The deafening silence has ended — even if the answer is not what everyone will want to hear.
After months of rumors and growing community frustration with the seemingly endless renovation of Peabody Stadium at Santa Barbara High School, the Santa Barbara Unified School District announced Tuesday evening that the $39 million project might finally have an end date.
“We expect substantial completion of the construction of the stadium by February 20, then follows the installation of the track and field surfaces, and that process will take another eight weeks. Barring any unforeseen weather conditions, we hope to have use of the track and field surfaces by the end of April,” said Camie Barnwell, the district’s public information officer.
The new 2,300-seat stadium has been fraught with construction delays, with the project now entering its third calendar year.
It was initially slated to be completed by April 2019, but saw delays due to the Thomas Fire and debris flow incidents, pushing the timeline to August 2019, just in time for prep football season.
In mid-summer, Santa Barbara High Principal Elise Simmons had her staff secure neighboring fields for the football team, realizing that Peabody was unlikely to be ready.
Ms. Simmons was right, with a new target date of the end of December being announced.
Meanwhile, Santa Barbara High’s football team made a run to the CIF final — a game that could have been hosted at Peabody Stadium, but instead was held at San Marcos High.
“There was no doubt that it was very disappointing to see that,” said Steve Vizzolini, the district’s director of facilities and modernization. “This was the first time in 30 years the football team made it to the CIF Finals. It didn’t go untold in meetings (with the contractor).”
Mr. Vizzolini is cautiously optimistic about the latest deadlines, indicating that the estimate is conservative on paper, allowing for potential hiccups with weather or construction delays.
“We know that the public doesn’t like where this is at right now, and, believe me, no one is happy about where we are,” Mr. Vizzolini said.
While the project technically has four different contractors, the bulk of the work has been done by AMG & Associates, excluding the turf on the field and the laying of the track.
According to Mr. Vizzolini, AMG had delays with the retaining wall that had to be torn down and rebuilt, an unexpected two-month delay that was paid for by AMG and not the district.
Also, three subcontractors have gone out of business over the course of the last year, causing temporary delays throughout.
“The contractors are losing money with these delays,” Mr. Vizzolini explained.
As for where the project sits now, Mr. Vizzolini indicated that the base has been laid for the track surface, with an asphalt base to be laid in the coming weeks. There will be a 28-day cure time for the track, at which time another contractor, FieldTurf, will begin to lay the artificial playing surface.
If weather should become a factor, Mr. Vizzolini has been encouraged with how the drainage system has worked to date — “it flows like no one’s business” — with the only hurdle then being getting workers on the field in between raindrops.
“The field can handle the weather, so that’s a great sign,” Mr. Vizzolini said.
Off the field, one significant obstacle remains, as state officials will be visiting at the end of January to approve and certify the stadium’s elevator.
“We are feeling very confident that there will be no issues,” Mr. Vizzolini said.
The ancillary renovation items — tile work, restrooms, fire-alarm system, public-address system — are all in progress, and the new stadium lights are fully operational.
With the new timeline, it is highly unlikely those new lights will be utilized before the 2020 prep football season, with Mr. Vizzolini making it clear that the district’s top goal is making sure Peabody is ready for graduation — as the last two Santa Barbara High classes were forced to host their festivities at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
That will mean the Santa Barbara High boys and girls soccer teams will remain on the road — both of their playoff seasons are slated to start in mid-February and end as late as mid-March.
Track and field, as well as lacrosse, both play in the spring, but the last regular season home match that can be hosted for track is May 1, with playoffs lingering into mid-May. Lacrosse can host up until May 2, with playoffs also in mid-May.
“There is some outside hope of being able to host a track meet, but our top priority is making sure we can host graduation at Peabody,” Mr. Vizzolini said.