District Eyeing Future for Thompson Field

Eric J. Kos  The view of Thompson Field from Walnut Street shows development looming in the background. The aging warehouse behind the scoreboard also belongs to the Alameda Unified School District.

District Eyeing Future for Thompson Field

Hornet Ground could become part of real estate strategy

An Oakland-based consulting firm held a presentation for Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) board members to discuss real estate strategies last Tuesday, Jan. 24, at City Hall.

Jim Musbach and Ashleigh Kanat of Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. (EPS), an economic and financial consulting firm, held a 50-minute presentation for AUSD board members to recommend how the school district can best monetize its real estate properties. Musbach and Kanat explained that AUSD’s most valued asset is the Thompson Field site that also contains an adjacent food services warehouse. Musbach recommended the school district rezone the property to residential and sell it to a developer. 

“You would get most value for the site if you (rezone) the site, than to just give it to a developer and have them go through the rezoning process,” said Musbach, managing principal at EPS. EPS believes the site can hold 80 to 100 housing units, according to a memo from City Manager Jill Keimach.
Kanat said selling the site can create enough income to build a new and more efficient sports complex for Alameda High School. The Thompson Field track is not regulation-sized and the field has water-drainage problems. 
EPS also believes the district would have enough funds left over after building a new sports complex to fund Alameda High programs and carry out some of the district’s other objectives. The district wants to build employee housing and needs to find a new district office site.  
The board members were not too welcoming to the idea, however. Board members questioned EPS on where the new sports complex would be located. Kanat believes a new site can be built on Alameda High’s campus, but had no concrete plan for where the new field would go or if Alameda High has enough space. 
“I’m not sure we need to proceed with the zoning request change if we don’t have a plan,” said board trustee Jennifer Williams. “I’m in favor of slowing the process way down until we get more information available to us, and that includes public input.”
AUSD applied to rezone the Thompson Field site on Nov. 17, 2016, with the city’s Community Development Department. However, according to the city’s website, the application status has been withdrawn. Calls to confirm this weren’t returned by press time. The site is currently zoned as mixed use.
If AUSD goes through with rezoning the site they would first need to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Musbach said the EIR study would take six to seven months. 
“Then there would be an EIR report draft,” said Musbach. “After would be a public comment process, then the final EIR draft, then a sponsoring agency, which would be the city, would certify the EIR.” In all, Musbach said this process would take 18 months and cost about $200,000 to $300,000.
The city bought the property that includes Thompson Field and McKinley Park in 1909. AUSD acquired the four-acre parcel from the city years later. Thompson Field has been the home of the Alameda High football team since 1940. The facility is named for former Alameda High School Principal George Thompson.   
Previous owner James A. Waymire and his wife, Virginia, opened their doors to the Alameda community and welcomed high school youth to use their property as an athletic field possibly as early as 1885. The Waymires lost the property after their fortunes turned and Hibernia Bank evicted them one week before Christmas 1907.
Thompson Field is best known for its football history, but soccer and other sports games and practices have been held there, along with the high school’s annual graduation ceremony.
Courtesy thealamedan.org Encinal High’s defense brings down Hornet fullback Bob Parker in the first-ever “Island Bowl” or “Big Game” between the Alameda High School Hornets and the Encinal Jets in 1955. The game was played at Thompson Field.