The $38 million question concerning the replacement of Peabody Stadium was answered Tuesday evening as Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Board of Education approved the $28,764,392 construction-only bid submitted by Santa Clarita–based AMG & Associates. Since last month, however, the district has abandoned its controversial plan to redirect $6 million from the $20 million earmarked by voters — when they approved Measure I bond monies last fall — to purchase and renovate the National Guard armory. The district now plans to skim the needed $6 million from other Measure I projects and “keep the armory budget whole,” said district superintendent Cary Matsuoka. “It’s absolutely doable.”
With the armory budget safe, boardmembers — stuck between a rock and hard construction costs — refocused on the soaring cost of the new stadium. It’ll take $9 million alone to replace a “failing” underground storm drain that funnels runoff from more than 200 acres along the Riviera, according to Dave Hetyonk, the district’s facilities director. Both the city and county of Santa Barbara have refused to pitch in. The state, however, is offering some $6 million in matching earthquake funds for the concrete grandstand and related facilities, and the Foundation for Santa Barbara High School, led by campaign chair Greg Tebbe, has privately raised $4.75 million. Originally, the foundation had simply wanted a regulation track-and-field facility to replace the stadium’s crumbling asphalt oval — which hasn’t seen a meet since 1996 — but closer inspection of the entire site opened the proverbial can of worms.
“That drainage issue put the whole project at risk,” Tebbe said. “A couple of years ago, this was a $13 [million] to $14 million project. It’s been frustrating. The other unexpected cost has been the inflation of construction in California.” Hetyonk reasonably assumed that if the board voted to delay the project, its estimated cost could go up by 10 percent next year.
The district is planning to break ground in about a month. In the meantime, it’s organizing a community meeting with the surrounding neighborhoods.