Over 2,000 people connected to various Turlock schools, local sports teams, Turlock’s past, and community advocacy showed up to celebrate, with a ribbon cutting ceremony, the installation of the new artificial turf and synthetic track that were included in the Joe Debely Stadium Renovation Project Thursday night.
Turlock School Unified District (TUSD) Superintendent Sonny Da Marto took the lead at the August 26, 2010 ribbon cutting ceremony by first recognizing the fact that without the City of Turlock’s $2.8 million in RDA funding the stadium renovation project would not have happened. Da Marto went on to state the School District’s appreciation to everyone in Turlock and that the renovated Joe Debely Stadium belongs to everyone in Turlock.
TUSD President Frank Lima reiterated Da Marto’s acknowledgement to the City and clarified that this project would not require any further funding from the City for operations or maintenance. Lima went on to point out many other collaborations throughout Turlock that support the youth and are a benefit to the community as a whole, and now the newly renovated Joe Debely Stadium would be included on that list.
Members of the City Council, TUSD Board, TUSD Staff who worked on the project, Turf Crew members, and individual supporters of the project were being announced and during TUSD President Lima’s speech the hundreds of Turlock and Pitman football players and cheerleaders on the track were ready to join in on a surprise.
The crowd and students’ talk started to overshadow Lima’s speech as an airplane was spotted in which two jumpers, one wearing a THS jersey and the other a Pitman jersey, came parachuting to the 50 yard line. Students rushed to the center of the artificial turf field in a moment of celebration.
The Turlock Bulldog and Pitman Pride Lion mascots performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting.
People in attendance were treated to an All-American hot dog dinner for only $1 by the Turlock and Pitman booster clubs.
Pitman High School played the first game on the new artificial turf at Joe Debely on Friday, August 27, 2010 as they hosted Modesto High School. Pitman ended up losing 48-36.
Turlock High School is scheduled to play their first game on the new field as the home team on September 3, 2010 against Oakdale High School.
The Joe Debely Stadium track and field was placed at the current location at Turlock High School in 1950. The stadium encompassing the track and field was constructed in 1977. Turlock and Pitman High Schools share the use of the stadium for athletic events.
In 2006, the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees authorized Beals Alliance to prepare a preliminary plan for the renovation of Joe Debely Stadium. This preliminary plan, released in May 2006, estimated the total renovation costs for Joe Debely Stadium at $3.6 million. This amount included an estimated cost of $2.8 million for an all-weather track and synthetic field. In April 2008, the Board of Trustees included the Joe Debely Stadium renovation project in the District’s adopted "Capital Facility Financing Plan" but without an identified source of funding.
In June 2009, the City of Turlock Redevelopment Agency included the modernization of Joe Debely Stadium as a project for funding with the Redevelopment Agency tax increment revenues in the amount of $2.8 million. On December 8, 2009, the Board of Trustees received information for a proposed "Master Plan for the Joe Debely Stadium Track and Field Renovation Modernization Project." The Board then approved the project and directed the administration to proceed with parts 1 and 2, consisting of track replacement to all-weather surfacing, field replacement to artificial turf and field watering system, accessibility path of travel to and around stadium, addition of one pre-fabricated accessible toilet building at the southwest corner of the stadium, replace storm drainage system, and construct a new entry way and ticket booth at the southern end of the stadium at Marshall Street. The Board then considered and approved a "Funding Agreement" between the Turlock Redevelopment Agency and the City of Turlock and Turlock Unified School District for the project.
In December 2009 a group of citizens called the Turlock Citizens Coalition (TCC) filed a lawsuit against the specific members of the City Council and TUSD Board who voted to approve the funding and/or construction of the Joe Debely Stadium Renovation project, along with the organizations. The lawsuit claimed the misuse of City Redevelopment funds for the school project.
In March, the courts ruled the City of Turlock’s funding of the Joe Debely Stadium renovation was an appropriate use of RDA monies. The TCC filed an amended lawsuit, dropping the names of the individual City Council Members and the City of Turlock, now addressing the potential negative environmental impacts to the surrounding neighborhood due to increased use and traffic by the School District’s stadium renovation. The lawsuit has yet to be scheduled for a court hearing.
On March 16, 2010 the Board of Trustees approved the construction contract with Roebbelen Contracting, Inc. for the Guaranteed Maximum Price of $3,299,600.00 for the Joe Debely Stadium Renovation Project. Construction began on April 5, 2010 and is scheduled to be completed by August 17, 2010.
Pitman High School hosted the first football game to be played on the new artificial turf when it played Modesto High School on Friday, August 27, 2010 and lost to Modesto 48-36.