Along the stretch of Magnolia Avenue that runs past Buena Park High School lies a craggy expanse of dirt and rocks.
But soon enough this site will host homecoming games, marching band performances and commencement ceremonies within the confines of a state-of-the-art stadium that will provide its 62-year-old campus with added curb appeal — and a jolt of school pride.
On Tuesday, with earth-moving machines resting idle nearby, students in green and black T-shirts cheered as Fullerton Joint Union High School District leaders ceremoniously broke ground on a 3,974-seat athletic stadium and complex.
The project, which will supplant an aging sports facility on Buena Park High’s north end, is set to include new football, baseball, softball and track fields topped with artificial turf, along with an all-weather track, a ticket building, restrooms, concession buildings, a lighting system, scoreboards and a sound system.
The new home of the Coyotes will take shape on what used to be a blacktop cluster of outdoor basketball courts and tennis courts on the southeast edges of the campus. Some of those courts will be replaced as part of the project. Meanwhile, the old stadium, which dates back to the school’s opening in 1956, will be removed at a later date to make room for the baseball diamonds.
“This is a total game-changer for our programs and a wonderful new facility,” Buena Park High Principal Sonje Berg said. “With all-weather track and turf, the ability to practice and play year-round without needing to close the fields for grass management and growth, this is only going to enhance our ability to compete at the highest level.”
Featuring 2,474 seats for the home crowd and 1,500 on the visitor side, the stadium is among a number of big-ticket district projects funded by Measure I, a $175 million bond approved by local voters in 2014. But the number of groundbreaking ceremonies did little to diminish the excitement on Tuesday.
“No matter how long you’ve been doing it, it never gets old,” said Fullerton Joint Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Scambray, who ran though a list of the other upgrades coming to Buena Park High.
Adjacent to the stadium, the school’s award-winning agricultural program that serves more than 400 students will also benefit from new facilities, the superintendent said. In addition, the performing arts center is undergoing modernization and should be completed in November. Science rooms, which were last renovated around 1970, are also set to be modernized starting this Friday, and a new 50-meter pool is currently in the design stage. Finally, Scambray told the audience that the Buena Park High gymnasium will be modernized and outfitted with an air-conditioning system after the next basketball season.
All that work may cause some disruptions on the bustling campus. But Board of Education President Marilyn Buchi insisted the results would be worth it.
“You know we’ve had, over the years, many projects that have enhanced our district, and at the time it’s a little stressful,” she said, “but when it’s finished it’s wonderful.”
Buchi thanked staff members in advance for their patience during construction, and she thanked the local community members in attendance for backing the bond that made all of it possible. She also offered a special message to students.
“Seniors who are here, I’m sorry you won’t get to be here for this graduation,” she said, “but the juniors, I understand, next year’s graduation is going to be in your brand new stadium.”
Construction on the stadium is expected to be fully completed by October 2019.