The Grade Blog

Sunday, Mar 02 2014 09:00 PM

BHS kicks off community fundraising for Griffith Field renovation

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    By Courtesy Kern High School District, Klassen Corp.

    An architectural rendering shows the proposed modernization to Bakersfield High's Griffith Field. This is an overview look at the stadium that would feature a new all-weather track, relocation the visitors-side bleachers and a new entrance to the stadium.

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield High School is selling personalized tiles to raise money for an upgrade of its aging football and track facilities.

The Kern High School District in December approved the allocation of about $19.9 million to modernize Griffith Field. Among other things, that would cover the cost of improving the athletic field and stadium, which opened in 1923; adding elevators, seating and structures for concessions and restrooms; and moving some viewing stands from inside the loop to outside the track.

But district funding would only pay $460,000 for a grass football field and $107,000 for a dirt track. Administrators and boosters want to raise another $1.5 million privately to upgrade to an all-weather rubberized track and artificial turf on the football field.

"The enhancement would be so you could use it for everyday P.E. and just boost it a step above in quality," said Principal David Reese. "The track is more durable, so the runners get better times and less wear and tear on the bodies. And with the grass, when it rains the football field is just a mess. By the time we get to soccer, there's almost no grass left."

An added bonus of artificial turf would be that it's evergreen and requires less water, no small thing in the midst of a drought, Reese said.

Currently, Liberty High School is the only school in KHSD with an all-weather track. The county has no schools with artificial turf football fields.

The two-year stadium project was approved in 2007, but the district decided to hold off on it a few years when the recession hit. Work on the project is expected to begin later this year. Athletes will compete on alternate fields at other schools during construction.

To raise money for the upgrades, BHS is selling ceramic tiles that will be mounted on a wall of the stadium. The school will accept any amount, but tiles start at $250. That buys wording painted on the tile such as a donor's name or the name of a business.

Within 24 hours of announcing the fundraising campaign last month, a single donor gave $10,000, Reese said, so the school is off to a good start. He wouldn't identify the donor.

The modernization of BHS will be paid for with bond money restricted to the building or improvement of campuses.

Voters in the KHSD attendance area have passed two general school construction bonds. One in 1990 for about $97.5 million was used to build Centennial, Frontier, Golden Valley, Liberty, Ridgeview and Stockdale high schools.

The second bond, approved in November 2004, was for $219 million. So far it has been used to build Independence and Mira Monte high schools and one continuation school, Tierra Del Sol.

There is about $29 million left that is funding minor work such as landscaping at West High School, but larger-scale construction and modernization is in a little bit of limbo, said Scott Cole, assistant superintendent of business for the Kern High School District.

Usually such projects are funded by local bonds and matching funds from the state, but California's last education construction and modernization bond issue is nearly depleted.

There is talk in Sacramento of issuing another state bond in November to replenish the fund, but that's still up in the air.

Until districts know for sure what's happening there, most aren't embarking on any big initiatives, Cole said.

Other KHSD campuses are due for an upgrade, he said. By law, schools are entitled to modernization work 25 years after their construction and again when they reach the 50-year milestone.

BHS is eligible and would like to expand beyond the sports complex improvements to close off its open campus. It's the only school in the district with public streets running through it that are home to private businesses.

That creates traffic flow problems and poses a health and safety risk, said Principal Reese.

KHSD has purchased the non-educational buildings on the BHS campus and leases them to the tenants that are running businesses there, including a driving school and a company that rents out inflatable bounce houses.

There hasn't been any effort to terminate those leases because the district was waiting to see if a high-speed rail construction project would make the point moot.

At one time, rail planners were considering a route that would require demolishing at least one building on campus, but now that an alternative route is proposed that would bypass BHS, Reese said he's hopeful there will be some movement once the financing is pinned down.

Foothill and Kern Valley high schools also are in line for major overhauls due to their age, Cole said, and there are many other schools that need various degrees of improvement.

"Hopefully we could be getting some money in the near future," said West High School Assistant Principal Eugene Christmas. "We certainly wouldn't mind it."

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