Don Christopher Sports Complex to open Sept. 5

Bleachers and a press box have gone up at the new Don Christopher Sports Complex at Christopher High School in preparation for the season opener September 5.

On Sept. 5, Christopher High School will unveil its largest “classroom” on campus.
The nearly $4 million Don Christopher Sports Complex will officially open Sept. 5 when the Cougars play their first game of the season against Sobrato at 7:30 p.m. The school will celebrate by honoring Christopher Ranch owner and the stadium’s namesake, Don Christopher, and his family with a grand opening ceremony at 7 p.m.
Since 2012, the Christophers contributed more than $3.2 million toward the complex’s construction and the opening is a sort of belated birthday present for the garlic king who turned 80 on Aug. 4.
“It’s even more beautiful than I thought it would be,” Christopher said. “I think it’s absolutely outstanding and I’m so glad that I had something to do with it. There was an awful lot of other people who had a lot to do with it also. What makes me feel the best is that so many people are going to be able to use it, so many kids are going to be able to use that stadium.”
Crews broke ground in January but quickly discovered the soil needed lime treatment, which cost an additional $300,000 and set the project back six weeks. The stadium was set to wrap up in November following the delay, but Gilroy Unified School District Construction Project Manager Jenny Derry said the contractor helped compress the schedule to have it ready for football season.
The bleacher materials, however, arrived a month later than expected and almost delayed the stadium once again. Bleacher installation crews are now putting in double shifts and working weekends to ensure Cougar fans have a place to watch the game. They are compressing six weeks of work into two weeks, adding $5,000 to $7,000 to the stadium’s cost.
But it’s better than the alternative of renting portable bleachers, Derry said, as those would cost an additional $10,000 for the first two games if the bleachers weren’t finished. The press box was installed on Aug. 26 and construction of the bleachers is expected by Sept. 3.
“Everybody worked really hard and we’ve had really great crews out here. They all understood that Sept. 4 was the deadline—the real deadline—and everybody worked toward that,” Derry said. “Everybody was on the same page about trying to get it here. It just took a lot of finagling of the schedule to get it to happen.”
The Don Christopher Sports Complex features one of the largest scoreboards in the area, standing at 18 feet tall and 24 feet wide—with an 18-foot foundation to withstand the wind. It has a 34-foot, 6-inch flag pole, which Derry said was the highest they could install without having to get FAA approval.
The stadium also includes a timing system that will allow it to host larger track meets like the Monterey Bay League or Central Coast Section championships.
Derry said the track will be laid down and completed by the end of September, well before Christopher’s homecoming game on Oct. 10 against Watsonville.
After five years of traveling to Gilroy High to practice, having a track on campus is music to Cougar coach Jeff Myers’ ears. He said the team has been “out of sight, out of mind” by not having a place on campus and now that students will pass by it each day, he’s hoping more will realize there is a track and field team and come out and join it.
“We’re going to be impacted the most—now we finally have a home where we can practice everyday and compete,” Myers said. “It should attract a lot more attention to the program, which is great. I think there’s an event for everybody on campus—everyone can do something. We’re just happy that we finally have a home now.”
But the sports complex isn’t just for the school’s athletes. CHS Athletic Director Courtney Grimm said that beyond all the field sports—football, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse—and track and field, the stadium will also be for P.E. classes, the marching band, cheer and dance teams, and ASB.
“It’s just a giant classroom for everybody to use,” Grimm said. “All around for everybody we’re extremely excited. Especially for athletics, it’ll be nice for these teams to have a place to really call home.”
“It’s just a giant classroom for everybody to use … especially for athletics, it’ll be nice for these teams to have a place to really call home.”
-Courtney Grimm, athletic director at Christopher High School