VANDENBERG VILLAGE, Calif. – A long-planned renovation and modernization project for the Cabrillo High School stadium is gaining momentum and is moving forward.
A group of community members formed a committee and is now collaborating with Lompoc Unified School District (LUSD) in an effort to fund the multi-million dollar project.
"It's going to be the synthetic turf athletic field, as well as a seven lane synthetic all-weather track," said committee member Dan Duffy, who is helping coordinate the project. "This has been a need for quite a while. This has come about because of a tremendous collaborative effort between district administration, other administrators, as well as the School Board."
Currently, the stadium is no longer usable for any of the school's athletic teams or the award-winning marching band.
The grass surface is potted with gopher holes, while the track is pitted with divots and ruts, each presenting a safety risk for students.
Due to the poor conditions, teams are forced to practice in other locations on the campus, including the staff parking lot for the band.
"We practice in the staff parking lot and practice starts 20 minutes after the last bell rings," said Elena Griffiths, a senior and band member, o we have to wait for all the cars to leave. This year during a water polo game, I had to walk all the way to the pool and ask the ref to take a 15 minute timeout so that all the parents could go move their car. It was definitely frustrating."
Griffiths added without a field to practice on, it leaves the band at a competitive disadvantage.
"Our band is incredibly disadvantaged that we can't practice on a field," said Elena Griffiths, a senior and band member. "The only time we're on a field is when we're performing in front of the school. We were on a field outside of competition this year four times and everyone we compete against is on a field every Friday at the minimum, and so when you see your competitors and they get higher scores than you, you can't help but think that maybe if we had some of the same facilities as them, we could compete because that's always where we lose our points is in like spatial awareness and like our drill, not never our music."
Similarly, student-athletes with sports that need the stadium if also feel it leaves them without a level playing field against the competition.
"The fields are smaller," said Thomas Kiesling, describing the lower sports field where football teams practice. "Opportunities are closed. We have our we have our varsity, we have our JV on the same field. We don't have two separate fields, so we can't practice up here. We have to be on the same field, opposite sides. Other teams at these big stadiums, they have the advantage because we're out here playing on a field that doesn't even have the 50 yard line, doesn't even have any markings, doesn't have any hash marks. It's hard to play the field. We don't know where you're at."
In addition, Cabrillo cannot hold any athletic competitions in the stadium, such as football, soccer and track and field, causing those programs to host contests at Huyck Stadium at rival Lompoc High School.
"It's not the best when we have to go down to Lompoc and play in a rival school," said Riesling. "Just doesn't feel like a home game because I feel like going down to your rival's school."
The projected cost for the proposed stadium renovations is between $2.4-to-$2.6 million. LUSD has pledged to fund half of the costs, with the other half to come from fundraising efforts that will be spearheaded by the community-led committee.
"We are so excited about this project and collaboration with our community, especially the committee that has been in place for quite some time and just really excited about the contribution that the district will be able to make to this project for the benefit of our students," said Clara Finneran, Lompoc Unified School District Superintendent. "Our students and the experiences of our students matter more than anything that we do, and so for our students, they deserve the best facilities and the highest quality education, and so when we have facilities that are up to date and safe, our students really thrive, so that's what we are really looking forward to with this project."
A proposed renovations come three years after a similar fundraising effort which created the Lompoc Community Track and Field at Huyck Stadium on the Lompoc High School campus.
"Our students and the experiences of our students matter more than anything that we do, and so for our students, they deserve the best facilities and the highest quality education," said Finneran. "When we have facilities that are up to date and safe, our students really thrive, and so that's what we are really looking forward to with this project. It's really important to us that all of our students have equitable facilities that are safe, that might help them to grow as students, and to that end, we do have a beautiful facility at Lompoc High School, and while there are great facilities here at Cabrillo, they definitely need some improvement, and so this has been a long time coming and we're very excited about achieving that equitable experience for the students here at Cabrillo."
An official fundraising campaign will begin as soon as the committee and LUSD agree to a Memoradium of Understanding (MOU), which may come as soon as the next scheduled board meeting on Feb. 13.
"This is going to be something that the entire Cabrillo future students and current students can take advantage of and have athletic events on this campus that will increase interest in all things Cabrillo," said Duffy. "It's been a long time coming. It has been some challenges along the way, but with all the support that we are seeing from all around, we're going to be moving forward with this and hopefully get this done soon."
The hope is to have fundraising completed by this year, so construction could finish in time to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Cabrillo High School, which will be celebrated next year.