By Mike Satre –
It is understandable that questions arise when reading headlines about prioritization of a track and stadium renovation on the same page describing possible cuts to teaching positions and/or salaries. The most important fact in this seemingly incomprehensible situation is that by law, District facilities funds are completely separate and distinct from general operations funds used for teacher salaries and programs. Further, a loan for facility projects has no connection to funds used for the operations budget, and funds to pay the loan come from school facility tax assessments, not parcel taxes for teachers and programs.
The DHS Blue and White Foundation would also like to clarify other questions about the stadium and stress the importance of undertaking this project now. This facilities project serves to correct safety and other issues for the District’s largest, oldest and most utilized classroom. This facility serves over 2000 of our students and during events, several thousand spectators, student fans, band members and athletes.
The DHS stadium was built nearly 50 years ago to serve the needs of a high school of less than 700 students. The student population is now over 2000, with a corresponding increase in demands for the facility. Since 1992, renovation of the stadium has been recommended by the District, but subsequently delayed while other priorities were completed. In 2002, the Blue and White Foundation took an advocacy role for the project and began consulting and fundraising. And, as part of a District task force in 2006, we consulted with architects and visited or talked with 26 different high schools that had undertaken stadium renovations. To date, we have participated in nearly 100 meetings involving teachers, coaches, parents, students and district staff regarding the stadium. Thus, this is neither a “sudden” nor “recently identified” facility need. Going forward, the Blue and White Foundation has always viewed the stadium project as a collaborative effort utilizing a combination of private and District monies. In fact, the foundation has taken an active, facilitative role with the District in devising strategies to assure that this is a project for which the District would not bear the full financial burden.
USE and NEEDS
Currently, over 420 students take state-mandated Physical Education, and over 1200 student athletes participate in interscholastic sports. For these PE students and their teachers, student-athletes and their coaches, the stadium is their classroom. This classroom is used 5 days a week, often for 10 hours of the day. However, despite this demand, the stadium’s composition of dirt track and grass field, and the poor condition of these surfaces and surrounding areas (including bleachers), increasingly limits safe use while incurring supplemental maintenance and repair costs. In fact, the conditions are now such that some schools refuse to participate in events at our stadium. Finally, the stadium’s current layout and limited capacity of only 1600 (together with the poor condition issues), prevent its use for important school-wide events, including graduation. As a result, the District must expend from the general fund to hold such events off-site. In fact, the cost of holding this year’s graduation at UCD will exceed $16,000.
Volunteer efforts for the stadium have been taking place for decades. Yet, even with the hours of volunteer efforts, the fact remains that applying new paint, tightening screws, laying sod, and replacing rusted, broken nuts and bolts, will not solve the underlying usage needs or the structural and safety issues. As this is a school facility, the District assumes liability for both workers and the work performed. All structural, electrical and grounds repair and construction, must strictly adhere to regulations from the Division of State Architects governing design, plans, materials, labor and workmanship. Such regulations make it impossible for much of the work to be done by volunteers.
Use of UCD’s Toomey Field has been proposed as a stadium remedy. In 2006, the Woodland versus DHS football game was held at Toomey Field at a cost of $15,000. In this instance, district costs were negated owing to the generosity of a single donor. Assuming costs remain the same, the price to use Toomey Field for multiple sports, track meets and graduation would exceed $450,000 a year. And these costs to the district would not come from facilities funds. Further, NCAA rules and scheduling would eliminate Toomey as an option for the 200 member DHS track team, since it is also the training and meet venue for UCD’s track team.
COST and REVENUE
Events at the DHS stadium provide revenue from admissions, concessions and advertising. Renovation of the DHS stadium would increase revenue from hosting jamborees, clinics, invitational meets, tournaments, playoffs, festivals and other events, and fees for the use of our facility. Other comparable high schools report revenues exceeding $200,000 per year from the use of their modernized stadiums. These events would also generate income for the local business community.
Meanwhile, ongoing maintenance and repairs of the present stadium are an increasing drain of general district funds. New, more efficient lights, together with a switch to durable, all-weather track and field surfaces, would reduce maintenance costs while increasing availability and use. In fact, many schools report savings approaching 27% with the switch to comparable materials. Further savings to the District would be possible through incorporation of “green” building practices, making the facility lead the way toward meeting the City’s carbon reduction goals.
While this is unquestionably a time of hard budget decisions, this is an opportune time to move forward on this project. Financing and materials costs are low. The Lease/Lease-back construction delivery method creates flexibility for the District and opportunities for gifts-in-kind contributions. Together with fundraising, these factors all serve to reduce the District’s cost for the stadium. Conversely, waiting will result in higher building costs, while repair, maintenance, utilities, and off-site use costs will increase. Donations, pledges and grants to the Blue and White Foundation have approaching expiration dates, and could be lost. And above all, waiting does not solve the immediate safety issues or usage needs. Finally, because facilities funds cannot be used to pay teachers, delaying this necessary project (yet again) is not a remedy for the financial shortfall affecting teachers and programs.
–Mike Satre is the father of three students in the Davis schools, a Davis High School alumnus, coach of the DHS JV football team and president of the Davis Blue and White Foundation. While a student at DHS, he was a member of the Madrigal and Jazz choirs and was the principal cellist in the DHS Orchestra.