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Stadium, Gyms in Great Demand

October 16, 1986|PAUL McLEOD | Times Staff Writer

Phil Bravo went shopping during the summer. The football coach at Whittier Christian High School was looking for a home stadium for the school's powerful football team. After rejections at seven sites, he "lucked out," and so on Saturday nights his team plays at California High in Whittier.

But next summer he says he will be "back in the hunt again," looking for a site. "A field like Excelsior (High School), if it is available, would be good for us," he said.

The situation at Whittier Christian underscores an increasing problem for many high schools in Southern California that were built without proper athletic facilities. Increased requests from community groups, the closure of some high school sites because of declining enrollment and an increase in the number of private schools is putting a strain on existing facilities like Excelsior's 6,000-seat stadium.

Bravo will have to stand in line at Excelsior, which was closed to classes in 1981. Norwalk High will play four home football games there this season. Tiny Pioneer Baptist will play three and Leffingwell Christian High has scheduled three of its five home games there. All hope to expand their use of its facilities next year.

Two Dates Denied

"This year we submitted (to the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District) for all five home games, but we could not get the stadium (for two)," said Leffingwell's athletic director, Linda Hagen. Leffingwell also calls the Excelsior baseball field home and uses one of the gymnasiums on a regular basis.

The football field is not the only remaining part of the school that is drawing interest from outside organizations.

Excelsior's two gymnasiums are in demand, particularly from nearby Whitney High in Cerritos, a college preparatory school in the ABC Unified School District, which must offer physical education to its students but does not even have showers. This year, Whitney has not been able to get a commitment at Excelsior beyond Oct. 31 for its basketball teams, according to Bruce Carlisle, athletic director and coach.

"We're looking at no home games in boys basketball in December and practicing on the blacktop," Carlisle said. "Every year it becomes increasingly . . . difficult to find facilities for our teams."

Carlisle, who led Whitney's boys basketball team to the Southern Section CIF Small Schools Division title a year ago, has been so frustrated with Whitney's facility situation that he announced recently he would seek a coaching job elsewhere at the conclusion of the 1986-87 season.

Excelsior also is in high demand for other community uses. Recently the City of Norwalk staged a rodeo on the football field, according to Howard Rainey, the Norwalk-La Mirada district's director of business services. He said the greatest demand for the use of the football field comes in the fall. Requests for the gymnasiums come in all year.

"The gym is used extensively, mainly for recreational purposes," Rainey said. "We leave it open for local groups, particularly during basketball season."

Rainey, who chaired the committee that recommended the closure of the Excelsior site for regular school classes, says the school district decides who uses the facilities at Excelsior based on a priority system. Athletic events involving district schools get first priority, followed by the City of Norwalk, local community groups and then the others.

The district's other football stadium, at La Mirada High, which was built in 1972, is the home field for Glenn and La Mirada high schools.

5 Programs With 1 Field

"Before La Mirada was built we used to run five football programs (in the district) with just one field at Excelsior," Rainey said. At the time the district also included Neff High in La Mirada.

Other football stadiums in the area are being hit hard by requests.

"If I got another call for use of the stadium, I'm sure my answer would be no," said Hal Conley, who schedules the facilities at Gahr High in Cerritos.

The school's 5,000-seat Hanford Rants Stadium is home field to Gahr, Cerritos and Los Alamitos high schools. In addition, Servite High, a parochial school in Anaheim, has booked three dates at the field this fall. Other requests for use of the field are expected in November when the Southern Section CIF office requires neutral fields during its playoff rounds.

(Servite also planned to play Bishop Amat today at Excelsior, but cancelled last week, according to Rainey, in order to find "a bigger field.")

Veteran's Stadium Used

In Long Beach, Veteran's Stadium is host to Poly High, Long Beach City College and California State University, Long Beach. Banning and Carson high schools and Lakewood and Millikan high schools have, in the past, used the field for home games.

In the Whittier Union High School District, Pioneer and Santa Fe high schools share the field at Pioneer. La Serna and California high schools share the field at California. Whittier High uses both fields.

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