Parents and students gathered at the Bear Valley Unified School District office Sept. 4 to encourage the school board to move forward with a proposed sports complex for the high school. In the end, the proposal remains on the district’s facilities master plan, as the district explores potential funding for a future project.
Alli Grabe, Big Bear High School senior and ASB president, said students are concerned about the use of Minder Field for upcoming homecoming activities. “If we already had this facility, we wouldn’t be stressed,” Grabe said.
Grabe was assured by the district that new home stands with an ADA ramp are being installed prior to the homecoming game and will not affect the homecoming activities.
Cory Merrill, assistant wrestling coach at the high school, asked the board to consider adding a space or room at the sports complex for wrestling practices. “Right now we are in the cafeteria,” Merrill said. “We have 35 kids wrestling at the middle school and about the same number expected at the high school. All we need is a room where people aren’t eating.”
Wade Reeser, CEO of Big Bear Mountain Resort and a graduate of Big Bear High School, talked about his father being on the Big Bear team that played the first game at Minder Field. “That was in 1969,” Reeser said. “On the one hand, you have to be proud, or maybe it’s that hasn’t changed much.”
Reeser encouraged the district to find a way to make the sports complex a reality. He has traveled around to other schools as his son plays baseball for Big Bear High School, and sees what other small schools have. “It can be a bit discouraging,” he said about comparing Big Bear’s facilities to fields at other schools. “The competition is pretty stiff to get kids out there, with video games and everything,” Reeser said. “We haven’t built much in regards to athletics in this community. When kids see there is a little commitment to it from you, it makes it easy for them to make that commitment.”
Reeser said athletics is part of the education process. “Sports produces a bunch of quality people,” Reeser said. “They’ve learned discipline and how to take coaching and correction.” He said Big Bear Mountain Resort has invested in the children of the community by offering discounted lessons and rentals, as well as programs through the school district. “I think it’s smart for this group to invest (in children), too.”
Jennifer Forrest, whose son Anthony qualified in hurdles at CIF for Big Bear High School, talked about the lack of a track facility in Big Bear. “He’s never been able to set up a full set of hurdles,” she said. “If it rains they have to pump the water off the dirt, or they move to asphalt (for practice). We have 70 kids on the middle school cross-country team. To have this facility brings business to this town. I really hope this gets approved. It’s well overdue.”
Estimated cost of the project is $5 million, money board members say the district does not have. The proposed complex would include a football-soccer stadium with bleachers seating 500 people on home and visitor sides, lights, turf and a track. Lights are also in the proposal for the new varsity baseball field.
Funding is the issue, said board member Paul Zamoyta. The district has obligations to make sure there are enough funds for basic operations districtwide. There is also the issue of declining enrollment, which affects funding from the state.
“My gut feeling is it’s going to take help from the county to make this happen. We can contribute, but I don’t see how we can do it alone,” Zamoyta said. He also said grant funding, donations and perhaps the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District could potentially be partners in the project.
Board vice president Cathy Herrick explained that the district’s master facility plan is a living document. “(The sports complex proposal) remains in the document,” she said.