POMONA - Next fall will bring with it the start of a new school year and new football seasons in the Pomona Unified School District.

For Pomona, Garey and Diamond Ranch high schools it will also mean being able to play home games on their campuses at what will be modest, new stadiums.

By next September, the three schools will have "usable, functional fields," said Jason Rothman, school board president.

District administrators, along with a representative of MAC Architects, updated school board members on the field improvement projects during a recent school board meeting.

Last fall, Pomona Unified school board members directed district administrators to take the necessary steps leading to construction of stadiums at the three schools.

Ganesha High School, home to Nancy McCracken Stadium, has been shared with Garey, Diamond Ranch and Pomona.

Initially, the athletic field improvements were expected to cost about $10 million and involve the addition of bleachers, field lighting, scoreboards, football goals posts and turf at Garey and Diamond Ranch high schools.

Pomona High would have bleachers installed.

Now all three schools will have synthetic tracks, artificial turf, lights, bleachers and scoreboards installed as part of Phase 1 of the two-phase construction project, said Leslie Barnes, assistant superintendent of business services and chief financial officer.

Once football season wraps up, work will begin on Phase 2 of the project, which will include building restrooms, concession stands and ticket booths, Barnes said.

Those improvements are expected to be completed by fall 2014.

The initial work and the additional improvements at the three campuses have brought the costs up to $15 million, $5 million more than the initial budget, which will be paid using funds from the 2008 voter-approved Measure PS.

Measure PS is a general obligation bond that has generated revenue for campus improvements.

School board members approved increasing the funding for the improvements in July, Barnes said.

Half of the additional $5 million will go to paying for concession stands, ticket booths and restrooms, she said. The remaining $2.5 million will go to paying for additional necessary work at Pomona High that involves moving the field.

The presence of a block wall near the track and the location of historic Palomares Cemetery, next to the track, make moving the track necessary.

Pomona High Principal Roger Fasting said the block wall encroaches on a part of two outside lanes of the track.

Moving the track west will make it possible to have a track with eight lanes.

"We'll now be able to host track meets at home," Fasting said.

In addition to the block wall Pomona High's field has other problems. The dirt track becomes uneven in spots, particularly after rains.

"There are constant challenges with trying to keep it level," Fasting said, adding a track with a rubberized surface won't have those problems.

An uneven field means the school's soccer team can play but if the ball rolls or lands on an uneven patch the ball will move in such a way players never intended, Fasting said.

Pomona High began playing home football games on its field in 2010 as part of a pilot project.

The pilot project was a success drawing students with interests in different areas - from athletes to musicians and many others in between - to participate in game night activities, Fasting said.

In addition, students, their families, neighborhood residents and other supporters have also turned out for games, he said.

Being able to play home games on campus is "vastly different from having home games where you have to get on buses and get on the freeway" to drive across town to another campus, Fasting said.

Playing home games on campus has a palpable impact on the school environment in a positive way, he said adding that when it comes to students "everything matters and everything contributes positively or negatively."

Giving students opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities such as those connected to sports - be it music, dance, or even selling tickets - works to get young people to school and fuels their interest in making academic advances, Fasting said.

In recent years, Pomona High has consistently been making advances in academic achievement, he said.

Those include higher graduation rates, increases in the number of graduates pursuing higher education and higher grade point averages.

All together "it shows kids are more engaged in school," Fasting said.

Improvement to school facilities makes an impact.

Students notice improved facilities and they "see a reflection of what is important," he said. "Just the physical environment impacts motivation."

Parents have visited the school and have seen improvements made with help of Measure PS and that has prompted many to become involved in the school as volunteers, Fasting said.

Although Pomona High wasn't scheduled to have as many improvements made to its field, members of the school community, including students, parents, faculty and others worked to have improvements made after learning about the plans for the two other campuses, Fasting said.

"We started to lobby," he said. Administrators and others listened "and we're grateful for that."

School board member Adrienne Konigar-Macklin said improvements at the three campuses will result in "fields that will stand the test of time."

The investment made will result in having "the best product for our money realizing we have budget constraints," Konigar-Macklin said.

School board members asked district administrators to organize community meetings so parents, coaches, faculty and others at each campus can learn about the plans for the fields and help determine if any additional changes are required.

Through the schools' principals, the district has collected opinions from students, parents, faculty and others on the projects, Konigar-Macklin said.

However, school board members would like to give those groups "an opportunity to give us their input at every step of the way," she said.

School board members said at the meeting community opinions should be collected in order to make adjustments before plans are submitted for review and approval to the state Department of General Services Division of the State Architect.

Barnes said community meetings will take place in the coming weeks to collect comments on the three field projects.

Work on Phase 2 of the field improvements is still in the planning stage, Rothman said.

The components of the second phase are elements Superintendent Richard Martinez pointed out early on as pieces that would add to the projects, Rothman said.

Members of the public asked for those elements.

"People wanted a little bit extra," he said.

The field improvements are a worthwhile project, Rothman said.

"It's such a morale booster," he said.


Reach Monica via email, follow her on Twitter @PomonaNow, or call her at 909-483-9336.