Conejo is Spanish for rabbit, and although Adam Haverstock says he doesn’t see many rabbits in the area these days, Southern California’s Conejo Valley is hopping with sports tournaments, clinics and camps.
Comprised of three major cities in southeastern Ventura County and northwestern Los Angeles County — Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village — the Conejo Valley is nestled between the beaches of Malibu and the glitz of Los Angeles. In fact, it’s often referred to as “suburban L.A.,” and its mild climate and ocean breezes (temperatures hover in the mid-70s at the height of summer, with 347 days of sunshine every year) make it an appealing destination for athletes.
No wonder the Conejo Valley is home to several first-class indoor and outdoor sports facilities.
“The public fields and facilities are in pretty high demand, and it’s easier to book events for midweek or the offseason, which is January through April,” says Haverstock, director of government affairs and tourism for the Thousand Oaks-based Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce. In August, the Conejo Recreation & Park District was booking tournaments and other sports events through July 2018.
Additionally, a private sports and fitness center that opened in 2016, along with numerous facilities located on the California Lutheran University campus in Thousand Oaks, help make the Conejo Valley a sunny destination for everything from baseball and soccer to field hockey, water polo and pickleball.
Consider the following a short tour of key facilities located throughout the region.
Conejo Valley Parks
The Thousand Oaks-based Conejo Recreation & Park District operates independently of any cities in the valley, and it oversees close to 100 park sites and open space. One of the largest sites with sports amenities is Conejo Creek South, 55 acres that include 12 soccer fields (10 with lights) that double as lacrosse fields, plus a full-size baseball field and a 2,400-square-foot space with a concessions area, meeting rooms and rest rooms.
Youth sports tournaments with more than 150 teams and 3,000 athletes are common, according to Dana Miller, recreation supervisor for sports at the Conejo Recreation & Park District. The property was acquired by the district in 1972 and has consistently undergone improvements. The most recent upgrade was 2013, when solar carports were installed.
Conejo Creek South is home to the American Youth Soccer Organization’s Region 9, which helped finance upgrades to the facility and brings more than 1,500 participants to the park on most weekends, Miller says.
The park also hosts many high-profile weekend tournaments and festivals throughout the year.
Meanwhile, Dos Vientos Community Park offers five baseball fields (three with lights), three lighted soccer fields, bleacher seating and a 14,000-square-foot community center. Over the years, it has hosted local regional championship tournaments for Pony Baseball.
Additionally, Rancho Conejo Playfield and Del Prado Playfield offer a combined eight lighted pickleball courts to accommodate local demand. Miller, however, says the district is looking for new opportunities to host pickleball tournaments and events.
“We’ve also seen more interest in lacrosse and field hockey,” she adds, citing increased participation in those sports at the high school level in California.
The Conejo Recreation & Park District closes its outdoor facilities for six to eight weeks between May and September during the youth sports’ offseason to make improvements and refurbish the fields.
In early 2016, the 96,000-square-foot Sports Academy opened its doors in Newbury Park, instantly making the valley an even more in-demand destination. The sprawling indoor facility offers five volleyball courts and two indoor beach volleyball courts that double as sand soccer fields, plus five full-size basketball courts and 5,000 square feet of synthetic turf fields.
Sports Academy also provides batting cages and pitching mounds, sport-specific performance training and several other spaces marketed to area residents.
“It’s the only facility of its kind, and the owners are actively seeking tournaments, camps and clinics,” Haverstock says.
The facility is gaining a reputation as a combine destination. In January, it hosted the 2017 CP3 National Middle School Combine, an invitation-only basketball camp run by nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul for 120 of the most talented young basketball players in North America. And last year, the facility began welcoming players from some of the top NCAA Division I lacrosse programs for three-day combines offered by Legends Lacrosse, a start-up training company.
Additionally, the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce named Sports Academy its “Business of the Year” in 2016.
California Lutheran University
Located in Thousand Oaks, California Lutheran University also is open for business when it comes to hosting sports events, according to Haverstock, who says the university has strong relationships with many community sports and recreation organizations.
William Rolland Stadium is the newest athletic facility on campus. Completed in 2011, the two-story venue features a synthetic turf field and spectator seating for 2,000. The $3.35 million Samuelson Aquatics Center, located on campus offers both short-course and long-course swimming, as well as diving and water polo opportunities.
The Conejo Recreation & Park District operates the community pool at California Lutheran University, which offers lap swimming, swim lessons, recreational swimming, American Red Cross training and more.
L.A. Rams in the Valley
In the past couple years, Los Angeles went from having no National Football League team to being home to both the Rams (who relocated from St. Louis in 2016) and the Chargers (who moved 120 miles north from San Diego earlier this year).
The Conejo Valley has welcomed the Rams, in particular, with Cal Lutheran serving as the team’s home for the next few years until a permanent training facility and team headquarters is built. The Rams paid for the installation of two on-campus practice fields, a paved parking lot and temporary modular buildings containing offices, training areas and locker rooms, according to the team’s website. The Rams will turn those facilities over to the university for use by student-athletes and the community after the team departs.
“It’s a huge morale boost for the community and has made our area a football town,” Haverstock says about the Rams’ presence.
Cal Lutheran has a long history of partnering with high-level sports organizations. The university hosted training camp for the Dallas Cowboys from 1963 to 1989, and its Olympic-size pool was designated as the official training site for the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s water polo teams. USA Team Handball, the Independent Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lightning and the Conejo Oaks collegiate summer baseball team also have held events at sports venues on campus.
Athletes and their families who need a break from sports while in the Conejo Valley region can visit two of the country’s most renowned attractions.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, perched on a mountaintop with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and Pacific Ocean, represents the “shining city on a hill” often referenced by the late 40th president of the United States. The 300-acre site holds expansive records from Reagan’s administration, as well as personal papers, and a museum features a permanent exhibit covering Reagan’s life, plus continuously changing exhibits.
Meanwhile, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area includes Malibu beaches, hiking trails and cultural Native American sites.
The valley is located about 45 miles from Los Angeles, providing the perfect opportunity for daytrips to the City of Angels — the second-largest urban area in the United States. A total of 14 hotels in the Conejo Valley offer 2,000 rooms.
“I think you can call us a mid-size destination,” Haverstock says, adding that Conejo Valley recently made several bids to host more sports events. “We’re not going to be hosting a national tournament, but for people who are in the Southwest and looking to do some regional events, camps and clinics, we’re ideal.” SDM