WATSONVILLE—A crew of construction workers began working this week at St. Francis High on what will be an all-new Strawberry Stadium, version 2.0.
The school hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 26 led by principal Pat Lee, and school board members Jeff Kane and Ed Kelly, who were handed a shovel for the turning of the first sod.
Lee said they recognize the value of setting up a new stadium on campus and it will help the students with physical education, strength and conditioning, coaching classes and sports programs.
“We will not have to stop when it rains because our field of clay is unusable and unsafe,” he said.
With the new turf field, the school will be able to host football and soccer games along with the possibility of starting a girls lacrosse team in the near future. A set of new grandstands and a press box are also included in the plans.
Lee called it more than a sports complex and added that the stadium gives them the opportunity to have events and ceremonies such as graduation outdoors. He said this year’s graduating class is big and it would’ve been tough to get everybody inside the gymnasium.
“Yes, we call it a stadium. Yes, we talk about it being an athletic excellence facility, but it is so much more,” he said.
Kelly said he’s hoping it’ll take six months for completion and they want to have the stadium ready to go by the spring season.
Kelly is in charge of the VISION capital campaign to raise the money to help finish paying for the project.
“We’ve had great support so far and obviously we still have a ways to go, but we’re looking forward to that challenge and we’re looking forward to getting it done,” he said.
The Borina Foundation made the initial donation about eight years ago and since then the money has been steadily coming in. The school has raised $1.8 million and is still short of the $2.6 million goal.
Kelly said that a huge majority of the faculty and staff donate a portion of every paycheck to give back to the school.
He said it’s been a long process over eight years to get to this point where they can break ground and start moving along.
Over the past 3 ½ years, St. Francis has steadily grown both its annual fund and VISION campaign giving. The school’s fundraising efforts for 2019-20 yielded $972,386 for academic, athletic and arts programs, as well as for tuition assistance and capital projects.
To date, the VISION campaign has generated cumulative gifts and pledges of $3.5 million.
According to the school’s master plan, a majority of campaign gifts and pledges to date are restricted to the development of the Samuel and Terese Wright Education & Counseling Center.
Much of the remaining dollars are restricted to enhancing and expanding Strawberry Stadium and Borina Field.
Kane said it’s been a journey to get to this point and it’s an exciting time on campus.
“It takes a village and I can’t tell you how many committee meetings, special board meetings, special corporate Diocesan meetings we had to have to pull this off,” he said.
Kane said it took several volunteers who worked tirelessly to make the new stadium a possibility.
He mentioned that they had a finance committee meeting a couple of months ago where they had to present a plan to make it happen. They walked out of the room and two employees—Nick Guerrero and Lina Silva—had the biggest smiles on their faces.
“It was so rewarding for me to see how happy they were that finally we were moving forward and getting something done,” Kane said.
Kane said not only is this stadium for the children, the school and the community, but it’s also for the employees and staff that have been waiting for something like this to happen for years.
The school still needs $800,000 to finish paying for the project, but Kelly said they feel like they’re far enough along and comfortable to jump off the bridge, and take that leap of faith to get started.
“Now is the time to do it,” he said. “It’s going to be a nice step forward for our school and nice for our athletic programs, and all the other events we’ll have out here.”