Santa Monica High School can now add a new synthetic turf athletic field to its list of recreational amenities.

The synthetic turf field officially opened at the “home of the Vikings” during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by a freshmen and sophomores football game Oct. 27.

The play field will provide Samohi with practice space for the track and field, football and soccer teams, and marching band, as well as game space for the freshman and junior varsity football and soccer teams.

Under an agreement with the city of Santa Monica, the field will be open for recreational use by Santa Monica High students during school hours and be made available for public use during non-school hours.

Recreational leagues in Santa Monica are among the groups expected to take advantage of the increase in community play space.

School officials said the new field marks the start of the redevelopment of the cultural, recreation and public realm areas of the Samohi campus, known as the Civic Center Joint Use Project, a partnership between the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and the city of Santa Monica.

The project was funded by the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency.

“We think it’s a great example of the strong partnership and relationship we have with the city of Santa Monica,” said district Superintendent Sandra Lyon. She credited City Manager Rod Gould and former Superintendent Tim Cuneo for having the vision to work out an agreement to give the school and community better access to recreation.

The goal of the joint use project is to enhance the high school campus by providing new facilities and to improve the opportunities for cultural and recreational activities for city residents. The existing programs on campus will be maintained or upgraded with no major effect on school activities or athletic facilities.

Other improvements slated under the project include the replacement of an older gymnasium with a new gym and support facilities and upgrades to the Greek theatre.

The City Council has approved a program agreement with the school district allowing the city to lease and utilize recreational facilities at Samohi during non-school hours. In exchange, the school district will receive half of the annual transaction and use tax revenues from the city.

Opening up the high school’s fields, courts and other facilities will fulfill a city need, as the community demand for playfields and other sport venues continues to exceed the supply of both the city and district, officials said.

“Having one more field for any of our athletic teams to practice or play on is such a huge asset,” Lyon said.

Following the grand opening, the field has been used for team practices and during physical education classes, Santa Monica High Athletic Director Daniel Escalera said. The synthetic play area will be the site of track meets, soccer games and lower level football competitions, but the high school varsity football games will continue to be played on the turf surface at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field due to limited seating capacity at Samohi.

With the new artificial surface, the practice field no longer has to be shut down at times for seeding, Escalera said. By playing on synthetic turf, athletes can also avoid potential injuries due to hard dirt or mud, he said.

“It’s a wonderful addition and it’s a statement from the district and the city about their commitment to the students,” he said.

While school teams will have priority under the joint use agreement, they will try to schedule games far in advance to avoid any conflicts with non-school recreation leagues, he said.

“It’s a nice marriage of interests with the needs of the public to have more play space and our student body to play on a quality surface,” Escalera said, of the agreement.

The city has begun to issue permits for the new field and other recreational facilities at the high school.

For information about hours of operation, fees and permits, www.smgov.net/recreation, or (310) 458-8300 ext. 1.

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