TURLOCK — If plans continue to fall into place, a new synthetic track and athletic field will open at Turlock High School next year.
The City Council, sitting as the Redevelopment Agency, voted 4-0 Tuesday night to include $2.8 million for Joe Debely Stadium on its list of projects to fund.
Mayor John Lazar, who owns a nearby rental property, stepped down for the discussion of that item. He voted with the rest of the council to keep the rest of the $20 million list, which includes $3 million for rebuilding the arson- damaged Carnegie Arts Center.
The stadium project was the only item to draw comments from residents. Those who spoke Tuesday night opposed it.
Proponents, including Councilman Ted Howze, said the new track and field could attract a variety of athletic events, raising tourism spending. Opponents maintain RDA money is intended to ease blight and spur job creation, and that the stadium project does neither.
Mark Knapp pointed out that Turlock Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Ed Felt earlier said a "bare bones" stadium at Pitman High School would cost $4 million. Pitman has no football stadium and plays at Turlock High.
"Pitman's got better parking, close freeway access," Knapp said. He added that the city should have other priorities, such as upgrading and annexing county islands within Turlock. "There are a number of good things that would benefit this town."
Howze said a council committee has been working to address concerns such as parking with school officials. For instance, they are working on a plan to offer shuttle service to events at Turlock High.
Soraya Fregosi, who sits on the Planning Commission, spoke against using city money for a school project.
"Even board members expressed reservations about taking the money," she said. "I don't see that as a fiscally responsible policy."
Felt encouraged the council to keep the project.
"We are anxiously awaiting this," he said. "We have a timeline we can meet to have the stadium open next year."
The council will have another opportunity to vote on the project when it comes before them for funding. Howze said that will happen at the council's next meeting.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.