Delayed project will be completed over summer
Piedmont High School’s Witter Field will reopen for some sports on Feb. 5, allowing the girls and boys soccer teams to play their final regular season homes games there. The teams will also be able to host playoff games.
The first match on the new turf will be the girls soccer team hosting Bishop O’Dowd on Feb. 6. The boys team will host Berkeley on Feb. 8.
“Monday it’ll be a full go,” said athletic director Bradley Smet about the new turf field.
However, the project is not complete. Originally planned for completion in November, the renovation will not be finished until August, around the time school starts after the summer break.
Smet said the Piedmont Unified School District school board decided the week of Jan. 22 to pause the project after the most recent delay to allow the soccer teams to finish their seasons on the new field and the lacrosse teams to use the field in the spring season. The new track has not been installed so the track team will hold its practices at Laney College and will not host meets during the spring.
The project began after the end of the 2022-23 school year. A new artificial turf field, new scoreboard, new track and improvements to the building behind the stands were supposed to be completed by November 2023. However, delays over permits and weather pushed the project back. Early February was the target according to updates on the District’s web page. But spring sport coaches were told in December to prepare for no facility use for the entire season.
On Jan. 24, the District announced the changes to the schedule. The field will open for the end of the soccer seasons. Lacrosse teams will use Laney College for the first couple of weeks of practice. When soccer ends, the lacrosse teams will move in and have full use of the field for games and practices.
The track still needs to have its sub-base repaired, which will begin on June 3. After the asphalt is cured, a new track will be poured. New runways for field events also need to be poured.
“The target reopening of the synthetic turf and track, after the summer work is complete, will be before the first day of school, Monday August 12,” read the update on the PUSD website.
Because the field will be closed over the summer, football teams will have to do summer workouts and conditioning on the baseball field, as they did last season.
“We’re used to it by now,” said boys football coach Jordan Seiden. “We’ll go back to practicing on the baseball field for a while. It won’t be as big of an impediment as last year. We’ll still have our seven home games.”
The building improvements included the weight room, which is already open. New weight equipment has been ordered and should be in the room soon, according to Smet.
Track coaches did express disappointment with their season about to begin and no on-campus facility.
“It’s tough to keep the momentum that we’ve had the past couple of years but ultimately the track and field community has come together,” said track coach Pouyan Assadi. “How do I put together workouts and this offseason program to make sure we’re ready to compete without resources. A giant chunk of my time is being allocated around the commute schedule, the alternative facilities, and answering questions rather than coaching.”
Added cross country and assistant track coach Steve Zirkelbach, “We’re glad that we have Laney. We’re very disappointed that the track is not done by the time it was supposed to be done and displaced the track team for a season. That is frustrating for the coaches, athletes, and the parents. We had two meets that we were supposed to host. We don’t have our home track to practice and compete on.”
Both Assadi and Zirkelbach said that increased injuries during the cross country season may have been related to having to train on asphalt roads rather than having a cushioned track.
And, of course, the project still isn’t finished. Seiden said he has a “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude at this point.
“Ideally this thing would have been done in November when they said it would be done,” he said.
Said Assadi, “My dad is in construction management and I grew up around construction sites and to me it was obvious in mid-October that this was not going to get done on time.”