by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG- After six years and $2.5 million, the Walsenburg Sports Complex was officially given a proper opening when the RE-1 school district hosted an appreciation dinner for those who made the Field of Dreams a reality.
The event occurred prior to the John Mall-Custer County football game. (See related article). On hand were most of the current and former board members including former superintendents Glenn Davis and Mike Doyle. The complex is the result of many hundreds of thousands of hours devoted to its design, construction and completion. It is one of the best in southern Colorado.
Gaye Davis, who was the principal grant writer and foreperson on the project from its infancy, emceed the event. She first introduced current superintendent Dawn Olson who welcomed the guests to John Mall high School. She commented, “The building of this complex says so much about the dedication of the community. All I can say is ‘Wow’!”
The former school board was also recognized for the vision of Glenn Davis, then superintendsent, who wanted to put a regulation track around the existing football field. Davis said that the administration had been trying to solve that problem for forty years. The only solution would have been tearing down the abandoned middle school (former high school) and constructing the complex on that site.
The library now occupies that site, and the board purchased enough land west of the high school in 2005 to construct the complex. Since then, Gaye Davis began to apply for grants, and local assistance began to shape the site with the help of the City of Walsenburg, San Isabel Electric and Walsenburg Sand and Gravel. Atencio Engineering designed the project, and the field began to take shape.
Grants were obtained to keep the project going. The Department of Local Affairs was a two-time grantor. In describing the application process, Davis explained that DOLA Administrator Lee Merkle encouraged the board to choose someone from the community who would be directly impacted by the project. The board chose Hallie Homerding, a student who articulated why Walsenburg should receive the grant. In the end, John Mall won out over the City of Lamar which wanted to construct a baseball field.
Davis also said, “from the very beginning, all donors knew how important this project was to this community.” At times she had to tell contractors the money was there, but they would have to wait to be paid.
One example of dedication came from the turf contractors. Pro Turf Solutions installed the Astroturf and then donated the cost of the Panther Logo that dominates mid field. The original grant to supply the turf did not include the logo. Davis also pointed out that grant dollars came from the Colorado Lottery through Great Colorado Outdoors, which helped with the track and lighting and are two-time benefactors. Huerfano County Parks and Recreation District also donated time and money.
Most recently, the home-side bleachers were constructed and put in place thanks to the National Football League, the Denver Broncos and the USDA. CBS Construction worked up to the last minute to set the bleachers for the game.
Davis concluded by saying the complex is almost 98 percent complete. All that remains is the completion of the locker rooms and that needs another $90,000 dollars. Those funds are being sought from private donations. The last part is the landscaping. A matching grant is being sought to complete that. A local donor has agreed to provide twenty mature trees as a part of the match. Then, the field portion of the track remains. The discus, shot put and high jump pit need to be constructed.
The following are among the donors and contractors most responsible for the completion of the complex: La Plaza for providing the meal, the Gates Family foundation, DOLA, USDA, Great Outdoors Colorado, Huerfano Parks and Recreation, the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Foundation, El Pomar, the Denver Broncos, Colorado Department of Transportation, the city of Walsenburg, Huerfano County Commissioners, Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center, San Isabel Electric, Walsenburg Sand and Gravel, Heath Andreata Excavating, Acorn Construction, Morton Electric, Pro Turf, Musco Lighting, Hellas Construction and CBS Construction.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward