EL CERRITO -- The defending North Coast Section champion football team from El Cerrito High School will be playing its home games for the second straight season away from campus this fall.
But the payoff for the team's exile eight miles away to De Anza High School in Richmond comes next season when its new $13.5 million stadium will be completed.
The new stadium is in the same location as the old facility, on the south side of the campus near the intersection of Ashbury and Rockway avenues.
A new main campus for the high school opened in 2009 and the football field was the last facility left from the original campus.
New bleachers for the visiting team are being installed on the north side of the field, while the home team bleachers and press box on the south side paralleling Rockway Avenue are being refurbished.
Contractors are building new locker rooms for home and visiting teams, new exercise and weight room buildings and a new athletic equipment storage building, as well as restrooms and a kitchen with serving windows.
There will also be a new synthetic turf football field, a new synthetic surface track and new stadium lights.
Workers have poured the foundations for the new team rooms and weight rooms and are in the midst of building retaining walls on the east and west sides of the site to guard against the possibility of landslides in either direction.
"There is quite a bit of difference in elevation between the east and west sides of the site, so we need to shore up the hillsides," said Magdy Abdulla, chief engineering officer for the West Contra Costa school district.
Contractors are nearly finished with excavating and compacting soil before installing the playing field.
The district has assuaged neighbors' concerns about the possibility of noise, dust and fumes migrating from the site, Abdalla said.
Construction on the project began in late February and is scheduled to be completed in October of 2015, meaning that the Gauchos may have to play a game or two at De Anza before finishing their home season at the new stadium, he said.
El Cerrito High Principal David Luongo said the disruption of playing home games on the road last year was mitigated by a highly successful season.
The Gauchos finished 12-3, defeating Marin Catholic for the NCS Division III title before losing to Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton in the Northern California Division III regional final at De Anza.
This year's team is missing three key players from a year ago who accepted scholarships to Pac-12 schools, including running back/defensive back Adarius Pickett, who is at UCLA, and linebacker D.J. Calhoun and wide receiver Jalen Harvey, who both signed with Arizona State.
"Given that we had one of the best seasons in school history, everybody had a lot of fun," Luongo said. "We were very fortunate to have a strong turnout at the majority of our games, and we got a lot of support from the De Anza administration and staff."
The Gauchos will be playing four regular season games at De Anza this year, all on Saturday nights, including the season opener against Sutter High School on Aug. 30. The other games at De Anza are Sept. 27, against Valley Christian of Dublin; Oct. 18, versus Hercules; and Oct. 25, against Pinole Valley.
All games begin at 7 p.m.