Weston Ranch High is getting a new stadium surface.
On Tuesday night the Manteca Unified School Board voted 6-1 – with President Deborah Romero dissenting – to allocate $2.9 million worth of funds that will replace the fatigued and chronically gopher-infested football and soccer field with a state-of-the-art synthetic surface and lay down an all-weather track in place of the dilapidated one that exists.
And while the $2.9 million project drew its fair share of supporters at a meeting in the South Stockton community last week – and a few of the people at the meeting on Tuesday – it also drew a fair amount of criticism from those in the audience and some of the board who were concerned that the money could be better spent elsewhere.
It was Manteca Unified Trustee Sam Fant – who championed the project to respond to the safety hazards of the existing field – who made the motion to accept the $2.9 million project, the most expensive of the three configurations that were offered, and called for a second that ultimately came from Trustee Michael Seelye.
Fant, who represents Weston Ranch, cited the overwhelming support of the community in which he resides as his largest reason for backing the effort, and then rebutted questions posed by Manteca resident Karen Pearsall about whether the several dozen in attendance actually represented the full scope of what Weston Ranch residents actually want.
According to Fant, there were more than 35 people at the meeting, which Pearsall estimated, and there would have been even more had their not been a home basketball game next door when the meeting was taking place at New Vision High School.
“We only had one person who spoke against the project, and that person isn’t from our community,” Fant said – alluding to Pearsall.
Trustee Nancy Teicheira said she wanted to get a clearer idea of what the actual maintenance savings would be and challenged the district’s numbers on what it costs to maintain the actual grass field over the course of a full year. She brought up the point that there are concerns that infilled artificial turf fields have been known to serve as a hotbed for staph infections and said that she wanted to know how much it would cost to sterilize the surface which didn’t include pricing in the proposal that went before the board.
Ultimately Teicheira voted for the stadium.
District staffer Jeff McLarthy, who proudly showed his Manteca Unified shirt when he stood at the lectern, took issue with the fact that the money generated by people in Weston Ranch for facilities within the community – something that all homeowners pay into – is being looked at to be distributed to only a portion of one school. He used the example of Nile Garden Elementary School and the tainted water supply that has plagued the district and how problems like that – dilapidated playground equipment, broken and cracked asphalt – need to be addressed by the board first.
But Fant countered, saying that the field is not just about football players or soccer stars, and that an estimated 500 people – between the high school teams, the youth soccer teams and the youth football teams – use the facility. He said that the district has been losing Average Daily Attendance money from the state because kids from Weston Ranch are going to Edison and Stagg High schools in Stockton because they have better sports facilities, and noted that sports has become a wonderful way for youth to get involved in after school activities in the small enclave because there really isn’t much else to do.
If all goes according to plan, construction would wrap by the beginning of football season.
Funding is coming from the Mell-Roos taxes that Weston Ranch residents pay as part of the district’s first community facilities district. Property outside of Weston Ranch is not taxed for that specific CFD.