JJ SAYS: PHS field opening will be special

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Petaluma City Schools officials will officially cut the ribbon on Petaluma High School’s new-look Steve Ellison Field on May 17.

Of course, the new field has already been unveiled with several lacrosse games, a soccer match and even a track meet already held on the new turf. That field was a dazzling sight as it shone for a good-sized crowd at last Friday night’s lacrosse game between the Petaluma and Casa Grande boys. Much has already been written about the attributes of the new field — the Trojan logo at midfield, the purple end zones, the new entrance with new snack bar, restrooms and extra seating.

Next week will be the hoopla and speech making. A real ribbon will be cut. There will be tours of the new facility and explanations of why everything is where it is.

The official field opening will be part of Petaluma High School’s annual open house, with teachers in various departments to explain the various school offerings and programs.

It will all be very nice, but there is something extra special about what is happening on May 17. Two men who have meant so much to the history of Petaluma High School and Petaluma itself will be honored. The press box at what is now Steve Ellison Field will be named and dedicated to the memory of Ron Walters, and the track will be named for Doug Johnson. In Doug’s case it is not to honor his memory — at least not for a long time yet — but to honor the man.

Doug this year is celebrating 50 years of serving Petaluma High School as a teacher, coach, mentor and leader. And, he is still going strong. Although retired from teaching, he continues to coach one of the best track programs in the Redwood Empire.

Doug’s fingerprints are all over the new field and track. He more than helped with the layout of the new facility, he helped make it practical and workable in a very confined area. Once construction started, he was at the work site almost every day overseeing every detail. He knew not only the construction bosses, but the workers as well. Long before the school district made it official, the new oval circling the athletic field was Doug Johnson Track Complex.

The new track, while spectacular, was just one of Johnson’s many accomplishments during a half century of service to Petaluma High School, its athletes and its students.

Most of those accomplishments were brought to the Petaluma community by the velvet voice of radio personality, sportscaster, entertainer, community leader, Petaluma booster Ron Walters, known and loved as the “Voice of Petaluma.”

Walters spent much of his life in the Petaluma High School press box. Of course, he was all over town, but I have to believe one of his favorite spots was sitting above the stands at what was then Durst Field. He called football games for radio station KTOB from that perch, and he was a fixture at all the big track meets. One of the reasons teams loved to hold league meets at Petaluma was to have Ron Walters announce the proceedings.

He would have been amazed and proud to see what the community will have an opportunity to visit on May 17.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)

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