HomeDistrictDelayed stadium improvement projects keep stadium lights off

Delayed stadium improvement projects keep stadium lights off

Published April 4, 2024

BY SHAYLA DUTTA

After a decades-long effort led by Carmel High School students and staff, stadium lights were installed for the campus’ multi-use field in October, yet as of April, they have not been used for any sporting events. What comes next?

The CHS stadium lights were meant to accompany several other improvements to the stadium and campus at large, which were initially estimated to be completed in January 2024. According to Dan Paul, Carmel Unified School District’s chief operating officer, the new optimistic completion date is July 2025. And until all the renovations to the CHS campus are complete, Paul says the stadium lights cannot be used for high-attendance events, such as football games.

Whether sports practices for the 2024-25 school year will be able to utilize lights during shorter daylight hours before the improvements are complete is still unclear. What constitutes a high-attendance event? According to CHS athletic director Golden Anderson, that term hasn’t yet been defined. While it seems to refer to Friday night football games, Anderson has not received confirmation that the lights can be used for practices. Some coaches, however, have received other messages.

An aerial depiction of the planned stadium improvements from CHS’ Revised Draft EIR. (courtesy of CUSD)

CHS girls’ soccer coach Steven Russell says the district explicitly told him at the end of this season to build next season’s schedule with staggered start times, a plan only feasible if stadium lights are in use.

The additional projects include building a new athletic storage building and viewing platform adjacent to the bleachers, demolishing the current storage building at the end of the upper parking lot, paving a new parking lot near the pool area, replacing the existing tennis courts with an additional parking lot and constructing a drive aisle connecting the new parking lot with the lot at the front of the school. 

These projects were first introduced as a means of mitigating parking concerns that accompanied the installation of stadium lights. Paul explains that their delay is primarily due to the Division of the State Architect, which has not been approving projects on the expected timeline. Until the parking projects have been approved by the DSA, construction of the lots can’t move forward and nor can the projects that follow them, such as the conversion of the CHS tennis courts.

“Part of the demolition of the tennis courts includes demolishing the storage building that’s at the bottom of the parking lot,” Paul explains. “And in order to get everything out of there and get rid of all the storage containers around the east end of the stadium, we have to finish the storage building so we can move everything into it, and then we move to the next phase.”

The permits for CHS projects are expected to be approved in the coming weeks, meaning construction of the new storage building and paving of the pool parking lot would begin this June and continue for an estimated six to eight months.

The demolition of CHS’ tennis courts would ideally begin anytime from January to March of 2025, and would be under construction until at least the following July.

“As someone who was involved when my own house was built, the timelines are never met,” Anderson says, “and it’s kind of all over the place. And then when you get to the end, you really love the finished product.”

The athletic director and coach adds that being able to utilize lights for winter sports, such as soccer, is critical for allowing them to have an adequate amount of practice time.

Already utilized by dozens of students, the dirt lot behind the CHS swimming pool will be paved to add 35 official spots to the campus. (photo by SHAYLA DUTTA)

Combined, the improvements would provide over 100 new parking spots. Seventy-six would be created at the tennis courts, while projects at the east end of the school, including paving the dirt lot behind the pool, would add 35. Once complete, the stadium lights could turn on for high-attendance events. 

One aspect of the improvements that raised considerable concern was the demolition of CHS’ tennis courts. To offset the impact of that project, the district has prepared applications to construct four new courts at Carmel Middle School, in place of the “rookie” softball field, primarily used by Carmel Community Girls Softball. Plans will be submitted to the DSA this month.  

“It’s a very minimal project compared to the stadium lights project,” Paul says. “It’s really taking an athletic field and turning it into a different type of athletic use.”

As such, the CEQA process is expected to take only a few weeks, and Paul says that they hope to have the new courts constructed as soon as October 2024, even before CHS’ tennis courts are demolished.

“I really want it to happen for the students,” Anderson says. “Especially those as they’re getting older. They know it’s happening, it’s just a matter of when.”

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