In early 2022, Point Loma Nazarene University’s Carroll B. Land Stadium was classified as “America’s Most Scenic Ballpark” by the Major League Baseball Association for its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and location on the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Bay Point Formation. However, according to the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park website, the Bay Point Formation is a deposit of fragile, soft sandstone, partly due to porous rock and its proximity to human traffic and infrastructure.
To preserve Carroll B. Land Stadium and protect the various Campus Facilities structures situated on the hillside beneath the ballpark, a retaining wall is being added along the northwest edge of the stadium.
Jeff Bolster (Ph.D.), vice president for PLNU University Services, said the project to support the hillside beneath the ballpark has been in the works for a while now. Campus Facilities watches for erosion issues all around campus, and the hillside was flagged as an area to watch almost ten years ago. This prompted the university to bring in geologists and structural engineers to assess the property. About four years ago a threshold of concern was met for the hill the baseball field is built on and the university began the process of planning to build the retaining wall.
“The permission process took almost two years,” said Bolster. “This is one of the most pristine areas in the country and there’s all kinds of people at the city and state level that were involved in giving us permission, in terms of what we could do and how we could do it.”
Currently, soldier beams are being placed and reinforced with concrete. The level of erosion has been significant enough that no additional digging was needed and the construction team could begin drilling without delay. Once the beams are in place, the process of backfilling the hillside and compacting the dirt can begin. Some of that new soil will come from an overhang that Bolster reports was recently removed from the east side of Wiley Residence Hall.
In an email interview, Eric Remley, PLNU’s assistant director of campus facilities and project management, gave a projected completion date for the retaining wall project. Remley noted that despite the amount of rain in the past few weeks, there have only been minor issues.
“The substantial completion date is mid-March and could be adjusted if we continue to see storms delay the project. We will then have the hillside planted, and that will happen in the spring,” said Remley.
The new construction should preserve the hillside and ballpark for years to come. According to the Stronglock Retaining Wall Company, “retaining walls made from timber tend to have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years.”
Remley has been working alongside Associate Vice President of Facility Operations and Campus Planning, Dan Toro, the ground manager, Michele Navarro, and the rest of the Campus Facilities team to manage the property and keep an eye on areas where slippage might occur during storms.
“We are always working to prevent erosion here on our coastal property and take these matters seriously,” said Remley.
Anti-erosion efforts can be a difficult undertaking, as evidenced by projects on Sunset Cliffs and studies of other areas along the Bay Point Formation. Bolster noted that new studies are conducted annually to reevaluate the landscape and plan for emerging areas of concern in a way that protects the natural landscape.
“What you’re, I hope, seeing through this is that we’re highly preventative. We’re trying to be preventative in terms of years … we’re trying to stay ahead of this thing all across the campus, so I’m glad for people to learn that we don’t wait to see something break away and then fix it, we’re staying ahead of this thing, keeping everybody safe,” said Bolster.
Written By: Lily Damron