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April 19, 2021

Geiser Field renovations could begin next week

Measure L funds could potentially be reserved for future stadium projects

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville High School site council committee is still onboard with a renovation project at Emmett M. Geiser Field, but now it will not have to decide whether or not to use Measure L funds to help pay for it.

Instead, Pajaro Valley Unified School District found other sources of funding, Principal Clara Fernandez said during a meeting on March 10.

“Given this, the district does have the discretion to determine when projects move forward,” she said. “If anything, I think we did a very solid job in listening to the community and overwhelmingly the community said ‘yes, let’s move forward with the project.’”

PVUSD Chief Business Officer Clint Rucker said the district can instead use $250,000 of Redevelopment Agency (RDA) funds, which thanks to then-California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to dissolve RDAs in 2011 are now available for school districts.

“What the funds are really meant for is areas that house students or support student facilities,” he said. “Watsonville High School’s field is obviously a perfect fit for these fundings.”

PVUSD’s Board of Trustees still need to vote at a future meeting on which funding source will be used but the project has already been approved.

Rucker said the new all-weather field will be constructed by FieldTurf, which agreed to a settlement with PVUSD to do some work for them at no charge. Aptos High School was included in the settlement, and also received a full renovation of its field.

Rucker wouldn’t go into detail about the settlement, but said they’re hoping to start construction as early as next week.

Site council member Edith Ruiz said she wanted to make sure that suggestions made by Watsonville High coaches are acknowledged. Track and field coach Rob Cornett wants the electrical box on the field to finally be wired for power, she said, and boys soccer coach Roland Hedgpeth asked for a large “catch net” to be installed behind the goal posts for safety concerns.

“I’m really glad that the district found other money to fund this project,” Ruiz said. 

Barbara Castro, a teacher at Watsonville High, suggested they should have a separate committee to decide how remaining Measure L funds should be used.

Site council member Angelica Gomez-Patino said the district has an ongoing list of Measure L funded projects, which includes renovations to the science buildings and bathrooms. She mentioned that the school site council committee can bring their own list and try to re-prioritize Geiser Field renovations with the other projects.

Watsonville High senior Layla Ruiz’s biggest concern was if construction would be finished in time for graduation.

Fernandez did not guarantee that a ceremony will take place at the school because of construction and the pandemic. She said the viability of an in-person ceremony largely depends on what tier of the state’s Covid-19 reopening plan the county is in at the time.

“Ideally, I think as we move forward with the field, the idea is to have the field available for our graduating seniors,” Fernandez said.

The return of Willie the Wildcat

In regards to the logo on the center of the field, the winner was Willie the Wildcat with 493 votes, which was roughly about 46 percent of the entrees.

There were more than 1,000 responses and the survey was available to all interested stakeholders. Willie beat out the block-style “W” logo and the school’s most recent logo that was brought in sometime in the 2000s by the football team.

Spectators allowed at games

Assistant Principal Joe Gregorio was informed that spectators will be allowed to attend the games, two per student-athlete. The Wildcatz’s football team is scrimmaging at San Lorenzo Valley High on Saturday at 2pm.

The Belgard Kup, which is the annual game against cross-city rival Pajaro Valley High, was rescheduled to the end of the season because adequate Covid-19 testing was not available to student-athletes before Saturday. Both football teams have also not had  enough full-contact practices to ready them for in-game action.

Gregorio said the track and field team will be able to practice at Pajaro Valley High. The team will be transported across town to use their facilities and they will be screened prior to getting on the bus.

“Everybody involved and all parties have been great about communicating and cooperating to make sure all our kids will be in a safe spot,” he said.

The Watsonville High football team will have to play on the road this season as the school begins construction on a new turf field starting next week. Photo: Juan Reyes

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