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Mel Parker Field just the start in facilities

With the completion of the Mel Parker Field remodel on the horizon at Madera High School, more improvements are on the way, but it may take a while to get done.

Madera Unified School District director of athletics Marty Bitter has a five-year plan when it comes to improving facilities after talking with Madera High School athletic director John Fernandez and Madera South athletic director Andrea Devine.

“John, Andrea and I formulated in our minds a five-year plan,” Bitter said. “Where do we want our athletic programs to go? We have a direction. One of the pieces of the five-year plan is facilities.” Bitter said that he hopes Mel Parker Field will become the crown jewel of Madera High School facilities.

“Madera High is an older campus and most of their facilities are older facilities,” Bitter said. “We spend a lot of time and resources maintaining those resources. I was super excited to see the district include Andy Underwood and John and the board be very supportive of if we put this thing back together, we’re going to do it right. It sits right there on Olive (Avenue) where everyone is going to drive by and see it. Baseball is very important in this community. This is a baseball community. I can’t say how excited I am.”

However, Bitter is also appreciative of how supporting and patient players and parents were during the remodel.

“To get to this stage was rather grueling,” he said. “There’s so many games that our kids didn’t have an opportunity to play on their home field. I have to commend them on that for their patience. I’m sure there was frustration. For the most part, everyone stayed the course. I keep telling coach Underwood frustrations are going to go by the wayside when they see the finished product.”

Next on the district’s list is an upgrade of the football/soccer field at Madera South.

“We want to put in turf there and an all-weather track,” Bitter said. “We want to close up that facility and put in a snack bar building. That will be located in the southwest part of the field. That facility will be for football, soccer and softball. That alleviates the porta-potties. Building that facilty finishes up Madera South before we start work on the new high school. To finish off the school is important because our attention will be focused on the new high school.”

There are a few benefits to giving Madera South an all-weather track and a turf field.

“What that also does, putting in the all-weather track and turf, alleviates a lot of the stress on the stadium,” Bitter said. “We bring all of Stallions soccer back to Madera South. They can play home games on their campus. We can play freshman football games on campus. The junior varsity and varsity will play at the stadium. It also allows the Madera South kids to practice on the surface they play on. It also allows them to host tournaments and track meets at their own facility. When you’re able to host events on your campus, it increases the student’s ability to see the program and more students will get involved.”

Bitter ultimate goal is to get the upgrade at Madera South’s track done by the next school year, but ultimately, he said it should be done prior to construction on the new high school.

Permanent bleachers to hold about 1,500 people will also get installed.

Bitter is working on a facilities maintenance plan to be able to get money set aside to improve facilities or keep facilities in tip-top shape when not getting the chance to get the funds out of the general budget.

“We’re going to have a new high school in a few years and it’s going to be gorgeous,” Bitter said. “However, it’s only going to be gorgeous for the first few years. At some point, it needs to be maintained to stay gorgeous. We need to have some plan in place with regards to replacing infield dirt for our baseball and softball fields down to our middle schools. We need to have a plan to replace our gym floors and decking and diving boards for the pool. Those types of things aren’t budgeted in the general budget. Those are key pieces to our facility upgrade. There are lots of dreams out there. Some day, we’ll see them come to fruition.”

Another dream Bitter wants to see is an upgrade at Memorial Stadium in regards to the press box, restrooms, snack bars and the wooden seats.

“That needs to be done and it’s an extremely expensive project that, right now, we can’t do,” he said. “Those are things we’ve discussed and put on the radar to work towards. There’s no current time frame for those to get done.”

Also on Bitter’s list is what he wants, in regards to athletics, at the new high school.

“The new school is going to be beautiful,” he said. “We’re still in the planning stages. It will have a football stadium. We’re shooting for a 50-meter pool with a warm-up pool. That’s huge for our community because we don’t have a lot of aquatics facilities here. As we’re growing our aquatics and club team, we can bring in long and short course club events. It allows us to utilize us to use all our pools and host tournaments. When you build facilities, you are able to host tournaments and bring people to our community.”

The school will also have a softball complex similar to Madera South’s and a baseball stadium. “We’re doing some strategic planning so we can be wise with our dollar,” Bitter said. “We’re trying to build a snack bar facility where it can be used by both teams. It will have two gyms, but will have one when we first start out. It will be nice. This new facility will be able to bring the Valley Master’s back. We will be able to put down eight wrestling mats and get the bleachers out so you have maximum viewing for all the people.”

However, Bitter knows that those facilities are all on paper and could get scaled down because of budget numbers. But, he hopes that won’t happen.

“We haven’t seen that yet,” he said. “I commend the board on being very proactive on wanting the best for our kids. They want to provide the best facilities and opportunities for all of our kids.

“We’re doing the right things and putting the coaches in the best position to succeed,” Bitter said. “That’s to be commended to the leadership of supporting it. As a director, I have a vision of what it takes to be successful, but it takes resources and support from the top to execute it. I’m extremely appreciative for that support.”


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