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Construction begins on Joe Debely Stadium
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Despite some April showers and an on-going law suit from concerned neighbors, construction began on the Joe Debely stadium renovations on Monday morning.
The Turlock Unified School District board of trustees approved the lease/leaseback agreement with Roebbelen Contracting, Inc. at their March 16 meeting. Construction will take about 135 days, and is expected to end around Aug. 17, said Ed Felt, TUSD assistant superintendent.
The stadium will be ready just in time for the first high school football game in early September, but, unfortunately, the construction will affect Turlock High’s graduation ceremony along with some spring sports.
According to a letter sent home by Turlock High Principal Dana Trevethan, the Turlock High graduation will be held at 7 p.m. on May 28 at California State University, Stanislaus. The commencement ceremony and the senior dinner will take place on the university campus. District staff gave an estimated cost of $5,000 to $8,000 to hold the ceremony at the university to the TUSD Board of Trustees at their Nov. 17, 2009 meeting. According to Felt, the District is paying $1,500 to rent the amphitheater at the university, but there are other costs not determined yet regarding lighting, security and portable bathrooms.  
The spring sports teams most affected by the construction are the Turlock High girls and boys track and field squads. They will be practicing at Dutcher Middle School for the remainder of the season and have arranged to have all their track meets be away. Felt said that the costs of the additional away meets will be offset by the savings of not having to pay for officials as the school would for a home meet.
The Turlock High baseball and softball teams will not be affected by construction.
The change of location for the graduation ceremony and the spring sports re-location will cost the district an additional $1,500, on top of the already additional $290,000, which was added onto the final cost of construction due to the addition of another restroom facility.
The total cost including facility changes and the additional bathroom for the Joe Debely Stadium renovations, is $4 million.
Joe Debely Stadium renovations will included an all-weather track, artificial turf for the field, new pathways to and around the stadium, two new toilet buildings with one handicap stall, ramps for wheelchair access, about 20 handicap seats on each side with about 20 companion seats on each side, accessible snack bar windows and accessible ticket booth windows.
For the field, the District decided to use the Ecofill brand for the artificial turf giving the fake grass a 25 degrees cooler feel than a recycled field. The turf is also expected to have less odor, bounce and electricity friction, Felt said at the March 16 Board of Trustees meeting. Other schools that are using this brand include Elk Grove and Oroville.
The field will be a solid green color with no logos on the field. There will be white permanent lines on the field for football and soccer.
The all-weather track surface will be the CalTrack brand.
A group of Debely neighbors opposed to the renovations, the Turlock Citizens Coalition, filed an amended lawsuit on March 19. Their original lawsuit, filed on Dec. 24, 2009, stated that the renovations were an illegal use of Redevelopment Agency funding. In March the Stanislaus County Superior Court ruled that the city acted properly in allocating $2.8 million of RDA funds to install a new synthetic turf track and all-weather field at the 60-year-old stadium.
The amended petition, which now also names Roebbelen Contracting, Inc. along with the Turlock City Council and TUSD Board of Trustees, states the district should conduct a full Environmental Impact Report, with 20 days of public review, which fully examines the effects of the stadium improvement. The lawsuit argues that the new track and field will increase usage of the stadium, resulting in environmentally deleterious conditions to the surrounding neighborhoods, said Richard Harriman, Turlock Citizens Coalition attorney.
A trial date has yet to be set, but Harriman has requested July 9 for the trial. If the construction is finished before the hearing, the law suit can still go through. The court could potentially stop the construction and send the project back to the TUSD where they won’t be able to use the facility until an Environmental Impact report is completed, according to the California Environmental Quality Act.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.