WATSONVILLE—When Pajaro Valley High School opened in 2004, it was with the understanding it would soon have a playing field. But since then, legions of student-athletes have played on other schools’ facilities, and generations of graduates have received their diplomas on other school’s fields.
Those days are over.
On Feb. 26 at 2pm, Pajaro Valley Unified School District will cut the ribbon on its new field, heralding in a new age for the school.
To see the ceremony, click here or visit bit.ly/3jPiNg6.
“I’m really excited,” said Martin Gonzalez, 17, who plays football, soccer and participates in track-and-field.
Gonzalez says that having a field at the school will at long last give players an edge during games there.
“We finally have the home field advantage,” he said.
The ceremony comes after students, school employees and community members fought for years to jump-start the long-awaited facility, the most notable of which was a battle with the Watsonville Pilots Association. That group threatened litigation claiming that the original plans placed the athletic facility in the path of a runway at Watsonville Municipal Airport, creating a danger in the event of an emergency landing or crash.
The group dropped its objections when PVUSD agreed to relocate the field in the school’s footprint.
A lack of funding also stalled the project, a problem that was solved in 2012 with the passage of Measure L.
The voter-approved $150 million bond measure was created to fund construction and repair projects throughout the district. PVHS students helped promote the bond, standing on busy streets holding signs, only to see nine years pass by without their field.
PV High’s field also had to pass muster with a bevy of local and state officials, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The California Coastal Commission required three separate environmental impact reports, since the school is located adjacent to fragile wetland habitat.
Work on the field began in April 2019.
PV High’s Athletic Director Joe Manfre says the new field looks “unreal.”
“Everything is super nice,” he said. “I think the softball facility is one of the best in the county.”
He added: “It’s awesome. I’m super excited, and I’m mostly excited for our kids. They have been waiting a long time for this. It’s going to be nice for our students to be able to go to our locker room and walk right out onto the field.”
Felicia Davidson, who graduated PV High in 2015 and led schoolwide efforts to start the project, called the completed project “incredible.”
“In seeing the completed field, I’m proud, first and foremost, of the students and parents and teachers, community members and everyone else who kept pushing for this to happen,” she wrote in a Facebook message to this newspaper. “I’m excited for the students who will finally be able to go to a complete school, run on their own track, stop running in a parking lot for P.E. or having to choose between homework help and waiting an hour for the bus to get to practice.”
But Davidson said that she is frustrated at the time it took for the project to be completed.
“The disparities in opportunities and supplies for students of color and students in low income areas is stark and shameful and the experience of fighting for the completion of Pájaro Valley High made it all too clear how difficult it can be to even begin to bridge those gaps,” she said.