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Copyright 2018 Orange County Register
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Orange County Register (California)


At the recent July 3 celebration, Mayor Tita Smith announced to the large crowd it'll have to celebrate American Independence elsewhere next year.

Fred Kelly Stadium is getting a $24 million renovation that will temporarily close it after the next high school football season.

The Orange Unified School District is expecting the nearly 50-year-old facility to take about 15 months to upgrade and that it would reopen in March 2020. The school board recently approved the plans.

"We'll be moving the graduations, the Third of July celebration, the Foundation Games, the large spring track and field events, with the goal to bring all of those back to the stadium by the spring and summer of 2020," Arianna Barrios, a school district spokeswoman, said.

Along with improvements to the district stadium, which is part of the El Modena High campus, athletic fields will be updated at Canyon, Orange and Villa Park highs with synthetic turf and tracks. The change is expected to reduce field maintenance costs, officials said.

The projects are being paid for with money the district has saved up and fees paid by devel

opers. It will not come out of the $288 million raised by Measure S school bonds meant for facility construction and school renovations that voters approved in 2016.

District officials expect to start the work on athletic fields in the next few weeks.

"The safety of the students is paramount and these practice fields are in desperate need of modernization," school board president Alexia Deligianni-Brydges said in a statement.

Fred Kelly Stadium, built in 1969, has been waiting for updates since accessibility issues were brought up in 2010 by the Office of Civil Rights.

Among the updates that are mandatory for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act are the addition of accessible parking, passenger loading zones and accessible entryways, and changes to the water fountains, restrooms, home and visitor bleachers and press box.

Other renovations planned are new concessions stands and expansion of the bleachers, which will seat 1,700 visiting attendees and 3,300 "home" fans when complete.

School board member Rick Ledesma said the stadium should be more comfortable and "user friendly" for both the home and visiting teams.

The district also is getting starting on the new construction being financed by the Measure S bonds. And, Barrios said initial sales of the Measure S bonds went well and the district expects to save taxpayers $4.7 million over initial projections for the debt repayment.

The first of the science buildings broke ground at Orange High School in early June. Construction on the building is expected to finish by the 2020-21 school year.

Projects at El Modena, Villa Park and Canyon High Schools will break ground within a year.

"There is a combination of the stadium, the different fields at different schools and also the science centers that are going up at all the high schools," Ledesma said. "All that, there's a lot of moving parts to that, and it's all moving along very well.

"We all look forward to some new facilities," he said, "both from an athletics building standpoint, and a science building standpoint."

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July 7, 2018


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