May 23, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Groundbreaking held for Saddleback High School’s new on-campus sports stadium

Officials with Santa Unified School District including Superintendent Jerry Almendarez and Saddleback Principal Edward Bustamante and board member John Palacio, take part in the ground-breaking at Saddleback. (Photos: OC Sports Zone, Tim Burt).

A major step toward building a new home for Saddleback High School’s football, soccer and track and field teams took place Wednesday afternoon during a ground-breaking on campus where a 2,500 seat lighted stadium with synthetic turf will be constructed.

Santa Ana Unified School District’s construction of the sports complex is expected to be completed in March 2023. The stadium, estimated to cost $21.9 million, will include home and visitor bleachers, restrooms and a concession stand, officials said.

Saddleback students and coaches, cheerleaders along with community members and board members from the Santa Ana Unfiied School District attended the event and after the speeches, the official ceremony was made with school and district officials shoveling the dirt. Students were also invited to grab a shovel for the historic moment.

To see the slide show, click on the first picture:

The stadium will be built near the current Saddleback football practice field on mostly un-used field space. Saddleback will continue to play its home football games at Segerstrom High School this fall before opening play in August 2023 in its own stadium.

“One of the biggest things is that we will be able to attract some players and be able to bring some winning tradition to the community in our own facility,” said Saddleback’s head football coach Glenn Campbell. “It’s going to take a year, but hopefullly it will get done sooner and we can have graduation for these seniors. We will kick if off in August of 2023. It’s going to be fantastic.

“I think it’s going to look just like University High School Stadium, they’ve had some good stadium development. That’s a great stadium.”

Athletic Director Rob Thompson was also excited.

“We started this project about six years ago,” Thompson said. “There was delay after delay and then COVID, but now the day is here. We’re fired up about it for the whole community in general. It’s a multi-use field, multi-use track with locker-rooms.”

Thompson said other programs in the area have inquired about use of the stadium and the district will be in charge of approving additional usage. The entire parking lot will be also be re-done, Thompson added,

In conjunction, the softball field, which is near where the new stadium will be built, has been moved to the far corner of the campus, Thompson said. The baseball stadium will remain in its current location.

Santa Ana Unified School District officials, including board member John Palacio, praised the efforts of Saddleback principal Edward Bustamante for leading the charge to build a new stadium.

Palacio noted that Saddleback has a “rich sports tradition” and the construction of the stadium will help enhance the sports programs.

SAUSD superintendent Jerry Almendarez thanked the voters for approving a bond measure which helped funding of the facility and the neighbors for making it possible and said it “signals to the community and the world that Saddleback is not here to compete but to compete to win.”

He added the facility will be used by the school and the community.

According to Fermin Leal, chief communications officer for the district, $18 million for the project was funded through Measure I, a school bond approved by voters. The remainder of the project was funded through the SAUSD general fund budget and other sources, he added.

Athletes attending were also excited, including Saddleback soccer player Andrew Rodriguez.

“I’m very excited and seeing the plans coming to life and the process unfold, it’s just amazing,” Rodriguez, a junior. “I feel like that this stadium gives students a chance to represent their school well and take pride and what Mr. B (principal Bustamante) has established at the school.

“I feel like the stadium is definitely going to be a place where we can create memories and attract more talent across Santa Ana.”

Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com