Placer High on track — for new track

Students, teachers endorse stadium renovations as fundraising gets under way
By: Andrew Westrope, Journal staff writer
-A +A

How to help
To make a donation toward a new running track and football field at Placer High School, contact the district office at (530) 886-4500.

Anticipation and funding are on the rise for Placer High School’s new football field and running track renovations.
The Placer Union High School District Board of Trustees approved the latest series of donations for the project last week, which totaled $14,800 since November, including a $10,000 donation from the Auburn Rotary Club.
Community 1st Bank CEO Robert Haydon is now spearheading the effort to raise $1 million for phase one of the project with fellow Placer High graduate Dick Lawrence. Principal Peter Efstathiu said the generosity of locals has pushed the project into the preliminary engineering phase.
 “The Hillmen Foundation has been heavily involved in terms of supporting the program … (The Auburn Rotary Club’s) donation, along with donations that were made in memory of George Duff, have enabled us to get engineering underway,” he said. “This is going to be used by the community as well. We’re not going to lock the place down.”
Efstathiu said the first phase of track and field fixes would take about two or three months to complete once the funding was in place, and though he could not guess how long that might take, he was sure it would not come from the district.
“It’s been very clear from the beginning this has always been a project that would be funded purely on grants, donations, work in kind by individuals, things like that,” he said.
The origin of the proposed facility renovations dates back to 2011, when Efstathiu met with Maintenance Director Gregg Roberts to discuss what it would cost to renovate the school’s football field and running track. Efstathiu has since met with City Manager Robert Richardson, Auburn Recreation District Administrator Kahl Muscott and others to plan conceptual designs. He said the current two-phase plan – to lay a new track and synthetic turf on the football field first, then later add synthetic turf to the baseball and practice fields – is largely based upon the idea of making fields available for all sports teams all year long.
“The only grass you see for Placer – for athletics, for physical education, for band, for anything extracurricular – is just the football field and the practice field. We don’t even have our own baseball diamonds on campus, softball has to share, the junior varsity plays on a different site … Marching band needs some space,” he said.
He and Roberts decided wear and tear on natural grass made artificial turf the more cost-effective choice for the project, as the current fields must be watered and sealed off for months at a time for seeding.
Sixteen-year-old Halle Ralls, a track and cross country runner and former soccer player at Placer High, said she was more optimistic about the benefits of a new track than an artificial football field.
“The track isn’t that great. It’s really, really hard … but it’s never really bothered me,” she said. “From an athlete’s point of view, I feel like football players aren’t going to want a turf field because it’s going to be a harder fall, but then again the fields are going to look a lot better.”
Placer High junior Casha Vandershuur echoed Ralls’ concerns about the turf, but she conceded the fact that maintenance requirements put serious restrictions on the current grass field.
“Some players really don’t like turf, because it gets really, really hot, and it ruins your shoes,” she said. “But in the spring, basically that field is useless for soccer players, because they reseed it all for football players, so you can’t touch it during that time. It’s all roped off, so soccer players and softball players wanting to run drills can’t use it.”
JV football coach and former track coach Rick Foley also said he “hates synthetic turf” because it gets way too hot, but added, “If we can do great facilities for our kids in this community, we should do it.”
Campus monitor Barbara Salas said one of her favorite benefits of a turf field would be water conservation, and 17-year-old football player Christian Agostini said he didn’t mind the idea of playing on turf.
“To me, it’s fine,” he said. “Just fix up the grass a little bit, make it a little prettier.”