the Junior Seau amphitheater and community center. But Woods said the project is only in the study stages, and no plans or proposals have been presented.

“We know how important this area is to the city and the local community. That's why we really want to know what the public wants to see. There are city needs, but public needs are just as important and that's what we want to hear,” she said.

Woods said Johnson Favaro, the design firm hired to conduct the study, will take the public’s input into consideration when developing design ideas for the facilities.

The city will be holding community meetings to give the public an opportunity to share their opinions on the future of the facilities.

Pictured the entrance of the Oceanside Junior Seau Beach Community Center. August 25, 2021.
Tania Thorne
Pictured the entrance of the Oceanside Junior Seau Beach Community Center. August 25, 2021.

But Mary Seau is not taking her chances, and has started a petition to make sure the facilities are saved.

“What I would like to see is have them fix the problem. Fix the broken walls, fix the stairs, fix the community center building. Have them fix it, but don't demolish it. This belongs to the city of Oceanside,” she said.

Oceanside mayor Esther Sanchez said she has concerns about what will happen. She told KPBS, “When the city decided, ‘Okay, lets go ahead and start looking at including the beach community center,’ a lot of bells and whistles went off in my head, like, 'Okay, great. Is it for the continued use for the youth and families?' And I'm very concerned about the direction this is heading.”

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Sanchez is worried more commercial activity will work its way into the public park land. Food vendors and bike rental companies are already operating outside the community center.

Sanchez also wondered why there has been a decrease in events and youth sports in the areas intended for community recreation.

“I’ve heard from a lot of voices from the community that it's really really hard to get an event going here, whether you're a nonprofit or a church or anyone, a private citizen, it's always been difficult and I don't understand why,” she said.

The city website states approximately 200,000 annual participants take advantage of the many activities and special events offered at the community center. But due to COVID-19, restrictions have limited access to the center.

Seau said limited access to the center and the possibility of getting rid of the facilities is having a deep effect on Oceanside's youth and community.

Pictured, the basketball court inside the Junior Seau Beach Community Center in Oceanside. August 25, 2021.
Tania Thorne
Pictured, the basketball court inside the Junior Seau Beach Community Center in Oceanside. August 25, 2021.

“When they demolish the buildings here they are closing us out of the beach strand and they’re forcing us to go elsewhere with our kids,” she said. “I don't see why we have to go to Carlsbad, why do we have to drive our kids to San Diego, Los Angeles, just to join a basketball league or volleyball league when we have a community center right here just for that.”

KPBS found beachgoers had differing reactions to proposed changes. Doug Boyd, an Oceanside resident, said the facilities need to be torn down. “I’d love to see it renovated and have concerts here," he said. "The other option is maybe a skate park for the kids. Same with the gym down there, I don't even know if they use it down there anymore. Its prime property, I think it needs to be remodeled.”

Joey Daley is another Oceanside resident who runs a snack shack and bike rental business near the community center. “Renovations would be really good, the destruction though... I don't think that’s necessary," he said.

VIDEO: Petition Started To Preserve Oceanside’s Junior Seau Amphitheater, Community Center

Mayor Sanchez's comments about vendors also concerned Daley. "A full vendor shut down, I don't think that's necessary either," he said. "People come to the beach and they want to get food, ride bikes, take surfboards out that they don't have access to in their hometown.”

Oceanside resident Coco Brown observed, “It's historical, this is what we know. So tearing this down would be problematic, no one wants to see that. I mean, it's Junior Seau.”

The first public input meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Oceanside Library Community Rooms.