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Tuesday, Jan 21 2014 09:32 PM

Historic Griffith Field to undergo dramatic renovation; 2-year project set to start later this year

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    Courtesy art the Kern High School District In handout art provided by the Klassen Corporation, an architectural rendering shows the proposed modernization to Bakersfield High's Griffith Field. This view is from the back of the stadium and shows how the current stadium would be preserved, while adding new facilities including an elevator.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

Change is a-comin' to the most storied high school football program in the state.

Bakersfield High School announced Tuesday that historic Griffith Field, its on-campus football stadium, will undergo a dramatic modernization beginning late this year.

"We just received word before Christmas break that the (Kern High School District) will approve renovations," BHS principal David Reese said. "We thought this was a good time to get it out there."

Griffith Field opened in 1923 and has since hosted the Drillers, who own state records for victories, section championships and state championships.

Artist renditions of the new stadium show an extreme facelift to the existing structure, including elevators, new seating and new structures that could house restrooms or concessions.

Most renovation details are yet to be determined, but tenatively, plans include an all-weather track -- among KHSD schools, only Liberty has one -- and an artificial-turf field, which would be the first in the city.

Those two features, however, would cost extra; the KHSD has approved costs for the stadium renovations, for a grass field and for a dirt track, all from a fund earmarked for construction. BHS must raise money to make up the difference between grass and turf and between dirt and all-weather; Reese said that total comes to a little more than $1 million and must be raised.

"We're going to create a fundraising program," said Reese, who said that at this early date those who wish to donate can contact the school.

The renovation will take nearly two years, meaning Bakersfield's football team will go the 2015 season without a home field, and the Drillers' soccer and track teams will go two seasons without use of Griffith Field.

Reese said Bakersfield's teams would use another field as "home" during those seasons, either a nearby high school -- West or South, most likely -- or, for football, possibly Memorial Stadium at Bakersfield College.

Tentatively, Griffith Field would re-open in August 2016, in time for football season.

"It's going to be different, an amazing modernized facility," Drillers coach Paul Golla said. "I'm sure our seniors are saying, 'Come on, now that I'm gone?' but for our younger players and for the school, it's really exciting."

Reese said work on these renovation plans began as far back as 2005 and that BHS was ready to submit them to the district in 2007. However, the economic downturn kept them shelved until recently.

"These are exciting times," Reese said.


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