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Neighboring schools offer fields for free during Joe Debely Stadium closure
Turlock Unified continues to provide transportation to athletes, student fans
Brandon Walston works on removing the old green play off the Joe Debely Stadium field so that the field can be ready to use soon. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/ The Journal

Although the unavailability of Joe Debely Stadium has placed extra transportation expenses on Turlock Unified School District, neighboring schools are trying to mitigate costs by offering their stadiums to Turlock High School and Pitman High School football programs for free.


According to TUSD Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan, six area schools have offered their stadiums at no cost to both high schools for their home games while Joe Debely Stadium undergoes turf replacement work. The schools have also been allowed to keep all gate proceeds.


Trevethan said that TUSD pays about $1,000 round trip for each varsity, junior varsity and freshmen team. TUSD is also paying for buses to transport student fans to home games at alternate sites.


“The District has been and will continue to cover travel costs for games that were originally scheduled to be played at Debely and have been rescheduled to be played at an alternate site,” said TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor.


Despite these efforts, Trainor said that attendance numbers have likely taken a hit.


“Seeing as how these games are played at an alternate site the numbers in attendance are mostly not what they normally would be if they were played at Debely,” said Trainor.


The field at Joe Debely Stadium was shut down to player use in August after results from compaction tests showed the artificial turf to be deteriorating much earlier than the promised 10 to 15 year life span. The turf was initially installed in 2010 as part of a $3.6 million modernization project of the stadium.


The District reached a mutual agreement at the end of August with Mondo Manufacturing to replace “the infill of the stadium turf while honoring the remaining two-year warranty.”


Turf work began earlier this week and Trevethan said in a newsletter that she anticipates the work to be completed “on or about mid-September, granted there are no additional, or unforeseeable, obstacles.”


While the loss of a stadium might have dampened the spirits of many schools, students at THS instead took it as an opportunity to boost school pride with the creation of “Stray Dog” T-shirts.


Associated Student Body Coordinator Jennifer Cullum said the idea to design a new shirt for the school came from ASB officers once they learned the turf was in need of repair. After students brainstormed ideas to support the football team and boost school spirit, Cullum said ASB senior student representative Tate Soderstrom came up with the “Stray Dogs” slogan.


“It’s important to just signify our school pride at our games and the idea really just popped into my brain,” said Soderstrom.


Cullum said the shirts were produced at Crivelli’s Shirts & More and sold in the campus’ Activities Office to benefit the school’s ASB account.


It only took two days for the school to sell 135 shirts, Cullum said.


“I think the shirts gave students the opportunity to make the best out of a situation that at first seemed less than ideal,” said Cullum. “Now the shirts are a symbol of our spirit whether we are playing at home or away.”


THS Athletic Director Mike Brown said junior varsity and varsity teams will return to Livingston Friday to play their home game against Tracy High School. The high school’s Sept. 23 home game against Buhach Colony has also been tentatively scheduled at Orestimba High School.


“We have a backup plan to go to Orestimba if we have to, although we are very hopeful we can be able to play here,” said Brown.


PHS Athletic Director Dave Walls said the school’s football team has been on the road since their season opener in August, but they have plans to play at Patterson High School Sept.16 for their home game against Deer Valley High School.