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SELMA – Selma High’s stadium was just an idea in 1957. At that time, excess dirt from the new high school campus under construction was piled up into berms along Thompson Avenue.

Selma resident Walter E. Staley, Jr., spearheaded the effort that resulted in a stadium being built then. Little did he know that in 2019, Selma would band together to completely remodel the facility.

On Jan. 24, a ceremonial groundbreaking marked the beginning of what Selma Unified School District officials are touting as a state-of-the-art facility that will serve the community for generations to come.

“We are not a wealthy community and many of our families struggle from month to month to make ends meet,” said Assistant Superintendent Larry Teixeria “but they love their community and schools enough to vote to spend their hard-earned dollars to approve our facilities. I want to assure the voters of Selma we’ll spend your Measure O dollars wisely and when this project is done, you’ll have a stadium to be proud of.”

The newly reconstructed Staley Stadium will cost an estimated $10 million of the $30.8 Measure O dollars that Selma voters approved in the November 2016 election.

At a ceremony attended by school district officials, community members, and future and current Selma High band, cheer and student athletes, there was much thanks to go around for the effort it took to get the bond passed that will pay for the project.

Teixeria recounted some of the memorable events that have taken place at the stadium since it was first built, starting with the first graduation in 1959 for the Roosevelt School eighth grade graduation. The lights, visitors’ stands and concession stands still had not been installed but thanks to the efforts spearheaded by Staley, the stadium finally came to completion after much fundraising and work.

In a 1979 “Selma Enterprise” article recounting when the stadium was named after Staley, he comments about the community-wide effort it took then to see the facility to completion.

“My dad and I bolted down a lot of boards. I just bellyached and screamed until we got it done (but) you just can’t take out a community. You have to put something back. And this is my way of putting back.”

Staley Stadium has been the site of Valley Championship games in football, soccer, track and cross country. There have been 60 years of graduation ceremonies and almost as many Selma Rotary Club Marching Band Festivals there.

“Like many of us, however, our beloved stadium is starting to show its age,” Teixeria said. The new facility will feature brand-new aluminum bleachers, an all-weather track, new metal poles and brand-new LED lights, a building that will house a weight room, concession stand and restrooms.

SUSD Superintendent Tanya Fisher added that a legacy wall will be erected near one entrance that will bear the names of donors. She invited any who are interested in participating in future fundraising efforts to contact the Selma Public Education Foundation that will oversee that project.

“This is a day that’s come together after many years of planning and preparation,” Fisher said. “It could not have been completed solely by the work of the district. It was by the work of many partners in this process,” she said thanking numerous entities that helped the Measure O bond pass or who have contributed to the stadium.

“As your superintendent, my team and I will work diligently to deliver a beautiful, state-of-the-art stadium on time and on budget. It’ll be a stadium you will be proud of and one that will serve students today, and for generations to come.”

Staley’s son and daughter were on hand for the ceremony and said they’re enthused at how the community supported the facility’s reconstruction.

“The money dad raised back then would be nothing now,” Marsha Staley said acknowledging the expense of the project. “It wouldn’t even pay for the bathrooms they were talking about. I just think it’s neat that the town got behind it and they kids should think about that. It’s not the school district that’s paying for it, but the taxpayers in the community.”

When asked what his father would think of this overhaul of the stadium, David Staley said he was sure his father would be proud of the long-needed rehab.

“We’re very proud and it’s needed. It’s been a long time coming. I’m really glad their keeping the name because I wasn’t sure they were going to so that’s really nice. He’s watching. I’m sure he’s here. I doubt if he ever left since he spent a lot of time here.”

As the Selma High Black Bear Marching Band played the school’s alma mater, the cheerleaders lead the crowd in applause and the athletes gathered around for the ceremonial dirt turning.

Sophomore Myrium Zavala who plays the trumpet and clarinet in the band said she’s excited she’ll graduate in the new stadium in 2021. She’s also yet another person who will be glad to see the outdated bathrooms demolished and replaced.

“I’m not going to miss the bathrooms. They’re so horrible. There are not enough stalls. I’m also excited for the new grass because it will be easier to march from side to side. We’re not just marching straight and it’s hard.”

Zavala’s hoping the stadium’s remodel will reflect well on the community when dozens of bands visit during the Rotary Marching Festival.

“I hope it’s nicer and the grass is cleaner. I love having all the people over here so we can be friends with everyone. We’re band kids and we’re family. The stadium will look so nice and all fancy. I want visitors to think wow, they care about their community and their community is actually one.”

Selma District Chamber of Commerce Director Bob Allen said plans are in the works for other community events that take place at the stadium such as the Independence Day fireworks show.

“We’re working on it now,” Allen said. “We have some options but I don’t want to say them publicly until we decide. It’s a co-function with the city so we’re meeting next week with the pyrotechnic people to decide what will work.”

Teter Engineering’s Project Manager Tony Pavone said heavy-duty demolition work should start by the end of next week and the project should be completed in eight months. The expected completion date is mid to late August.

“I’m excited to see this project come to life. I’m glad to see the athletes looking at the renderings and to see what their reactions are. It’s going to be their place for the next four years and then the future generations to come. It’s going to be pretty awesome to see.”

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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