Burrell Field in San Leandro played host to its last football game Saturday, as former players from two rivalry high schools held a reunion flag football game, celebrating athletic competitions at a community landmark and ringing in a new era of engagement through sports.
The event commemorated 50 years of sports at the facility, which the city recently approved for a complete makeover. Community members were on hand to break ground Saturday on the renovation project scheduled to begin in late April.
Men from teams of decades past donned their jerseys and warm-up gear for a friendly game, garnering the attention of the spirited crowd in attendance on a chilly day in San Leandro.
“It was an alumni reunion like no other, it was just awesome,” said Arnie Fields, a 1984 graduate of San Leandro High School (SLHS), also a participant in the match.
“It’s nice to see both sides of town come out and celebrate the things we have in common in the city,” said Diana Prola, a board member of the San Leandro Unified School District.
Jon Simonian, SLHS class of 1980, strapped on two knee braces to play in the game as his wife and daughter watched from the stands. Simonian moved away from San Leandro and started his family, but made an effort to come back for the game.
“Giving the guys a chance to play again, and the [feeling] of community make it almost like a reunion,” said Stacey. “It’s very cool.”
Current players at SLHS were in attendance as well to show support and take part in the game.
“It’s cool to see how the past of San Leandro football started, with the old guys coming out supporting the new people,” said Joseph Williams, a junior SLHS running and defensive back.
The match was a complete success, albeit being played on a facility that is far from its former splendor.
“I just want to thank the people of San Leandro for voting for this bond measure, that will allow us to have this beautiful sports complex, that has been needed for years in this city,” said city councilmember Jim Prola.
The bond money will improve athletic facilities throughout the entire district, including new tracks at the middle schools and some playground remodeling for elementary schools, said Martin Capron, president of the San Leandro Sports Foundation (SLSF) and an assistant track coach at SLHS.
“Not only are we building a sports field, we are creating a landmark area for people to come to,” Capron added. “We don’t need another Marina Square, we need more sports fields.”
The event also functioned as a fundraiser for SLSF, as Capron says, “people want to support their schools, they just need to know how.”
As the game came to a close, current high school athletes and members of the school and athletic boards dug into the turf with golden-clad shovels, marking the beginning of the renovation.
The first half of the game was gloomy and wet, but the sun had shown up by the fourth quarter, as the San Leandro Pirates took the victory with a score of 36-22.
Capron, who was pleased with the day’s events, still showed concern for the future of athletics in San Leandro.
“The people cannot allow our sports programs to dissolve, and that’s the direction they’re going,” he said.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, April 5th, 2012 at 12:55 pm.