The Lompoc Community Track & Field in Huyck Stadium opened with a reception on Monday.
Construction was nearly complete when the pandemic struck, delaying its original ribbon-cutting date last spring.
Now, with restrictions loosened and the turf christened with its first football game two weeks ago, it is official. The stadium serves as the home field for both Cabrillo and Lompoc High Schools.
“This is a really proud moment for our community. It’s something that we deserve and proof that we can deliver on a project that benefits the community,” Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne told the News-Press. “I look forward to more improvements and investment in our community like this.”
The project, six years in the making, took support from community members as well as the board of the Lompoc Unified School District.
“Many people told (Superintendent Trevor McDonald) that there was no way he would be able to get this project done in Lompoc,” Bree Valla, Lompoc Unified’s deputy superintendent, said. “He said he respectfully disagreed.”
Superintendent McDonald has been focused on the school district’s health and physical fitness since he began his tenure in 2013.
He has sought grants himself to pull off projects such as: biking and swimming lessons for students, exercise equipment for staff, hiring gym teachers for each elementary school, installing gopher-proof netting on school fields and providing meals cooked from scratch.
The renovation of Huyck Stadium, almost untouched since its construction in the ’60s, was funded through $1.7 million of the district’s construction fund and additional community fundraising.
“It really feels good to see how the community came behind such a monumental project for the entire community,” Ms. Valla said.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians donated $450,000 for the construction of the track.
“Huyck Stadium has been the heart of the Lompoc community for decades, so we were proud to partner on this project,” Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, told the News-Press in a statement. “Our charitable foundation prides itself on supporting youth recreational programming, so when we learned about the upgrades that were needed to improve the experience for both student-athletes and the community, we definitely wanted to be a part of the project.”
A long list of community members and local businesses sponsored the project as well. Alumni purchased commemorative bricks that line the entrance to the stadium.
“It’s one of those things where people enjoy contributing to the community, and being able to point to the brick and prove that you did it is part of the fun of this kind of fundraising,” Mayor Osborne said.
The newly renovated stadium serves Lompoc Unified School District students and the community at large, who are welcome to run a few laps during public hours.
Eventually, the field will be available for leagues to lease after hours and utilized by the city’s recreation department for youth activities.
“We’ve lost a couple of gyms (during the pandemic), so having an outdoor workout space added shows that we’re supporting our community getting out and being healthy and continuing that support we need to improve our lives,” Mayor Osborne said.
She noted a large rate of childhood obesity in the city and is glad to provide a free resource to community members needing a space to pursue fitness.
Having a local spot for exercise may also help the large commuting population, she said.
“Having a place at home you can go to in the evenings you can go to after the commute is a great opportunity not to just get fit but also de-stress,” she said.
The stadium opens at 5 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. each day.
Prior to renovations, students would complain about the red clay track staining their shoes and the danger of gopher holes.
Now, the new track and crisp artificial turf allow athletic teams to practice freely and become more competitive.
“It’s really brought us into the 21st century as far as a site for both working out and competing on,” Mayor Osborne said.
The school district plans to hold a district-wide track meet for elementary students once it’s safe to do so.