Students return Jan. 4 to the opening of the school’s new gymnasium and the first home basketball games on the campus. And through the rest of the spring semester, the school will open athletic venues as they are ready for play.
Both gymnasiums at Kimball were nearly complete when students went on break, save for cosmetic details like trim and paint. The main gym is the centerpiece of Kimball’s “athletic complex,” and the “sports center” includes a smaller gym. In between the buildings is the swimming pool, which is now filled with water well in advance of the spring swim season.
The first day of the spring semester will feature three Jaguars vs. Bulldogs basketball games in the main gym. First to play will be the freshman boys at 4 p.m. The sophomore girls follow at 5:30, and the sophomore boys play at 7.
“I’ve stepped in there (the gym) a few times at Saturday school, and it’s outstanding,” freshman coach James Baker said.
Players have yet to step on the court after spending the first half of their season practicing at Williams and Stein schools, while games have been played at West High.
“They’re really excited about being in the new gym, and so am I,” Baker said. “Once we finally get our facilities up and running, the plan is to have a study hall before school, and then we’ll go into the weight room and then have practice.”
The athletic complex gym includes 15,400 square feet of floor space, and retractable bleachers will seat about 1,800 sports fans. It’s bigger than gyms at West High, at 14,765 square feet, and Tracy High, at 11,408 square feet. The building also includes the boys locker room, wrestling room and weight room.
Everything is colored Jaguar orange and blue, from the gymnasium stands to the locker rooms and all the way down to the free weight stands and equipment pads in the weight room.
“This is a package deal, so when you get it you get the colors and you get the logo,” Kimball athletic director Joe Lawrence said of the finishing touches that give Kimball a professional look.
Rumors circulated that the color scheme could go a bit too far, but contrary to early reports, Lawrence confirmed that the artificial turf on the football field won’t be the blue “Smurf Turf” made famous at Boise State University’s Bronco Stadium in Idaho.
Kimball will have green turf, with the words “Kimball” and “Jaguars” spelled out in orange and blue in the end zones, the Jaguar logo at midfield and a blue all-weather track around the field. Construction crews are scheduled to install the turf Tuesday.
The stadium’s bleachers are in and will seat about 3,000 on the home side and about 800 on the visitors side, and the design is similar to Steve Lopez Stadium at West High. Lawrence said that crews will wait until the weather warms to put in the all-weather track, meaning the track and field team won’t be able to use the track for the first part of its spring season.
The costs of the new athletic venues are included in Tracy Unified School District’s $62.8 million lease-leaseback agreement with F&H Construction of Stockton. Under such an agreement, the district pays the lump sum to F&H, which in turn is responsible for all costs of labor, materials and subcontractors. District records show how much money is spent on each part of the campus.
Costs for the athletic complex, including construction of the building that contains the main gym and the installation of plumbing, electrical and heating systems, ventilation and air conditioning add up to about $6.9 million. Labor and materials for the stadium, including the grandstands, track, lights and football field turf, come out to about $2.1 million.
Other athletic venues to open on the first day of the semester will include the pool, which is full and marked off for both swimming and water polo competition. The sports center, with a 9,334-square-foot gym and capacity for between 300 and 400 fans, includes the girls locker rooms, three classrooms equipped with overhead LCD projectors and speakers mounted in the ceilings, and a dance room with a high ceiling.
The outer ring of the campus includes outdoor tennis and basketball courts, which were finished in the fall, and the softball, soccer and baseball fields, which all have chain-link fencing, backstops, dugouts and foul poles in place. The grass has sprouted on those fields, but Lawrence said that the spring sports teams will practice and play elsewhere in order to give the turf a chance to grow.
That means Lawrence will have another semester of scrambling to find practice and game venues for some of his teams.
“The biggest part of my job right now has been dealing with facilities, trying to get everybody in everywhere,” he said.
He’s arranging for the softball teams to practice and play at Veterans Park and the baseball teams to practice and play at Tracy Ball Park.
“I’d rather have the teams stay there for the full season to make sure this is fully grown and has taken root,” he said, adding that new grass is easily damaged. “Then you’d be playing catch-up all the time once the field is ruined.”
Meanwhile, coaches have yet to decide which fields will be designated for the varsity and junior varsity teams. The softball fields are on the east side of campus and both are similar in terms of how they’ll be affected by the sun and wind.
The baseball fields are on the south side of campus, with the southeast field situated so that right-handed batters will get some help reaching the left-field fence on windy days. On the southwest field, however, the batters will be looking into the afternoon sun and hitting into the wind.
“If you’re left-handed, hitting here, you’d have to be a monster to hit one out, because in the spring the wind is going to be howling through here,” Lawrence said.