Lodi High Athletic Director Robert Winterhalter has witnessed a lot of changes at the campus in almost two years.

Now there is another movement that is in the process in which the athletic director hopes can be used in upcoming weeks.

The Lodi High softball program will soon have an on-campus softball field. Should the Lodi Unified School District allow spring sports and extra-curricular activities to continue after April 5 due to the coronavirus/pandemic, it’s possible that the varsity and junior varsity teams could use the diamond for practices.

“Once the plans to renovate Lodi High got started, we quickly realized that if we’re going to start building other things on campus and other stuff, we need to make sure we’re in complete Title IX compliance,” said Winterhalter, who is referring to Measure U bond that was passed by voters in 2016. “That is how the softball field on campus got started.”

The softball field, which is the former Lodi High freshman baseball field, is located on the south end of the campus. The field is going through two phases, according to Winterhalter. The first phase is converting the baseball field into a softball field for practices.

“Ideally [it’s] for this season, but that’s all up in the air,” said Winterhalter, referring to the suspension of the school district’s suspension at its high school, middle and elementary schools because of the coronavirus/pandemic.

Winterhalter said a smaller crew worked on the field on Thursday.

“My guess is it would be done, hopefully by the end of March,” Winterhalter said. “That way if spring sports resume, softball can practice on-site.”

The second phase will be to make the field a “game-playable” softball field, Winterhalter said.

“Meaning it’s going to have the dugouts, the bleachers, the scoreboard,” Winterhalter said. “Everything that our own on-campus (varsity) baseball field has.”

The start of the second phase is currently “up in the air” Winterhalter said.

“All I know is that it’s supposed to coincide with the construction of the school when they have all of the heavy equipment (on campus),” Winterhalter said. “That way there is less disruption during the softball season.”

Winterhalter said that the heavy equipment to start the modernizing of the Lodi High campus is expected to arrive this summer. He believes that the goal is to have the softball field ready for home games for the 2021 season.

Winterhalter is excited to have the softball field nearing the end of its first phase, and the second phase in the near future.

“Something as simple as having an on-campus softball field just means that the girls can attend after school tutoring easier,” Winterhalter said.

For many years, both the Lodi High varsity and JV softball teams have practiced and played home games at the Lodi Softball Complex.

“We don’t have to coordinate with the city, although they have been great to work with,” Winterhalter said. “You have people going over there to set up the softball field at the softball complex. Everything comes easier and convenient when it’s on-campus.”

Winterhalter has talked with school district officials about an additional item that could be added to the field.

“If the goal is to have all games at Lodi High – both baseball and softball — we absolutely need to have lights installed,” said Winterhalter, who is also referring to the varsity/JV baseball diamond on the south end of campus near Lodi Avenue. “That’s not a promise that’s been made. It is a concern that everyone seems to agree with, and that’s the solution to our problem. But only having enough space for one on each field. Otherwise, we have to start games very early before Daylight Saving Time. No one wants to start a varsity game at 1:30, 2 o’clock in the afternoon because you wouldn’t be able to get any spectators there.”

New Lodi High softball head coach Acacia Sanchez is excited about having an on-campus field.

“It’s definitely going to be more convenient because we travel across town,” Sanchez said. “I’m excited for all the new changes that are happening. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the end.”

Sanchez said that the intention, if the field can be used this season for practice, is have the Flames’ JV team practice first, varsity afterwards.

“Just because they don’t drive,” said Sanchez, referring to the JV players mostly freshmen and sophomores who don’t have a driver’s license. “Varsity can come back and forth.”

The Lodi High boys and girls soccer teams play under the lights at Don Rostomily Field at the start of the 2018-19 winter season.

In recent years, Lodi High had an all-weather track placed at Don Womble Field, also on the south end of the campus.

Contact Mike Bush at mikeb@lodinews.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.

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