CHS sports complex: Full steam ahead

The field at CHS needs repairing, according to school officials, coaches and parents.

It’s been three months since the Gilroy Unified School District gave the go-ahead for work to begin on Phase I of the highly anticipated Don Christopher Sports Complex at Christopher High School on the city’s northwest side.

Next week, spurred on by an extra $280,000 donation from the Christopher family, a “Top 100 Legacy Club” campaign will be launched to find donors who can help match the generosity of garlic entrepreneurs  Don and Karen Christopher.

A $2 million donation from the philanthropist couple in 2012 set the stage for the construction of a synthetic football field and all-weather track to replace what CHS currently has: more or less a “pasture of dirt and natural grass in terrible shape.”

“What we have now is a hard-packed surface with minimal tufts of grass that grow sporadically in clumps,” CHS Athletic Director Darren Yafai previously described.

Some sports injuries at CHS have been “pretty catastrophic” due to poor surface conditions and a lack of turf congruency, said Athletic Trainer Stacey Walker in November 2012. The result is a booby trapped 4-acre sprawl teeming with divots, holes and a “hilly” surface on the corner of Santa Teresa Boulevard and Day Road.

Don, acting on the fact that he simply wants “the kids to have a safe place to play,” is continuing to help make the CHS sports complex vision become a reality.

“We’ve completed the design process,” said an enthusiastic Larry Sanford, spokesman for the six-man Sports Complex Committee.

On April 24, the Committee, along with representatives from GUSD, CHS, San Jose-based Artik Architecture and the Christophers reviewed the project. Sanford received a call from Don a few hours later.

“Don thought he could get more for $2 million,” said Sanford. “He said too much discussion revolved around wants vs. needs.”

Five days later, Don donated another $200,000 to avoid spreading the $2 million too thinly across the first phase of the project and compromising quality. Christopher Ranch also stepped up as the corporate sponsor of a new football scoreboard, to the tune of $80,000.

Sanford is stunned by the Christophers’ continued generosity.

“Our community is blessed,” he added.

Now, Sanford says, the community must join in the push to create Don’s vision. The Sports Complex Committee will mail out letters next week inviting people to join the “Top 100 Legacy Club.”

Supporters will be asked to donate $2,000 and in return receive an engraved seat in an exclusive section of the home stands and lifetime entrance to all home events. Sanford says the Sports Complex Committee is determined to have Phase I of the project finished by Don’s birthday on August 4, 2014, and the “Top 100 Legacy Club” is an integral part of that.

Phase I of the project includes the design and construction of a new track, football field, lights, temporary home/visitor bleachers and a scoreboard.

Mayor Don Gage thinks the “Top 100 Legacy Club” is a great idea.

“There’s a lot of wealth in Gilroy. They’ll get the money,” he said

Echoing Sanford, Gage agreed that the city is extremely fortunate to have philanthropists like Don Christopher.

“He wants action and inspires others,” Gage remarked.

Sanford hopes CHS parents and supporters can “show how much we appreciate the Christopher family’s contributions. The entire community will benefit from this state-of-the-art venue.”