Paul Bailey Aptos high school football
September 2019

He Built it, They Came

Paul Bailey Scored With Aptos Athletic Fields

By Brad Kava

Santa Cruz Realtor Paul Bailey was driving down Highway 1 when he spied a construction crew widening the road and moving piles of dirt and rocks—tons of them.

He did what few people would do. He pulled over and talked to the crew, asking them what they were doing to get rid of the rocks. He figured they were paying $15 a yard to truck and dump the dirt in Morgan Hill and found out they could only do 10 to 12 loads a day.

Paul Bailey Aptos high school football
Watching every Aptos High football player sincerely thank builder Paul Bailey was one of the greatest things we’ve seen. Photo Credit: Kevin Painchaud

Bailey, a mover and doer, made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Bring all the rocks and dirt they wanted just a short drive away to Aptos High and help him build a new soccer and lacrosse field and they could do 100 or more loads a day for free.

They did and it helped him put together another piece in the $4.5 million construction projects he’s funded at the school, which has become a sports field model across the state.

Bailey, 67, who graduated in Aptos High’s first class in 1970, has been an Aptos High benefactor since he was 27 and got talked into working on a golf tournament to benefit county sports. They raised $12,000 dollars, but it was donated in dribs and drabs for uniforms or equipment for various schools.

“It had no impact,” he recalls. “I had this need that I wanted to do something that made a difference. And if I was going to work that hard I wanted to have my fundraiser focused on getting something done.”

Paul Bailey Aptos high school football
Bailey and his team built the fields, scoreboards, drainage, tracks and so much more at Aptos High, raising $4.5 million. Photo Credit: Kevin Painchaud

He enlisted partners in Aptos to start the Aptos Sports Foundation, which in the past few months raised $45,000 in a golf tournament and $8000 in a poker tournament.  Since 1979 they have raised $4.5 million and built a football field, baseball field and soccer field as well as adding pool lights, scoreboards, an all-weather track, a sound and video system for the gym and a ball machine for the tennis team.

He’s been unconventional in his approach, setting up a nonprofit to cut through bureaucratic red tape with support from the community and the school district.  Together, they built a baseball field that would have cost $400,000 for only $38,000, thanks to local companies such as San Lorenzo Lumber, Los Animas Concrete, Granite Construction, Granite Rock and Holcomb Construction. Workers and parents picked up shovels and got the job done. 

Former principal David Hare was instrumental in ridding them of red tape tangles. “He said it was better to get it doen and get in trouble than not to get it done at all,” Bailey says of Hare. “He said our biggest success would be to make it happen and show other parents and other groups what could be done.”

Among his contributors was former NFL and Aptos quarterback Trent Dilfer, who donated $600,000 for the football field named for his son, Trevin, who died in 2003 at age 5 of heart disease.

The high school’s administrators say his efforts are greater than he knows. Coaches from around the country try to work at the school because conditions are so good.  Student athletes have their lives changed by the discipline the sports encourage. 

“You cannot overstate the importance of Paul and the Aptos Sports Foundation’s for Aptos HS sports,” says Mark Dorfman, the schools former athletic director for four decades. “For 40 years, they have raised funds for AHS sports and spearheaded large and important projects that would never have happened without their efforts. Our sports programs would not have been as successful as they have been over the years without their help (and let’s face it, all the members work hard and contribute, but Paul is the beating heart and the inspiration behind the Foundation).”

Bailey, whose real estate firm is one of the county’s largest, was raised in Watsonville where his father sold Fords. They started a real estate business together out of their Aptos living room when they moved there. They rented their first office in 1977.  Today, they have 22 executives and 125 agents.

Bailey won’t retire from his Aptos duties.

“My job has gone from being the chief cook and bottle washer to being the one who sells the vision. There is a path. I need to leave a footprint.”

The Aptos Sports Foundation is hosting a 50th Anniversary Party for Aptos High School Nov. 2 at the Seascape Resort Ballroom. Info at

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