ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Orange community says goodbye to aging Fred Kelly Stadium before district starts renovations
PUBLISHED: December 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm | UPDATED: December 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm
Orange Unified School District is replacing its Fred Kelly Stadium, but it obviously isn’t because of a lack of love.
Hundreds of students and residents turned out for a community celebration Wednesday evening, Dec. 12, to say goodbye to the 50-year-old stadium and break ground on its $18.4 million reconstruction.
Students from throughout the district participated in the festivities, from the Bollywood dancers of Running Springs Elementary School to the students in the district’s Mandarin Chinese immersion program singing Christmas carols in Chinese. Even three goats – Amber, Mackenzie and Precious – from Orange High School’s agriculture program showed up. In the background, the stadium’s scoreboard was lit up with “20”s and “2”s to represent the project’s completion date of 2020.
Fred Kelly Stadium was built in 1969, serving as home turf for OUSD’s four high school football teams. It has also hosted track meets, graduations and city and community events, such as Orange’s annual Third of July ceremony and the annual Orange Community Foundation Games.
But the stadium’s age has begun to show.
The structure’s all-concrete seating has reached the end of its useful life and the district has been getting civil rights complaints over accessibility issues.
“There is a certain point when you modernize it to comply, you are better off building new,” Assistant Superintendent David Rivera said.
So, the entirety of the stadium will be rebuilt, adding about 1,000 seats. There will be new restrooms, team locker rooms, a snack bar in the visitor section and aluminum bleachers,as well as new field, scoreboard and shade structure. The project is funded through developer fees and money the district has saved for capital projects, district spokeswoman Arianna Barrios said.
The district’s football teams will play schedules with all away games next year, Rivera said. The city is working on plans for holding its Third of July event next year.
On Wednesday, though, the focus was squarely on remembering and celebrating the stadium’s history and looking forward to what’s ahead. Kelly was an Orange High grad who won gold in hurdles during the 1912 Summer Olympics.
“It gets you hyped up,” El Modena High senior Abril Pacheco said of being in the stadium. “Whenever I’m here, it feels that way.”
Peggy Clavert, 68, graduated from El Modena High in 1968, a year before the stadium was built. But she has been to the stadium many, many times since then, she said.
“Strap yourself to the tree with roots,” she said, quoting Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
For her, the stadium has been a root in the community, she said.