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The Fairfax High School football team is still riding a wave of excitement generated by its citywide championship last season, and now the Lions have even more to be excited about, with a new stadium being constructed at the school for the 2012 season.
The track and football field will be undergoing a dramatic transformation this summer under a $6 million project that will create a new stadium near the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Clinton Street. School officials and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, will gather at the field on Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new project, which will include a new field with synthetic turf, a new rubberized track, as well as upgraded bleachers, a new press box, restrooms and concession facilities. Yaroslavsky, a 1967 graduate of Fairfax High School who ran track there and still occasionally jogs on the track, said the new stadium will be a major improvement for both the school and the community.
“To me personally, it means a lot. I have run around that track more times than I can remember, and the school deserves a first-class athletic field,” Yaroslavsky said. “Academics are the top priority at high schools, but athletics are also part of the high school experience for them. There are also a lot of joggers in the neighborhood, and a lot of soccer players, and we expect the school will make the field open to them on evenings and weekends.”
Fairfax High School Principal Ed Zubiate said he had been working to make improvements to the field since he came to the school in 2006. The new field will be named after Zubiate, who said he was extremely humbled to be honored by the district and the school’s development office, which worked to make the project a reality.
“The normal rules [for naming school facilities] are something like ten years after you’ve retired, or you are dead, but they waived that,” Zubiate said. “It was pretty surprising. I learned about it a couple of months ago when we opened the school’s sculpture garden. There were a lot of community members and students there. They decided it was perfect time to tell me.”
Zubiate said the upgrades include new landscaping in other areas of the campus to be completed this summer. The football stadium will be fully fenced and separated from the baseball field and a grassy area currently used for football and other sports practices. The school is partnering with the American Youth Soccer Association (AYSO), which will hold soccer games at the stadium. It will also be open to the public and for community events, Zubiate added.
“One of the most important things is the effect on the community. It is important we upgrade the way the school looks, because we are trying to reconnect with the community,” Zubiate said. “The field faces out to the businesses on Fairfax and to our actual neighbors on Clinton. It is really important to us that they take the opportunity to use the track and use the facility.”
Fairfax High football coach Shane Cox said the new stadium is coming at a time when the team is making significant progress. The Lions won the city championship last season, and are moving up to Division 1 this year. Cox said because of construction, all of the football games will be played on the road this fall. A deal has been reached for three of the games to be played at Belmont High School near downtown Los Angeles — including the homecoming game — and those matches will be considered home games. He said the players are excited about the project, especially the juniors, who will play on the field when it is completed in 2012.
“The away games are a minor inconvenience with something that is such a wonderful project,” Cox said. “We still have a practice field on campus that we will be using for day-to-day operations. We will be able to practice there most of the summer. The only thing that changes is when September rolls around, we will still be practicing out there and not on the regular field.”
Ana Lasso, special facilities manager for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said the project was made possible through contributions from a variety of sources. The total cost is approximately $6 million, of which $2.6 million is coming from the district and the AYSO, which is providing services valued at around $1 million that satisfy requirements that the district funds be used for benefits to the surrounding community. Yaroslavsky provided $250,000 from his office’s community funds, and additional funding came from the LAUSD’s local District 4 Office, the Faro Foundation, and through contributions donated to the school Development Office.
Joyce Kleifield, development director for Fairfax High School, has worked directly with the community over the past few years to generate support for the stadium, and said she is excited that the work is beginning. The field is expected to open by next spring.
“It takes a couple of years to work through the design process and all of the other things we had to go through, but it will be beautiful,” Kleifield said. “We expect in 2012, we will be playing on a new field.”
The groundbreaking is scheduled on Friday, June 17 at 11 a.m. next to the football field, near the Fairfax Avenue/Clinton Street entrance to the school. For information, visit www.fairfaxhs.org.
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