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Geologist’s Soil Report Grounds Hopes for Stadium at Simi School

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hopes for construction of a long-awaited stadium at Simi Valley’s Royal High School plummeted Friday as school and athletic officials learned that the project may have to be scaled back because of unstable soil.

The news, which the school district made public at a morning press conference, left coaches and staff at Royal High depressed and wondering if they would ever see a stadium on campus, said Terrance Dobbins, Royal High’s athletic director.

“This has really cast a gloom over the project,” Dobbins said. “We’ve been waiting for 21 years for a stadium . . . it finally looked like it was a done thing. We just hope the geologists and architects can find a way around this.”

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Construction of the stadium, which would be at the southwestern end of the 2,000-student campus, had been scheduled to begin this fall and end by September, 1994.

But as part of pre-construction environmental studies, a geologist found that the soil is thin and sandy and the water table is high.

School district officials said they probably will have to design a more costly stadium foundation that would prevent sinking, but they vowed they will not spend more than the $3.2 million budgeted for the project.

That may mean the number of seats and other stadium facilities planned will have to be severely cut back so the project can stay within that budget, according to Mary Beth Wolford, deputy superintendent for administrative services at the Simi Valley Unified School District.

The school district’s geological consultant, Charles Swift of GeoLabs-Westlake Village, said a water table of nine or so feet below the surface, as found at the stadium site, is not uncommon throughout western Simi Valley.

However, he said, the sandy, unstable soil found at the site is not prevalent throughout the city and can only be verified through drilling. School district officials said they had no reason to suspect the soil problem.

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After more tests at the stadium site and consultation with the office of the state architect, the year-old Stadium Design Committee will decide in the next few weeks whether to urge that the project be redesigned or canceled, committee members said. The committee’s recommendation will be forwarded to the school board, which will decide the fate of the stadium.

“We’ve hit a bump in the road,” said Royal High Principal David Jackson, who sits on the Stadium Design Committee. “If we find a way to build a foundation that’s economically feasible, we’ll still be on schedule” to begin construction this fall.

Preliminary plans included a 7,000-seat stadium with a new nine-lane track and team changing rooms. Jackson said it would still be worth building the stadium if the number of seats was cut to 5,000, but he was unsure whether anything less would be worthwhile.

However, consultant Kay Benefiel of the Woodland Hills-based Heery International Inc. said the committee has decided that, even if it finds the district cannot afford the stadium it had hoped for, at least bleachers for a couple thousand people and improvements to the existing playing field could be funded. Benefiel is the stadium’s project manager and heads the Stadium Design Committee.

The stadium is being funded by a combination of certificates of participation and redevelopment funds.

Although the Royal Highlanders don’t want to have to travel eight miles on a bus to Moorpark College for football games, Jackson said the school’s athletic program will survive without a stadium on campus.

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“I think every school should have a stadium,” he said. “But Moorpark College is probably the finest field in Ventura County, and it’s not so bad if we have to play there for the next 10 years.”

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