The city of Tracy will come to the aid of Tracy Unified School District to help water the parched baseball and softball fields at Kimball High.
Before the rain Wednesday night, the fields had been dry since mid-November, the latest rainfall in Tracy. Even with city’s help and a late start to the rainy season, the Jaguar baseball and softball teams may not be able to play games on their home fields when their season starts at the end of February.
Alicia Honnoll, assistant varsity softball coach and sophomore head coach, is also president of the Kimball High School Athletics Booster Club. She said the boosters talked about the fields at their Monday meeting and went to Tuesday’s TUSD board meeting to see if they could get some action.
“Our major concern was, originally they said we weren’t going to have any water, so we have to run around trying to find fields,” she said.
“It’s going to be crazy. You and I know there are no fields out here,” she added, referring to competition among youth teams for playing fields in town. “We have a schedule already posted, but we might have to play all of our home games away. That’s not going to be good.”
Varsity baseball coach Scott Anderson lamented the condition of the outfield at the Kimball High baseball diamond as his team began its preseason conditioning exercises. The green fields were giving way to a patchwork of dried grass and sand.
“For conditioning, we found the greenest part that we could,” Anderson said.
“My understanding is that it’s supposed to be taken care of now,” he said. “I think with water on it, we can bring most of this back, but it’s going to need some work.”
Tracy Unified School District spokesman Joel Danoy said district staff contacted the city of Tracy’s public works department Wednesday, after the board of trustees meeting, to see if the city could help.
“They’ve been generous enough to provide Tracy Unified School District a small allocation of water in the short term while the district looks for a long-term solution,” Danoy said.
Steve Bayley, project specialist with the city’s public works department, explained that Kimball High, which is outside Tracy city limits, taps the Tracy municipal water supply for its buildings but not for its fields.
Since the school opened in 2009, the fields have been irrigated with water from West Side Irrigation District, which fills a retention pond on the north side of the school’s tennis courts from April to October.
Bayley said it’s a cheaper option, similar to a system the city had considered for providing water for the proposed Gateway development across Lammers Road. The disadvantage is that West Side Irrigation District water is not available all year.
West Side Irrigation District’s state permits allow pumping from Old River between April 1 and Oct. 31, with pumps shut down in late fall and winter.
Bill Willner, TUSD director of building, maintenance and operations, said that’s usually not a problem. The irrigation district stops delivering water about the same time the rainy season starts.
“With us not getting any rain, we’re not getting any supplemental water,” Willner said. “We usually fill up the pond right before they shut us off, and with the rain, we don’t have to water as heavy.”
He explained that with the city’s help, the school district could begin restoring the fields.
“We’re going to start a whole program with seed, topsoil, leveling them back out,” Willner said.
Bayley said the city would provide extra water through the end of March. TUSD will be billed like any other utilities customer for the water it uses.
Kimball High Athletic Director Steve Thornton said that even with a solution in the works, he was preparing for the worst case and scrambling to find fields where the baseball and softball teams could play.
“My gut feeling is we’re not going to have them for the beginning of the season. We’re going on the assumption that we’re not going to have them at all (in the spring),” Thornton said.
“We’re working with the city and we’re working with West High to try to be able to play our softball games out at the (Tracy Sports Complex) and our baseball games over at West High. We matched up with West’s schedule, and they’re away a lot of times when we’re at home.”
Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.