Calaveras High School threw a Hail Mary in the form of Measure H. With Frank Meyer Field recently condemned, the tennis courts in shambles and other facilities needing work, Measure H was seemingly the last hope.
The voting results of Measure H did not go the way of Calaveras. Of 13,874 total votes, 50.97%, or 7,071 voted “Yes,” while 6,803, or 49.03% voted “No.” Although the majority of the votes went in favor of Measure H, a 55% voter approval was needed in order to pass. So, as it stands, not only will Calaveras not get any much-needed upgrades, it will also not have a home football/soccer field or running track for the foreseeable future.
“Because we were hoping and counting on the support of the community to do this and the drastic need of it too; it hurts. It’s a real bummer,” Calaveras athletic director Mike Koepp said. “I wish it was as simple as everyone would have voted for it and we could have moved on and got it done.”
Koepp was not surprised by the tightness in voting. Only 268 more votes were cast for “Yes” over “No.” But not reaching the needed 55% was a tough pill to swallow. However, Koepp realizes that Calaveras County, California and the rest of the world is being changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And because of that, financial stability may have played into the minds of voters.
“I honestly wasn’t surprised with how close it was,” Koepp said. “Our district has been going through a lot of battles this last couple of years and with the current situation with COVID-19 the way it is, I understand some people are under hard times. Whenever they see there is more cost involved for taxes and they are struggling with jobs and paying bills; I just knew that would play into it.”
The news of Measure H not passing also hit Calaveras’ head boys’ soccer coach Rob Leetham hard. Leetham already knew that with no home field, the 2021 season would all be played on the road, but he was hopeful that Measure H would pass and his soccer squad would be back playing where they belong in 2022.
“In all honesty, the way 2020 has gone, when I got the news that Measure H didn’t pass, it really didn’t surprise me,” Leetham said. “It is sad to think that it might be several years before we play another home game though. Still, these kids love soccer, and it will take a lot more of what we’ve been through lately to walk away from it.”
The big question is now: what’s next? For Koepp, he has no answer.
“At this point, anything is a possibility,” Koepp said. “All things are on the table. I don’t think there is something that we are not going to take a look at. Hopefully we figure it out.”
With Measure H not passing, Superintendent of Calaveras Unified School District Mark Campbell posted a statement on the CUSD Facebook page about what the upcoming plans are, which includes a hardship grant.
Campbell wrote, “With the failure of Measure H, we are exploring other options to address this area of need, in terms of replacing the track and field at CHS. We have already been pursuing a state hardship grant that might provide a partial level of funding, if we qualify, and we will also have to explore other funding options that will likely require us to assume a higher level of debt. If we do this, it means budget reductions in other areas to offset the increased deficit, given the reality that our overall expenditures continue to far outpace our inadequate revenue and we are having to already make cuts to staffing and programs. However, we realize the significance and value of this facility to our schools and community overall, so we believe it necessary to do what is possible to address the need to replace the track and field. Not an optimum situation, but a reality we must contend with.”
One suggestion has been to remove the artificial turf and replace it with natural grass. Doing that would still cost multiple thousands of dollars, as irrigation must be installed and proper drainage must be fixed. There’s also the cost of dirt, sod and year-round maintenance.
With Calaveras unable to host football or soccer games, along with track and cross country meets, the athletic department will take a financial hit. The majority of the athletic revenue comes from admission, most notably football. With no money coming in from the football gate, less funds will be available for the rest of the sports.
“The athletic department relies on hosting games. That’s our budget,” Koepp said. “Athletics doesn’t get money from anywhere other than admissions. That’s what pays our bills. Unfortunately, right now, we are in the situation where we don’t know what admissions is going to look like anyway. Our whole athletic department is definitely going to take a big hit and we are going to lose out on some things because of this.”
Until a new track and field is installed, Calaveras cannot practice or play games on Frank Meyer Field. So, for the future, Calaveras football, soccer, track and cross country will all be played on the road. And even that will come at a cost.
“Other schools in our league have said we can be the host at their place,” Koepp said. “But there’s going to be less people and we are still going to have to pay to play on those fields. You can’t just play on those fields and it’s given to you for nothing. But I know the schools in our league are willing to help us out.”
Although Koepp is disappointed with the result of Measure H and is uncertain about the future, he’s going to move forward the way an athlete would following a loss: it’s on to the next challenge.
“It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t go our way,” Koepp said. “So, it’s back to the drawing board to find out what’s next.”
Follow Sports Editor Guy Dossi on Twitter at @GuyDossi