WATSONVILLE — Emmett M. Geiser Field at Watsonville High is getting a summer facelift.
Ten years after its installation, the all-weather track at the school’s campus is being completely replaced. The artificial-turf football field, which was installed at the same time as the track in a 2006 seven-figure renovation, is also being patched up and refurbished later this summer.
The track restoration is a $350,000 project that began on Friday and is expected to be completed in about two weeks. The Pajaro Valley Unified School District is using Measure L funds to pay half of the cost and the Wharf to Wharf is paying the other half, according to Watsonville Athletic Director Marcus Northcutt.
The donation from the Wharf to Wharf organizers stems from a yearly commitment from the late Ken Thomas, the famous 6-mile road race’s former director who died unexpectedly last year, to help Santa Cruz County high school’s keep their tracks pristine.
“That was one of the last conversations that I had with Ken,” said Watsonville High track and field coach Rob Cornett. “He wanted to redo one track a year and ours needed it this year. To say we’re grateful is an understatement.”
Calls into the Wharf to Wharf offices asking for previous projects around the county were not returned by time of print.
Over the last 10 years, Geiser Field has housed numerous events. It serves as the home field for both Watsonville High and Pajaro Valley High sports teams from the fall to the spring and also suffers wear and tear from the community’s recreational teams and events year-round.
Still, Northcutt said the field was in good enough condition that it did not need a million-dollar rebuild despite being three years past the usual time for a makeover. The bald spots and rips around the center of the field and down the hash marks will be replaced and then the entire field will be “pulled” to soften up the turf.
Northcutt credited the school’s staff as the reason why the field and track lasted longer than expected.
“Our administration and our P.E. department treat it like it’s their home, not like it’s just a place they come to work at,” Northcutt said.
That three-day project, which is being funded by the PVUSD, is set to begin on Aug. 7.
Northcutt said he was bummed that it would eat into the football team’s fall preseason practices but explained that the grass field adjacent to Blackburn Street is in the process of being redone by Granite Rock as a donation and should work fine as a placeholder.
Once completed, that field could open up the possibility for the soccer and baseball teams to play both varsity and junior varsity games at the same time, among other things.
“Hopefully by the winter we can have that field ready to go,” Northcutt said.
Cornett, who was the school’s athletic director when the track and field was first installed, said the track had to be serviced only twice over the decade. The first refurbishing two years ago was to patch up a maintenance accident and the other, which happened before the start of this year’s track season in the spring, was to cover up small tears along a heavy-traffic area.
During the assessment, however, the district found that the track had delaminated and needed to be completely replaced.
“Still, it was meant to last us seven or eight years and we got 10 out of it,” Cornett said. “It’s big for us. We’re getting a whole new track.”
Along with those two big renovations, Northcutt said they also had minor cosmetic upgrades to Geiser Field, like painting over the snack shack and possibly replacing the wooden bleachers with aluminum, in the works.
Northcutt said the search for a major donor to help replace the football field’s scoreboard is still ongoing.
A trio of local companies have already put forth funds for the replacement but Watsonville High has not yet found its top sponsor that will have its name draped across the proposed $250,000 video scoreboard.
New scoreboards for the baseball and softball fields are also in the plans.
The scoreboard on the baseball field does not function consistently, while the softball team, which won the Central Coast Section Division I championship this spring, has played without a scoreboard for several years.
“At least the baseball and football teams have something,” Northcutt said. “I feel bad that the softball team doesn’t have one. Hopefully we can get that rolling soon.”