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 Vacaville High’s Tom Zunino Stadium upgrade on target New football field, track should be completed by May 18
Vacaville High’s gridiron has borne the name of its legendary football coach Tom Zunino since 2004. After 16 years, the field was due for a makeover and it’s getting a good one, to the tune of $6.7 million. The stadium project began after the homecoming football game in September and is scheduled for completion by May 18. That date was set originally to ensure the new field would be ready in time for June graduation. Now, if graduation is set back due to the coronavirus, the grand opening for the updated stadium could come for a delayed graduation ceremony. Or it could be held on any given day unattached to an actual event. Or it could be held at the Bulldog football team’s home opener on September 4. In any case, it is right on schedule for that May 18 completion date. That is in part because all of the funding is through Measure A, which is public funding. This makes it an essential project as the construction crews have been able to work during the county’s shelter in place order. It is also on schedule because general contractor OC Jones and Sons has been keeping on top of it. “They’ve done a great job, being very flexible in dealing with the weather and getting the job done,” said Dan Banowetz, chief facilities, maintenance and operations officer for the Vacaville Unified School District. Vacaville High Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Mike Papadopolous echoed those thoughts “We are really appreciative of all the guys that are here,” he said. “They’ve really given a great effort, spending a lot of time and really caring about what they’re putting down and providing for our kids in the community.” Banowetz says the work is 70 percent complete. The focus is on the football field, the track and the surrounding areas for field events. The synthetic turf for the gridiron and the track is AstroTurf, which has come a long way since the Houston Astros first installed it in the Astrodome in 1965. The turf being laid at Tom Zunino Stadium is brand new technology and the same brand and model number as the turf that Fresno State installed for its football team last year. De La Salle High School in Concord also employs it. Papadopolous said the main factors in choosing the turf were safety, longevity and performance. Once the turf is laid, the graphics will be sewn into it. Two layers of asphalt have been laid for the track. Once the asphalt cures, the synthetic coating will be spread over it. The locations of some field events will be moved. The long jump, triple jump and pole vault area, which used to be behind the visitors’ bleachers, will be moved to the north end of the stadium where the scoreboard used to be. That scoreboard is being replaced by a new one at the south end. Papadopolous noted that the change of location for the scoreboard is “kind of a big deal” because fans driving by on Monte Vista Avenue used to be able to see the score of any game in progress. To accommodate them, a small scoreboard near the parking lot on the Monte Vista Avenue side is being installed. Next to the main scoreboard will be a 60-foot flagpole. A new shot put area is being constructed on the northeast side, while the discus area will remain on the northwest side just outside the stadium for safety and for shelter from the prevailing winds. The crew is also laying down asphalt for an ADA-compliant path of travel. The stadium will be a tremendous improvement over what 1971 graduate Tony Ramos remembers when he was in first grade around 1959. “It was nothing like it is. I can remember back in the old days the wooden bleachers, the lights were terrible, there was no curbing around, the drainage was terrible,” said Ramos, whose father Julian Ramos, a 1947 Vacaville High grad, was a great supporter of the high school and was selected to the first class of the Vacaville High Hall of Fame. Tony Ramos noted that football games used to be played at a Davis Street facility and then at Andrews Park until the then-new stadium opened at Vacaville High in 1952. It was dubbed Harold Youngblood Stadium in honor of the former superintendent of schools. Zunino became head coach of the football team in 1962. He decided to make it a project in his lifetime to recreate the football field for future generations of Vacaville High students. He did not ask for loans and money from the school and town; rather he asked for donations and volunteers. Those volunteers brought out tractors to transform the field and got Travis Air Force Base to donate unused light stanchions. “The poles we had were terrible, they were the old telephone poles,” recalled Ramos, “and the lights were even worse. It was all wooden bleachers because we used to paint them every year. The Quarterback Club would do it on a Saturday.” The school district approached the Youngblood family in 2004 to see if they were okay with changing the name. The family was fine with it, for they recognized how much Zunino had contributed to the upgraded stadium.
thomas lawrence zunino the patriarch of the bulldog family
Tom Zunino Stadium 2020 Upgrade