Hughson sports complex fielding funding

09/16/2013 8:30 PM

09/17/2013 6:09 AM

New fields east of Hughson High School take a pounding with football practice, soccer and softball. But they could be doing far more if money can be found for community fitness courses, walkway benches and portable restrooms.

Just over $2 million in school building funds leveled the 16-acre property, laid out irrigation lines and electrical connections, said Mike Bava, a community member helping spearhead the project. An additional $800,000-plus got the soccer fields up and running. The city pitched in water use.

With the grass established, organizers hope community use of the Hughson Sports & Fitness Complex can get off the ground. That will take a different kind of green.

A fundraising effort will kick off this weekend with a booth at the Harvest Festival, said Hughson High Principal Debra Davis.

The five-phase plan has made it to step three, with underground work and foundational planting complete. A boot-shaped grassy knoll offers elevated viewing for spectators and also a workout for cross-country runners. Now organizers hope to raise money for three fitness-station courses, tree planting and a meandering walkway through the grounds to an arboretum edging East Whitmore Avenue.

Donor-funded tribute benches will line the walk, which starts by the southern boundary of Samaritan Village. “That will give residents a way to take a walk and then rest if they need to,” Davis said. Tribute gardens, a donors wall, a veterans flagpole area and an athletes hall of fame in the stadium are all on the drawing board as ways for folks to pitch in to help the complex.

More softball fields, an all-weather track, a snack shack and portable restrooms round out future phases of the plan. Organizers chose to forgo the $250,000 bill to add flush plumbing. “Portable restrooms are not a big selling point. But it lets our money go further,” Davis said. Last on the list is paving the parking lot, now a hard dirt lot at the project’s north end, she said.

Donors will be able to choose which sport or project they want to support, with the Stanislaus Community Foundation handling the donations.

“They have some great ideas. We’re just excited to help support them. I think it will be a great thing for the entire community of Hughson,” said Marian Kaanon, the foundation’s chief executive officer.

Bava said community members see a parklike setting rise from what he called an eyesore of weeds and rocks. “We’re trying to do this without a bond measure. It’s kind-of a win-win, we think, for the city, for the school and for the taxpaying community,” Bava said.

He said the group hopes to also use in-kind donations of materials and labor. “We’re trying to put it all together and make it work and make it a nice project,” he said.

“You want your community to flourish and do well,” Bava said, adding that high scores at Hughson schools need to be matched by nice surroundings. “It has a very low-key domino effect.”

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