SAN LEANDRO -- After a season on the road, the San Leandro High School Pirates will take their home football field Friday night, beginning this year's season in a sports complex enhanced by $17.8 million in renovations.
The team played their last game at the 50-year-old Burrell Field and Pacific Sports Complex in fall 2011, before it was closed for the improvements that were funded by a local bond measure.
On the team's practice field at San Leandro High this week, head varsity football coach Brad Bowers said the team is excited to head back to their home turf after playing last season as guests on other fields.
"It was much more of a challenge than we thought," he said. "I think we didn't anticipate so many issues that we would have just in terms of transportation, getting things over to the field and the spacing and the lines and not having the space we would need or want."
The Pirates played their three home games last year at Chabot College in Hayward. They practiced at McKinley Elementary School while their practice field at the San Leandro campus was also undergoing renovations.
"It was a lot of away games to where we didn't play at home that much and there weren't a lot of people and fans and stuff to show support," said 16-year-old Reuben Baker, wide receiver and free safety. "I like how they redid everything. ... The field was pretty messed up and the bleachers were all messed up and people would get splinters everywhere, and since they redid it, it is looking real nice."
The old Burrell complex was gutted and a new artificial turf has been installed on the football field. Upgrades are still being made to the combined soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse field located behind it. Metal football bleachers for 3,500 spectators replaced weathered wooden ones and a new all-weather track, field lighting and scoreboard were added. The team locker rooms, ticket booth and concession stands were also redone.
The team is scheduled to play seven home games at Burrell Field this season.
"We look legit now. I like it the way it looks," said Malik LeBlanc, who plays offensive and defensive tackle. "The construction workers did a good job."
Quarterback Milton Costa said he's looking forward to leading his team to some victories in the renovated stadium.
"We are going to come back strong this year. I just think that's what important," said Costa, in his second year in the position. "All this new stuff will make us feel a little bit better, and we just have to use it for good."
The football season begins Friday at Burrell Field with the junior varsity team taking the field against Dublin's Valley Christian High School at 4 p.m., followed by the varsity team at 7 p.m. A ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony will take place earlier that day at 3 p.m.
Once the home field of demolished Pacific High School, Burrell has served as the home field to the San Leandro High School Pirates for three decades. It is located behind the Marina Square Shopping Center, between Teagarden Street and Interstate 880.
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo, San Ramon and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/ashlyreports.