Just as in college and professional sports, money is becoming a larger factor in the high school ranks.
One needs to look no further than the recent changes in the state football playoff system for proof.
The California Interscholastic Federation approved changes earlier this year that will allow all of the state’s section champions to advance to a regional bowl game – the only path to a state championship game. Prior to the changes, only 18 of the 51 eligible teams reached a NorCal or SoCal bowl.
Sure, the revamped system allows more teams an opportunity to prove themselves on the field, without having to rely on a politicized voting process. But make no mistake, there will be added profits, as well.
Around these parts, the business component of high school athletics is also evident.
Ripon Christian and Central Catholic are busy with plans to develop a new athletic stadium and basketball gymnasium, respectively.
The groundbreaking for RC’s new facility took place a couple weeks ago. The Knights will play football and soccer in a facility that will seat 1,500 people – 1,000 on the home side – and will sit perpendicular to nearby Ripon High’s Stouffer Field.
The plan is to play football and boys soccer there this fall.
“That’s the hope,” said athletic director Kevin Tameling. “I’m not saying it is going to be, but that’s the hope.”
Meanwhile, about 10 miles to the south, Central Catholic is getting ready to break ground soon – probably within the next couple weeks – for the first phase of the Mark Gallo Health and Fitness Center, which will feature a basketball gymnasium, locker rooms and a fitness center. The fitness center will include a full-service kitchen and two classrooms.
An additional aspect of phase one includes a new softball field and tennis courts.
Planned for later phases are a new softball/baseball fourplex, renovation of the football/track and field facility – including regulation track lanes – and additional practice space that the football and soccer teams can utilize.
“We’ve got bigger plans in terms of the entire campus,” said CC athletic director Billy Hylla. “But they’ve got to happen in stages.”
These types of projects aren’t reserved just for the private schools.
In 2009, Riverbank High opened the 29,000-square-foot Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium – with its distinctive red roof, glass front, spacious foyer and baseline seating – at a cost of about $13 million. It is the undisputed jewel of the Stanislaus district.
Around the same time, Oakdale High opened a sparkling $2.3 million aquatics center on campus, capable of holding swimming and water polo practices at the same time. And, of course, Enochs High earlier this school year opened a $3 million aquatics center, which came on the heels of a renovation project at the Johansen High pool.
In one way or another, be it taxes, bonds, developer fees or ticket prices, the check gets picked up by those fans.
And that’s OK. Top-flight facilities make sporting events more enjoyable for fans, whose children often benefit from such facilities.
But it just seems like an era of innocence is coming to a close. The days of hopping on an old school bus and playing a game in a rickety old gym will soon be a thing of the past. High school sports are all about Main Street. Perhaps inevitably, it’s starting to give way, just a bit, to Wall Street.