Almost exactly a year after addressing the Lompoc Unified School District board to propose a multimillion-dollar renovation to Huyck Stadium, Lompoc community leader Ashley Costa was back in the board room Tuesday — with plenty others — to reveal the most significant progress to date.
Costa, the executive director of the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization, was joined by school, city and tribal leaders Tuesday as she formally accepted a $450,000 donation from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation.
That gift, referred to by Costa as a “transformative investment,” kicked off the capital campaign for the project, which is expected to cost $2.4 million. That expense is set to be split evenly — $1.2 million apiece — between the school district and the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization.
On Tuesday, Costa thanked the Chumash for helping to move the project “one step closer to fruition.”
“Our community is very fortunate to have a partner with such a deep history of philanthropy and generosity,” she said, referring to the Chumash Foundation. “This is not just an investment in infrastructure; this is an investment in our schools, in our youth, and in our community.”
The renovations, which were first proposed by Costa to the school board on Feb. 21, 2017, will primarily involve converting the natural grass field at the stadium to synthetic turf, switching the track from its loose red clay to a synthetic polyurethane — or “all-weather” — surface, and reconfiguring the track to the modern accepted standard of 400 meters with nine lanes.
It would be the most comprehensive work done at Huyck Stadium since it was first opened in 1963.
Kenneth Kahn, the chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, said he and others on the Chumash Foundation’s board first began reviewing the project last year and were immediately looking at ways to help.
“Lompoc is a very special community, so there was no doubt that we wanted to be a part of this,” he said during Tuesday’s ceremony, at which he and Maxine Littlejohn, a Lompoc resident and tribal secretary treasurer, presented a large novelty check representing the $450,000 donation.
“This fits right with the Chumash tradition of giving, of community, and really bringing people together,” he added.
The project is being billed as the Lompoc Community Track & Field in Huyck Stadium — a partnership between the Lompoc Unified School District and the surrounding community.
Both the Lompoc and Cabrillo high school football teams use Huyck Stadium for games, and it is also used by other sports teams and PE students at Lompoc High School, which sits next door to the stadium. The renovations are expected to help the school district cut down on maintenance costs and reduce its water footprint for those school uses, but the impact is anticipated to stretch way beyond the school district.
After the project is completed, school officials plan to open the stadium up to the community at large to provide a safe and free place for people to exercise — by jogging on the new track or running up and down stadium steps, for example — after school hours.
“Huyck Stadium is a place where the community comes together,” Costa said, noting other events that are annually hosted at the stadium, including the city’s Fourth of July fireworks show, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraiser and the opening ceremonies for the American Youth Soccer Organization.
“It’s the center of town — a place of community and a place of celebration,” she added. “It is simply the heart of the Lompoc community.”
Costa, a Lompoc native, also pointed to the public health benefits of having the stadium opened up for everyone. She cited a recent UCLA study that found that 48.6 percent of Lompoc children were considered to be overweight or obese, the highest such rate in Santa Barbara County.
The stadium remodel, she said, could lead to a “positive shift in Lompoc’s well-being.”
A Memorandum of Understanding that was agreed upon last year by the school board and the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization required that the organization reach its $1.2 million goal by June 2018. The organization has since been given more wiggle room, but Costa said she plans to aggressively pursue other donations and grants now that the Chumash gift has given the fundraising effort a jump-start.
Lompoc Unified School District officials have not yet revealed how they plan to come up with the $1.2 million they agreed to contribute, but the district will have a $79 million bond — Measure Q2018 — on the June 5 ballot this year.
Lompoc Unified School District Superintendent Trevor McDonald said Tuesday that the district has already sent plans for the remodel to the Division of the State Architect, a necessary first step. That typically isn’t done until all of the funding for a project is in place, but McDonald said the district was working on a timeline that calls for the renovation work to begin following the 2018 high school football season and be completed by the fall of 2019.
In light of the Chumash gift, McDonald said he was confident the project was on firm footing. Another anonymous donor, he said, has already agreed to provide up to $100,000 in matching funds for the campaign.
“What we didn’t have on this project was momentum,” he said Tuesday. “We had a lot of people saying, ‘Let’s do this,’ but we needed some monetary support here. Now, with this, there is a real sense of ‘We’ve got some momentum ... .’”
Among the other attendees at Tuesday’s announcement were Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl, City Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne, and Interim City Manager Teresa Gallavan. Their presence highlighted the fact that the city is also partnering in the renovation by providing after-hours security at the stadium, among other aspects.
“This really is a community project,” Costa said.
The Huyck Stadium remodel isn’t the only recent sign of Lompoc Unified School District's increased emphasis on improving athletic fields in the district.
In a completely separate move, McDonald revealed this month that the district plans to allocate $1.2 million each to both Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools to upgrade athletic facilities at each of those campuses.
“LUSD has a strong tradition of powerful athletic programs (and) we want our facilities to reflect that,” McDonald said.
“We recognize that $1.2 million will not reach as far as we would like, but (it) is a great start and a building point,” he added.
Lompoc Unified School District board member Dick Barrett said he and others on the board were in support of those funding allocations, which are unrelated to the $1.2 million the district has agreed to kick in for the Huyck Stadium project.
Among the upgrades that each school could potentially make with the additional funding are improvements to practice and PE fields, the purchase of large equipment, fencing, batting cages and all-weather tracks.
“We are proud we can support both high schools and help them meet the needs of their athletic scholars,” Barrett said.
Anyone interested in donating money, or volunteering time, to the Huyck Stadium renovation is encouraged to email project organizers at LompocTRKFLD@gmail.com.