East Long Beach has a new look thanks to a state-of-the-art field that was recently installed at Millikan High School. The artificial turf field and surrounding all-weather track are the latest renovations to the Long Beach Unified School District’s high school athletic facilities, and it has given DeHaven Stadium a noticeable upgrade.
“It looks beautiful, it’s great,” said Millikan Athletic Director Kevin Marchael of the new field. “What we’ve said from the beginning is Millikan has the most visual field of any high school in terms of where it’s located. So it’s really important that the district gets this one right in terms of its visual appeal to the public, and I think they did. The color schemes are great, the graphics are good, it’s flat, there’s not any flaws in that regard. There’s some little projects that need to be completed in order for it to be fully realized, but right now it looks exactly the way we hoped it would.”
Millikan head football coach Romeo Pellum was excited to have the field completed, and said it would be a huge boost to the program.
“That’s special to have that at a time when I’m in my second year and we’re getting a turf field,” Pellum admitted. “It’s an attraction. It’s going to attract so many people in the community. It’s great, man. The kids love it, they’re excited to get on there, so it’s a good thing.”
Pellum also pointed to the specifics of the field design, which includes alternating shades of green for each five-yard segment of turf. It’s a unique element that will help distinguish the Rams’ new field from the other new surfaces installed at Long Beach Poly and Wilson.
“That’s probably the best field in our area, maybe in Southern California,” Pellum boasted. “With our navy track and the field alternating lighter green and darker green every five yards; that’s how Oregon had it back in the day, and you remember Oregon was attracting a lot of people and getting a lot of attention. But attention is a good thing and a bad thing. We have all that stuff, now we just have to win.”
The total cost of the Millikan field project is just over $8 million, and it is one of the many projects funded by Measure E. Back in November of 2016, nearly 75 percent of Long Beach’s voters approved the $1.5 billion school repair and safety bond measure, which includes upgrades to the athletic facilities at Long Beach’s high schools.
While there are still some final touches that need to be added–including the completion of the shot put area–the field and track are ready to be put to use. The new field will have significantly more color on it, with navy endzones featuring “Millikan” and “Rams” in white lettering. Midfield features a large circular Millikan logo, stretching about 18 yards in diameter. There’s also a brand new scoreboard, which has been relocated to the North end of the stadium. The rubberized, all-weather track replaces the dirt track that previously surrounded the field, adding to the striking contrast between past and present for Millikan’s students.
“Number one, I am just so happy for these kids,” said former Millikan football coach Kirk Diego, who led the program from 2001-11. “Millikan is a unique school. Those kids I just thought were the most incredible kids ever. By far the majority of them had to bus and sometimes those buses took an hour to get where they were going. They had to practice after school and get on that bus again. I thought they had it tougher and thought they were the salt of the earth. I loved those kids and I’m happy to see them get something nice.”
Diego is currently coaching at Valley Christian High School, but spent a season at Bellflower High in 2018 where they already had a turf field installed. He has seen first-hand the difference a top-of-the-line field can make for a program.
“They’re going to have a nice place to practice with lines and numbers, and for us it was hard to find a line,” Diego recalled from his time with the Rams. “I’d forgotten how nice it was to go out and practice on a perfectly level, manicured field with no holes until my year at Bellflower. It was a little piece of heaven.”
As of right now, the first event scheduled for Millikan on their new field would be a football game against Lakewood on February 12. However, high school sports schedules remain tentative, awaiting additional guidance from the California Department of Public Health.
Photos courtesy Millikan High School