Caught between escalating construction costs and decades of SBHS posterity, the school district may use armory funds to rebuild Peabody Stadium.
Paul Wellman

The latest estimate for replacing Santa Barbara High School’s 93-year-old Peabody Stadium with an entirely new facility ​— ​with concrete grandstands and a regulation track surrounding a field for football, soccer, and lacrosse ​— ​is $38 million. As construction costs statewide escalate, Santa Barbara Unified School District is hoping to secure a winning bid by July 11, and proposes to shift $6 million earmarked for the renovation of the yet-to-be-purchased National Guard Armory building and spend it on the new stadium. “If we don’t move the $6 million, then we don’t have the resources to do Peabody,” Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said.

Approved by voters last fall, Measure I specified $20 million to buy and renovate the armory. While the district has yet to see the state’s appraisal of the five-acre property, Matsuoka said that sources in Sacramento place the price tag at $14 million, $1.7 million more than the district’s own appraisal. He explained that purchasing the armory is a priority, but its restoration can wait.

Paul Wellman (file)

Board of Education President Kate Parker pointed out that buying the armory and making it usable has been really important to the community for years, “and I hesitate at the reassignment [of that $6 million.] I hate the idea of having to divert money from the armory. That’s weighing on me.”

Sooner rather than later, however, the district also wants to take advantage of nearly $5 million in funds privately raised by the Santa Barbara High School Foundation and $6.3 million in state earthquake monies. The combined contribution from those two sources take care of nearly 30 percent of Peabody’s estimated cost. A big financial hit will come from the replacement of the stadium’s crumbling underground storm drains, which gather runoff from 260 acres along the Riviera.

Reflecting on initial efforts six years ago to simply replace Peabody’s crumbling asphalt track, Greg Tebbe, the foundation’s campaign chair, said that even though the scope of the project has exploded, “I still believe this is the way to go.” But if there are any further delays, he added, some of the donors may want their money back.

If a bid is accepted this summer, the district’s goal is to have the new stadium up and ready by April 2019.

Paul Wellman (file)


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