TURLOCK -- The backhoe moved in around 3:30 p.m. Monday, ripping out the Cyclone fence that marked the northern edge of the Cal State Stanislaus soccer field.
So right now -- in real and figurative terms -- the facility and, in turn, the programs that use it have no boundaries, because no longer will the Warriors' soccer and track success be limited by the space they call home.
By this time next year, the uneven grassy surface that served Warrior soccer and the weathered 400-meter track will have been replaced as part of the school's $16.2 million recreation and sports complex.
Monday marked the groundbreaking for the project, a 2,300-seat stadium for soccer and track and an 18,844-square-foot student fitness center, including a weight facility, aerobics room and multi-purpose court.
It's a complex of the students, by the students and for the students, who voted in 2006 to assess themselves (and for some, their parents) $140 in additional fees each semester to underwrite the project.
"This is a derelict space," university president Ham Shirvani said. "It's not quality, and our students deserve much better than this. When I came two years ago, our weight and Nautilus facilities were 20 years old. There are no fitness facilities here that aren't half-baked."
Strong words from the person ultimately responsible for the well-being of the campus community. But for the most part, Shirvani's hands were tied. He was able to find $100,000 for a weight-room upgrade upon his arrival, but the state chancellor's office says construction like this Stanislaus project can't be financed from general funds.
That's where the students stepped forward. Not quite a year ago, Shirvani challenged the students to consider a referendum that would finance the upgrades the school so badly needed. It took the student body four months to move from brainstorm to ballot, and Monday's backhoes reflected the outcome.
The construction of a new building on campus always is a strong and exciting indication of growth, and Stanislaus certainly has kept local union contractors in business during the last nine years. If a new building wasn't going up, a new lake was going down.
If it wasn't a new recital hall, it was a staff development center or science building. And in each case, the pounding of each nail made the campus that much stronger.
But this facility is different. While each of the other new projects were built with the students' minds in mind, this one is for the well-being of the student body's bodies.
While the bulk of the money is going toward the student fitness center, the most visible portion of the project will be the outdoor facility, which will look tantalizingly like a small-college football stadium.
But unless you have the deepest pockets in the county, don't look for a Warriors team to take the gridiron anytime soon.
"I'd love to have a football team," Shirvani said. "It would cost us $20 million. As soon as we can get some good donations and build a good endowment for athletic scholarships, then why not football?
"If you know someone in the community who would be able to give us $20 million, I'm sure I could convince the faculty and staff to go along with football."
On the other hand, there is a very good chance football will be played at the new field. Pitman High doesn't have a stadium, nor does Turlock Christian.
"It will have about 2,300 permanent seats, but we'd have the ability to add seats to increase the capacity as needed for other events," athletic director Milt Richards said in response to a question about hosting Pitman football. "Clearly, we'd like to bring those kinds of events. But this is a student-run facility, and they'll be making the ultimate decision as to who uses it."
Some of those uses should be appealing to the public. A lighted stadium gives Stanislaus the chance to host conference track and field and soccer championships, and bid on NCAA Division II championships in the same sports.
In Shirvani's vision, the stadium will act as a community center -- not only for the university but for Turlock and the surrounding towns.
"There will be a sense of pride for the students to play in a state-of-the-art place, and the community can come and enjoy sitting and watching the games," Shirvani said. "It becomes a social gathering place. Sports brings the community into the university and takes the university to the community. Academics do also, but nothing is more powerful in bringing the community to a university than athletics and games."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.