Nearly $8 million for a major rebuilding of Palo Alto High School fields and bleachers was approved unanimously Tuesday night by the Palo Alto Board of Education — the first big revamp since the 1970s.
The project includes replacing the grass field on El Camino with synthetic turf for $2.5 million, replacing the Paly baseball field for $4 million and replacing the stadium bleachers for $1.4 million.
The projects will be paid for using the Measure A Bond, reserved project funds for Paly buildings and additional planned maintenance funds. Construction for the synthetic turf and bleachers will begin in the spring and construction for the baseball field will begin in the summer.
"This is an easy vote for me," said Barbara Mitchell, who was elected board president at the beginning of the meeting.
"I graduated from Paly in the 1970s. There have been no funds spent on Paly sports fields since then. There was a pool built in 1974. In February (2008) the board approved the much-needed Gunn field upgrades and at the same time we said we were going to set aside funds to do the same at Paly.
:"It is essential that we move forward with this timeline that is already tight," Mitchell said.
For other board members the decision was not as easy. Board member Camille Townsend questioned the priority of constructing the fields over other projects such as renovating the Paly library and Haymarket Theater. She also asked whether the community had been adequately informed about the project.
Several community members, including representatives from the girls varsity soccer and lacrosse teams, spoke in support of the Paly fields project at the meeting. Members of the lacrosse team said the current field has holes and players often sprain their ankles. In addition, their coach, Jennifer Gray, would make them play on concrete before a game just to help maintain the field, which she said is unacceptable.
"My first priority is safety, the second is quality opportunities and third is to bring families together around a sport," Gray, who lives nearby, said.
"I was scared to have my players practice on the field. … I would see community members playing soccer on the weekend and I'd come in on Monday and the field would be torn up."
Bill Glazier, president of the Tomahawks Lacrosse Club, asked the board to approve the field construction for the community.
"We have 300 boys and girls who play with us. Lacrosse is increasingly becoming a high school sport. I'm afraid that next year there will be no place to play," Glazier said.
Paly Principal Jaquie McEvoy said the community will be allowed to use the synthetic-turf fields. "You'll see community members frequently using the track and using the field," she said.
Feedback from community members satisfied Townsend : "I feel like I had the biggest issues (with this proposal) and now they're all resolved," she said.
With that, the board approved the field projects, prompting applause from almost two dozen community members at the meeting.