La Center rallies to build home-field advantage

High school facility will be built through grass-roots support

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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LA CENTER — It's akin to an old-fashioned barn-raising, said Dave Holmes, La Center School District's assistant superintendent.

Community partners are converging to make a long-planned project a reality at La Center High School. In the works for nearly a decade, the project would drastically improve the high school's sports fields with new lights, bleachers, goal posts and a scoreboard. The outdated cinder track would also be renovated.

First up: New lights will be added to the field this year, allowing the La Center football team to play its first home game since 1992, when the high school was built.

Holmes said tapping into community resources was the only way to move the project forward.

Fixing La Center's sports fields has been a project in discussion since 2005. And, since then, levy requests to pay for it have fallen short with voters. Just last year, a levy that would have paid for the project failed. That's when the district and community members went back to the drawing board to gin up support — and money.

In-kind participation

Contractors, students and Clark Public Utilities are providing in-kind donations for the project, drastically reducing its price tag. A fence has already been placed around the field, a first, if small, step for the project.

"This is much more of a grass-roots effort," Holmes said. "The next step is going to be a conversation about redoing the actual field."

The district's school board has already approved roughly $82,000 for lighting at the football field. The La Center Education Foundation has raised another $200,000, said Josh Soske, the project manager.

But some compromises will be made, Soske said. For one, the grass field will not be turned over to turf anytime soon because of costs associated with the work.

Plans do call for the field, which is slightly curved, to be flattened so it can also be used as a soccer pitch.

The timeline for the project says work will be done by 2015, Soske said. And, while it was originally budgeted to cost around $3 million, he said it will like come in at half that, with some of the expense borne by the school district.

If the sports fields develop as planned, the community will be repaid, Soske said.

"We expect to have outdoor events like concerts," he said. "We expect it to be a real asset for the community."

People interested in making monetary or in-kind donations can email lacentereducationfoundation@gmail.com.