If the COVID-19 situation in California improves and Calaveras High School is allowed to once again participate in athletics, not everything will be played on campus. In an Aug. 6 letter from Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell, he stated that the playing surface and running track at Calaveras High School’s Frank Meyer Field is no longer usable and will not be hosting any athletic competition during the 2020-21 school year.
There was hope that following testing of the field and track in 2019 that the school would be able to get two more years out of the surfaces, with hopes that funding from a bond, or an alternative source of funding, would go toward replacing the worn-out field and track. However, that is no longer an option.
“Unfortunately, based on the most recent testing results, this is not the case,” the letter stated. “Therefore, we have to take action now, and this will present significant issues and impacts for CHS athletics for the 2020-21 season. Given the conditions of the field and track, due to potential health and safety concerns, we will have to condemn the track and field for the 2020-21 school year, pending replacement of both. Effective immediately, neither can be used for formal, school/district sanctioned activities and we will need to seal off access to both.”
The test that the field failed is called a G-max test, which is a surface hardness impact test. The harder the field, the more likely it is that a player will suffer an injury, most notably concussions. The field passed the test in 2019, but the same could not be said in 2020.
The closing of the field puts major question marks surrounding the future of Calaveras football, soccer and track and field. With a combined three sport seasons into two, the use of Frank Meyer Field would be even more critical than before. Now, coaches and administrators are going to have to figure out other options for not only home games, but practices for junior varsity and varsity teams.
“We’ve already had a difficult year and you know what, it just got more difficult,” Calaveras head football coach Doug Clark said. “We are going to have to find a way and adjust. Everyone gets dealt difficult situations throughout life and you figure out ways to make it work. Am I happy? Is it ideal? No. But nothing has been ideal since March. But we’ll find a way to make it work.”
With Calaveras not able to host home contests at Frank Meyer Field, game schedules must now be changed. The Mother Lode League finished its league schedules in July. Now Calaveras athletic director Mike Koepp must try to rearrange things for not only league games, but preseason contests as well.
“We worked really hard as a league to try to spread sports out, especially during the second season to make it where kids weren’t being penalized for being multi-sport athletes and to try and help out coaches and transportation,” Koepp said. “Now we are going to have to be super creative. It’s going to challenge us and we are going to try and take advantage of the middle school (Toyon) and I’m going to have to reach out and change some of our games. We might have to end up being road warriors. This just adds to the pain of the whole situation. It’s frustrating and there’s nothing more than you can say than that.”
The turf was installed at Frank Meyer Field in the summer of 2005 and has not been replaced since, and the quality of the field has rapidly diminished over time. Regarding why the field wasn’t replaced sooner, Campbell’s letter stated, “The district has been experiencing deficit spending for over 15 years (expenditures consistently greater than our revenue). We have been underfunded, we have not been able to adequately address facility issues throughout the district over time, we have been making budget cuts most every year. We did not have an extra $1 million to invest in a new field, nor the capacity to go further into debt to do so. We do not receive extra funding from the state or federal government for items such as this.”
The biggest option for a new field would be a passing of the 2020 CUSD Bond. While that would be perhaps the ideal situation, Clark knows that there’s a chance that the problems won’t be fixed by the fall of 2021.
“Having this be a multi-year issue is my biggest concern,” Clark said. “In reality, I don’t think this is going to be fixed overnight. If you take all the negative scenarios like the Bond doesn't pass or COVID-19 continues and then there’s layoffs and shortages; it’s hard to justify fixing the field when you are laying off teachers. That’s just a hard justification. I’m very pro-athletics and pro-sports, but it’s a hard justification to say, ‘Hey, we need to spend X amount of money on a field when we are laying off five, 10, 15 teachers and maintenance crew.’”
Koepp added, “If the Bond doesn’t pass, then there’s going to have to be something we’ll have to address after that and I don’t know where we go from there.”
The future of California athletics is still up in the air, but the target date for sports to resume is Dec. 7. If athletics return, Koepp says he will do all he can to ensure Calaveras student-athletes get the opportunity to play their desired sport, even if some of the options are unconventional.
“We are going to do our very best to make it right, just like with our scheduling and the whole situation with sports in general,” Koepp said. “We are going to do our best to offer our kids what they deserve. That’s all I can do.”
Campbell ended his letter stating, “No excuses, just reality. Ultimately, it is my responsibility. No choice now but to move this forward as best we can, challenging as it will be.”