The Inside on Culver Sports Facilities
(EDITOR’S NOTE: George Laase recently interviewed former Culver City High athletic director Jerry Chabola about athletic facilities at the school)
By George Laase
Jerry Chabola, a now-retired teacher and the former Athletic Director of Culver City High, was asked about his thoughts on seeing that all his hard work on getting the track and field resurfaced is finally coming to pass.
Jerry Chabola--I’m excited. I’m happy that the work we have done over the many past years is finally coming to fruition. The students are now going to have a better facility to utilize. Not only our young people in the school district, but everyone, throughout the community. They may not know it, but this is going to turn out to be so important for our community. It will show that the district is not only looking for excellence in the classroom and in the Arts, Entertainment and Athletics, but in everything we do. This will show that athletics should be an intrinsic part of each student’s daily education.
Why now? Why wasn’t this done five or ten years ago?
I think monies have become available through the hard work of a lot of people. Quite frankly some of the previous school board members saw it as a priority, but some did not. So a lot of what we have done in the past has been piece-meal. We got a scoreboard one year, a track another year because of the efforts of people like Mike and Flora Balkman and many other community members. We have a very nice baseball field due to the efforts of Rick Prieto and Michael Cousineau getting the high school baseball program a $25K grant to redo the infield. For too many years we used the band-aid approach and now it was the time to step up. Why this didn’t happen five or ten years ago and is happening now is because, I think, there was a change in the district mind set.
Was it a change in mind set by the community or in the Administration/Board?
I think the change was in the administration and school board.
This is being called Phase One. Do you think Phase Two will happen without the passage of another new General Obligation Bond?
It will not be any different than it was in the past. The most efficient way to get it done is by passing a bond measure. If it’s not passed, I don’t know how important it will be for the community to realize that phase one is just a partial solution. Right now, the Robert Frost (Auditorium) is just a partial solution. Even the Solar project is only a partial solution. It only covers the Main campus and not the remaining five elementary schools. If the voters of Culver City want it, to have something that is significant, a gem, then I think a bond measure is going to be very important to achieve that end.
Something they can be proud of.
Yes..From my perspective as a coach and then as the Athletic Director… Culver City is like Hollywood. We show the public a great front, but there is no substance behind it. Our kids always go on the field with nice looking uniforms, but it’s only because of the resources the coaches could bring together. Nobody can say Culver City doesn’t look the part. But if you look behind the scenes, it’s not quite so substantial. There’s not a second set of uniforms, or second set of equipment.
Give us a successful example.
When we remodeled the gymnasium, the district administration came to me and asked what was needed. I told them that if we were going to redo the gym, we needed a legitimate facility to treat our athletics. Before the gym renovation, they were being treated in a cramped 12-foot x 12-foot room. And now we now have a first-class sports medical program headed by Marcos White where injured athletics can receive treatment and there’s a rehabilitation section that has turned into a classroom for student trainers.
There has been quite a bit of success with the girls’ teams: in basketball, water polo, soccer. Do you think there is some co-relation between their success and the funding of these new facilities?
I don’t know. I would hope that some of the young people would look at what is going on and realize that there is someone out there that is working on their behalf. .
Do you think there are athletes who come into Culver City so they can showcase their abilities or is it for the academics?
If I were a parent, who had a child who lived in parts of Los Angeles, I would want them in Culver City too. It’s a safe environment. They can find something they can relate to. It could be a teacher or a coach. I have always been a major proponent of having someplace, someone a student can go to besides the 55-minute classroom..
What I say to parents when I talk about Culver City school system or Culver High, is that their child can get as good an education if that’s what they want. From our schools you can go to any higher learning institution and be successful.
How soon after the completion of the first phase do you expect to see the second begin?
Yesterday! (Laughs) I think the longer you put things off in to the future, the more they are going to cost. If something costs a million dollars now, will it cost three or five million dollars, five or ten years from now? Because this project, ten years ago, would have cost half of what it does now.
The previous board is credited for starting these projects rolling…
And I praise them for doing that. When some of the board members were running for office and when they asked for my endorsement, my first question to them was if they would support a new synthetic field at the high school?
Do you think on this current board that there is enough support to complete the entire stadium project?
I think they are in a very difficult situation. The monies are going to be tighter. But, if the funds are available, I don’t see why they shouldn’t. That’s a tough question to answer.
Are you disappointed that the original Stadium complex idea got trimmed and down-sized?
Do you think the reason for field project’s down-sizing was because there seemed to be a “Them vs Us” atmosphere in the district that split the community into supporting either the solar project or the athletic field project?
I can’t speak for other people, but I have never spoken against any of the projects, other than supporting the athletic field project for other reasons. That was the one that I was so involved in for many, many years and that I would still be involved in because I have six grandkids who will eventually use those facilities.
Do you think that there is anyone on this current board that is totally sold on the idea of a stadium project, that could see it all the way through to its completion?
I think there are board members now that have bought-in to getting the athletic field project done. You can’t say we have to do this or that at the exclusion of some other project. They have a lot of decisions to make, but it’s unfortunate that these decisions were not made two or three years ago for various reasons. In a down economy, you have contractors willing to negotiate a price that is beneficial to the buyer and not the seller. The better the economy gets, the cost of these types of projects will certainly increase.
After these projects are completed, is there anything else you would like to see done?
Ultimately, there should be a board decision made to deal with the Natatorium; as a swimming pool. We had that a number of years ago.
Personally, It’s not very good for photography.
The thing is they had the Natatorium ready to go. The district had $3.2M. Of that $3.2 million, the district set aside $2.0M. They said that would be enough to remodel the facility. They even went out and got architects to offer renditions of what it would look like. They hired a pool consultant to estimate how much it would cost annually to maintain the pool. Everybody came together and the architect said this would be a $1.4M to $1.5M project, but to be on the safe side he estimated it at $1.7M. The maintenance consultant came in with an annual cost of $330,000. The superintendent, at the time, said that for the district to go ahead with the project, the district would need to have three years worth of maintenance. That would have been about a million dollars. And that million dollars was never found.
Do you think the relationship between the city and the school district should be better? The way their relationship is going now, is it actually to the determent of our kids?
We’ve talked about this many times before: They are our kids; whether they’re in school or out in the community. I know there have been many members on both bodies that have wanted to work more closely together. That needs to be fostered.