Ground Broken for $38 million Peabody Stadium

24 August 2017

The idea came into focus nearly seven years ago, with the goal of installing a new track-and-field surface. It grew into a multimillion-dollar renovation project to better serve students and the surrounding community.

The $38 million Santa Barbara High School Peabody Stadium refurbishment broke ground Wednesday, bringing the estimated 20-month project a ceremonial step forward.

“The finish line is finally in sight,” said Greg Tebbe, a board member of the Foundation for Santa Barbara High School. “It’s amazing this initial idea has turned into such a wonderful project to renovate the entire stadium.”

With more than 100 guests in attendance Santa Barbara and Goleta school districts officials, Santa Barbara City College representatives, media, local politicians, SBHS alumni, students and community supporters Tebbe and others jabbed golden shovels into a pile of dirt.

“Ultimately, this (the stadium) is a big classroom,” Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said. “We forget education in athletics is as important as learning in the classroom. This is where students learn about fitness and life-long health.”

The 2,300-seat stadium able to accommodate 500 fewer people in the new concrete grandstand is scheduled to open April 2019.

The stadium includes a new track and artificial turf field to meet California Interscholastic Federation regulations. The eight-lane-track will accommodate competitive athletic events, as well as student and community-use, SBHS Athletic Director Joe Chenoweth said.

“It will revive the track and field team,” Chenoweth said.

The stadium, designed by Santa Barbara-based Kruger Bensen Ziemer Architects, also features new landscaping, storm drains and lighting.

Even though the construction schedule conflicts with the Class of 2018 graudation ceremony and SBHS senior Anais Jimenez participating in the tradition of walking down the stadium hill’s concrete path, also known as “Walk of the Dons," the 17-year-old said she is thankful to be part of the shared history.

“As alumni, we will have a new change to look forward to,” Jimenez said.

Among those in attendance was Santa Barbara resident Van Horn, who graduated in 1954 and played on the SBHS football team. The 80-year-old said he was “sad” to see the stadium change but enthusiastic about the renovation.

Other speakers included Santa Barbara Unified School District board member Jacqueline Reed and First District county Supervisor Das Williams.

When the 1920s-era facility opened its gates, Principal John Becchio said, the stadium had an estimated $200,000 price tag.

The facility is named after Frederick Forrest Peabody, a prominent Santa Barbara resident and philanthropist. He was chairman of the school district’s governing board when the stadium was named.

In 1927, the stadium hosted a baseball game featuring the game’s biggest names, such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees.

It also hosted all-time Santa Barbara High football legends who dominated opponents at the stadium, including Sam Cunningham in the 1970s and Randall Cunningham in the 1980s.