Guest Commentary: Prioritizing the DHS Stadium

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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.

TIME-LINE

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.

VOLUNTEERISM

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.  

ALTERNATIVE  SITES

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.   

CONCLUDING POINTS

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.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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15 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Prioritizing the DHS Stadium”

  1. Eagles nest

    “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.”

    Excuse me, but what the blank does more efficient lighting have to do with maitnenance?

    Fancy solar panels too? We were under the impression this was about a stadium that was too dangerous to use as a reason for upgrades. We were under the impression that the stadium was too dangerous to use and needed to be repaired. What you are describing here is not maitenance? You are describing fancy-expensive eco-frills.

    Meanwhile Emerson needs maitenance. :sad::sad:

  2. Dont get your point

    “We were under the impression that the stadium was too dangerous to use and needed to be repaired. What you are describing here is not maitenance? You are describing fancy-expensive eco-frills.”

    What’s wrong with replacing aging parts with ones that would lower energy costs? Cutting down on energy costs is too fru-fru for you? This is one way to use facilities money to lower the general expense budget so more money is available for other things in these lean times.

  3. Fact Finder

    I believe the cost of water, re sodding grass, basic safety maintenance and electricity are the savings.

    Water and sod, With an all weather field you will not have to re-sod the grass every year as they do now, also you wont have to use nearly as much water as before.

    With new lights and electrical wiring you will make the facility much more effiecent saving the district money on electricity.

    here is a link talking about saving from a new field http://www.dlharchitecture.com/benefits.htm

  4. DJUSD consumer

    The facility has lighting that doesn’t work anymore, and is beyond repair. The author is merely pointing out that when replaced, it would involve energy efficiency. Guess that’s too positive a point for folks who don’t seem to care about injuries to students in the one classroom that will receive ALL DJUSD students eventually, including those from Emerson.

  5. For Change

    “While this is unquestionably a time of hard budget decisions, this is an opportune time to move forward on this project.”

    Says you! Some of us think Emerson upgrades are more important. I’m sure someone could come up with an investigative article about Emerson, showing when it was built, the serious of the need for upgrades, how solar panels would be more energy efficient, and the like. Pretty much all the arguments you are giving for the need to upgrade DHS Stadium. Emerson serves an entire third of the town, in all areas of education, not just athletics. Furthermore, DJUSD is going to have to “borrow” to pay for these renovations of DHS Stadium, at a time when that hardly seems the fiscally responsible thing to do. I don’t find your argument persuasive at all…

  6. Ryan Kelly

    I don’t consider using solar energy to power the lights as eco-frills.

    I support the upgrading of the stadium. It has been a long time in coming. Emerson does need some repairs and upgrades, but the stadium has been waiting much longer and there are health and safety issues.

    I don’t understand why this City can’t get behind this 100% when the vast majority of kids in town will be positively impacted by having a safe place to participate in athletics.

  7. DJUSD consumer

    Support for the track and stadium doesn’t deny support for Emerson. Pitting projects against one another doesn’t help anyone, certainly not injured students.

    Timing is everything. It’s a smart business decision to borrow and build inexpensively now, and sell valuable district real estate later, when the economy recovers.

    Hang in there Emerson. You’ll get yours.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    I’m concerned about Emerson very much so since I live down the street from it. However, after watching the presentations, I think there is a pretty strong case to be made for DHS as well. The safety issues are a concern.

    I agree with the previous poster that we do not want to pit school against school. I think everyone loses when that happens.

    Following up on my post from yesterday, Mike McDermott from Blue and White Foundation posted that they had preliminary discussions with the university about use of Toomey last year.

    Mike’s info is what I have been told as well.

    But one other consideration is that a large portion of the athletics program is funded by gate receipts and concessions. These go directly to DHS athletics.

    By renting the facility from UCD, those revenues would not be available for athletics but rather would go to rental expense and thus would not cover the total athletic department expenses.

    Thus this would not be a viable solution as it would be the program in fiscal difficulties.

  9. Against deficit spending

    You don’t buy things if you cannot afford them. We cannot afford to upgrade the stadium right now. It will require borrowing $4 million. Deficit spending in these tough times does not seem like a good idea to me.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    I think that’s a tricky question ADS. For instance, right now the cost is much less. Moreover, you have a safety issue that is immediate. You have budgetary concerns with stadium revenue. And the district is likely to be able to off-set that borrowing with other funding sources in the immediate future. So I’m not sure that they don’t have the money right now.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    Here’s some additional info:

    “Borrowing for capital improvement [u]is not deficit spending[/u]. All district capital facilities improvement and growth projects are funded by issuing debt. The debt payments are paid for by local taxpayers from voter approved special taxes. The proposed debt instrument of $4m is being paid for by these already voter approved taxes that are being collected. The debt payments will have no incremental financial impact to either the taxpayers or general operating budget for student education. It is capitalizing revenue we are already receiving.”

  12. Davis parent

    “You don’t buy things if you cannot afford them. We cannot afford to upgrade the stadium right now. It will require borrowing $4 million. Deficit spending in these tough times does not seem like a good idea to me.”

    Then I guess it is irresponsible for a person to take out a mortgage at all, even if you can demonstrate you can pay back the loan.

  13. Against deficit spending

    “The proposed debt instrument of $4m is being paid for by these already voter approved taxes that are being collected. The debt payments will have no incremental financial impact to either the taxpayers or general operating budget for student education. It is capitalizing revenue we are already receiving.”

    And what if Emerson needs a new roof, bc the old one it has caves in? Where is the money going to come from? The $4 million for DHS Stadium is going to be borrowed, no matter how you slice it. Borrowing in the middle of an economic recession, that could get a lot worse before it gets better, seems very irresponsible to me. There is no proof that $4 million can be paid back. If there is such proof, show me!

  14. Concerned about teachers

    Borrowing the $4 million is a dumb idea in this economy – save it for a rainy day. Scale the project back and stop spending money you do not have.

    Maybe the Union should be asked to cut down the dues for a short period of time. The Union should share the pain and the lower dues would help offset what the teachers might be losing.

  15. wdf

    [i]And what if Emerson needs a new roof, bc the old one it has caves in? Where is the money going to come from?[/i]

    Deferred maintenance account. It is money that is set aside for situations like that.

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