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Justin Kilbride knows first-hand just how big high school football is in Texas.

He has spent time in the Lone Star State over the years and has seen some of the stadiums that draw thousands of fans on Friday nights during the fall.

The new Memorial Stadium, which opens on Oct. 8 for the Vacaville-Napa Monticello Empire League game, won’t be bigger than the ones in Texas.

But it will definitely be better, said Kilbride, who is overseeing the stadium project as construction manager for RGM and Associates.

“It’s an amazing design,” said Kilbride. “It’s just very unique for anything on the west coast and in California.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Texas, and I can tell you that this easily competes with Texas high school stadiums.”

The old Memorial Stadium — which served the community for 58 years and gained national recognition from The Sporting News and ESPNRISE.com as one of the top places in the country for high-school football — was torn down in late December and early January.

It was an aging facility that required continual structural repair work.

An excavator was used to tear down the historic stadium, which is shared by Napa and Vintage high schools. Just about everything came out — the cement bleachers, Quonset huts, press boxes, concession buildings, scoreboard, goal posts and grass field.

The light standards are still in place.

“It was important for us to tear it down, there was no choice,” said Don Evans, the director of school planning and construction for the Napa Valley Unified School District.

“I know a lot of folks in the community didn’t want it to go, but it was time for it to go,” said Frank Riley, project superintendent for Flintco., Inc., the general contractor for the stadium project. “It was unsafe, it had its use.”

The stadium is being rebuilt, thanks to the passage of Measure G in November of 2006.

The modernized complex, which will cost between $12.5 million to $13 million, will feature increased aluminum bleacher seating that will accommodate 6,400 fans, a grand entrance and plaza level at the south end that will feature a stucco wall, a synthetic field, team rooms, concession areas, press boxes, elevators and a sound system. 

The new scoreboard at the south end will be 25 feet wide and eight feet tall.

The previous seating capacity was 3,400. With added temporary bleacher seating for events such as the annual Big Game, the new stadium’s capacity can expand to 8,000.

“We paid lots of money to provide the spectators with a commanding view of this facility,” said Evans.

The new Memorial Stadium was designed by Jay Beals & Associates from Sacramento and Quattrocchi Kwok Architects from Santa Rosa.

“This is a state-of-the-art facility for a high school football team,” said Riley. 

“It’s just going to be awesome. You’re right on top of the field still. There’s not a bad seat here.

“I’ll tell you what, it’s going to be one of the nicest facilities in Northern California. I’ve never been to Texas, but of all the California stadiums that I’ve been to, this is going to be one of the best. People are going to want to be here.”

Memorial Stadium will be getting FieldTurf Duraspine PRO, the same product that the NFL’s New England Patriots play on at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

“That’s a plus for our community, in particular for the young people that will be playing on it,” said Evans.

Ticket booths and additional restrooms are part of the upgrades. The project will also come with a new parking lot near the entrance, although there will be fewer spaces to park because of the stadium’s size.

The field will sit four feet below the team room areas, located at the north end, eight feet below the promenade deck in the stands, and four feet below the plaza area.

Making the facility all the more unique is that there is no track around the field, just like the old stadium.

The stadium will be used for football, boys and girls soccer and graduations.

“The architects did a good job of maintaining that kind of classic stadium look to it,” said Kilbride. “I think the community will be impressed when they first come in here.”

It will also be handicapped-accessible, with ramps and seating areas on the promenade level.

“We have created a bowl effect, which no one wanted to lose,” said Evans. “We’ve created seating that takes it right down to the field on both sides, as well as getting great seating up above on both sides.

“They’re going to see a great plaza area when they walk in — we never had that before.”

The stadium has been designed so that fans have unobstructed views of the action on the field. Before, if you were seated in the first three rows of the old stadium, there was constant foot traffic in front of you.

“I think once the teams get to using it, I think the schools that come to visit us and play us are going to be overwhelmed,” said Evans.

The team rooms are 3,000 square feet.

Players won’t have to be hunched over, like they were before, in the old Quonset huts.

The press boxes will also be larger, in order to accommodate announcers, coaches, media and staff. Elevators will be used to assist the handicapped and those using the press boxes.

“We’re going to be able to provide to both home media and visiting media something that is going to be pretty special. I would venture that we will again be recognized as an outstanding facility, especially at the high school level,” said Evans.

“When we finish, there won’t be anybody around us, unless you get to Texas, that has anything close to what we’re going to have here. I clearly believe that.”

Workers lost 50 days due to rainy weather last winter, but are making up that time with six 10-hour days per week.

The school district has allocated additional money for the project.

“We took corrected measures and re-adjusted the schedule,” said Kilbride. 

“Since the rain stopped and we’ve been trying to get back on schedule, the project’s really flowed. All the (subcontractors) are really working together. It’s really coming together.”

R E Maher (concrete), Vorhees (plumbing) and Solano County Roofing have worked on the project. There have been anywhere from 40 to 70 workers a day on the job site.

“I have the utmost confidence in both our general contractor and our construction management team,” said Evans.

“We’re going to make it. They have overcome a number of obstacles already.”

Beals Alliance is in charge of the landscape architecture.

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