Delay for New Track, Field at Palisades High School?

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

At the Palisades High School board meeting on April 18, Interim Operations Director Don Parcell warned that in order for the school to replace its stadium playing field and running track, it needs LAUSD approval.

“If they make a determination relatively quickly we could move forward [this summer],” Parcell said.

On April 21, the News spoke to John Napoli, LAUSD’s complex project manager, and asked him how long it would take for approval. “I can’t say,” Napoli said. “I haven’t received anything yet [from Parcell] to submit for review.”

Under Pali’s former Director of Operations David Riccardi, replacement of the 10-year-old disintegrating artificial turf field and all-weather track was set to begin June 12, the Monday after PaliHi’s graduation. The project was scheduled to take 10-12 weeks, with ordering by May 1, in order to ensure that materials would arrive on time for the installation.

Runners line up at one of the few track meets held at Palisades High this season. The track and the playing field ust be replaced this summer because surfaces are hard as rock, with divots everywhere. According to Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research, GMAX testing measures how many G’s of force a field can absorb upon impact, and how many are returned to the athlete. A high GMAX test value means the field is absorbing less impact, and returning more force to the player, resulting in a potentially dangerous situation that could cause injuries and concussions. Photo: Lesly Hall Photography

Runners line up at one of the few track meets held at Palisades High this season. The track and the playing field ust be replaced this summer because surfaces are hard as rock, with divots everywhere. According to Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research, GMAX testing measures how many G’s of force a field can absorb upon impact, and how many are returned to the athlete. A high GMAX test value means the field is absorbing less impact, and returning more force to the player, resulting in a potentially dangerous situation that could cause injuries and concussions. Photo: Lesly Hall Photography

That timeline meant the field would be completed in time for Pali’s first home football game on Aug. 31. It also meant that the Palisades Americanism Parade Association would have to move its Fourth of July concert and fireworks to the school’s baseball field.

Riccardi had begun work on the proposed $1.5 million project. But in mid-March, the school and Riccardi ended their relationship, and Parcell was tasked with taking over.

The high school, although a fiscally independent charter, rents the facility from LAUSD. Any new changes to the physical campus must go through an approval process.

In this case, the track and field replacement could have been considered a repair, not an alteration, which is allowed and defined in the Sole Occupancy Agreement between PaliHi and LAUSD. Much of the paperwork that Parcell is now doing could have been avoided.

But now, Napoli said that once an application is submitted, detailing the scope of the project and the materials to be used, then questions and clarifications go back and forth between the landlord and tenant.

If it is not a major facility change, “It shouldn’t be a long process,” said Napoli, who added that he won’t know until he sees the paperwork.

The News spoke to Parcell on April 25 and asked him when he would submit the paperwork. He said he was working on it. When asked for a timeline, he said didn’t have one.

If the paperwork, including specifications and the proposed contractor (a South Carolina firm, First Form), is approved, has PaliHi already signed a contract so the project can go forward this summer?

And money? Pali’s Director of Development Michael Rawson felt he could have $720,000 in place by June 1. The funds would come partly through donations, and other donation opportunities for community members will be available (including naming rights for the athletic field and the running track). The remainder of the money would come through a loan from the lifetime employee pension fund at the school.

Initially, the track and field were installed in 2007 after massive community fundraising, led by Bob Jeffers, who received a Citizen of the Year award for his efforts. Olympian Carl Lewis came to the track for its dedication and addressed the students.

The all-weather turf field had a life expectancy of about 10 years and the track was supposed to last twice as long. It is suspected that problems with the track arose because of mistakes made during installation. Many worry that the overall athletic facility is now in such poor condition that kids could be injured on it.

The planned field will capitalize on new technology that does not have black rubber pieces under the turf and the track will be upgraded to a full-pour surface, which is used in many collegiate stadiums.

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