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Crater facilities get a makeover

A little good fortune and a lot of sweat equity has things looking up at Crater High these days.

Thanks to a $70,000 donation by Henry Dewey Wilson III, the generosity of the West Foundation, school district funds, a host of in-kind donations — including the work of Crater student-athletes themselves — numerous upgrades have been made to the high school and its nearby facilities.

As part of the Crater Athletic Facility Makeover project started last year and spearheaded by Crater athletic director David Heard and John Anhorn, the number of improvements that have taken place and will continue through the fall are staggering. Heard said the projects likely approach the $150,000 mark.

“It’s taken a while to happen for me since it’s been two years since we started working on this,” said Heard, “but everybody around here is excited. It’s pretty cool what we’ve been able to do and it looks really nice out there. It’s changing things around here and the kids are excited about it.”

At Dutch Meyer Field, river rock and new landscaping were added to surround the stadium and new walkways were made for the bottom of the stadium seating to change the flow for spectators so they can get in and out from either the top or bottom now.

A patio was built between the gymnasium and the stadium to provide a spot for people to eat before and during games, and a new roof was added to the stadium along with fresh paint to the inside of the stadium.

A new infield was also put in on the varsity baseball field at Anhorn Field.

As if that weren’t enough, a new floor for the gymnasium was installed (largely funded by a grant from the West Foundation), new lights were installed in both gyms and the hallway and flooring connecting the upstairs and downstairs gyms were redone.

Projects to be completed in the coming months include a repainting of the main gymnasium and redoing its lobby, with the flooring already replaced and fresh paint and a new trophy case to be added.

“I wanted to make things look nice for our community,” Heard said of the reason for such an exhaustive makeover. “The big thing is all the things we’re doing will help the whole school. We’ll use these things not only for PE and game times but also graduation and other events we have around the school so it’s for everybody.”

The biggest coup to the renovations was the donation by Wilson, which Heard said is the largest donation by a single donor the school has received. Wilson, who owns International Commodity Carriers Incorporated (I.C.C.I.) in Medford, has had no prior affiliation with the school. He made the donation as part of his purchase for a pair of commercial lots on upper McAndrews Road in Medford, which were made available to the high school by AmericanWest Bank.

“He truly wants to benefit the kids in the community and we couldn’t be more thankful,” said Heard. “He’s benefitting out of it but his real thing is trying to help out the community.”

Wilson was recognized for his contribution during halftime of last Friday’s football game between Crater and Eureka, Calif., and received a standing ovation from the crowd as well as a rousing “Thank You,” chant by the student section.

“I think the student body and the community really appreciates that kid of a gesture, obviously,” said Heard, “and appreciates all we’ve done.”

Heard said the ball really began rolling when the decision was made to get a new court for the gymnasium and he was meeting about the particulars with Anhorn, former chairman of PremierWest Bank, which was acquired in 2012 by AmericanWest Bank. A PremierWest Bank logo was on the previous court. The discussion turned to whether the new bank would care to get involved, and that’s when Michael Koch, regional president of AmericanWest, pitched in.

“Mike just said, ‘You can’t do all this with car washes and golf tournaments,’” said Heard, “and he was right. It’s just too much work and really no way you’re going to get enough money to do all that we wanted to do in the time frame we’re talking about.”

That’s when Koch spearheaded the donation of a pair of commercial lots to the high school, which Heard said has been done in North Bend and other states.

“It’s kind of a cool concept,” he said, “but when you’re talking about commercial lots, there’s a reason why you can’t get rid of them or they’re in foreclosure. If they can’t get rid of them, you wonder how in the heck you’re going to get rid of them. But Henry took an interest in the lots and as soon as he found out the school would get the benefit from him getting the lots, it makes the idea a lot more enticing and he stepped right up.”

While the cash part of the donation process was huge, it was also supported by a healthy amount of in-kind services or reduced costs for the school during all of its projects.

The most inspirational part of the story comes from the Crater student-athletes themselves, who pitched in a couple Sundays to provide the labor for stacking the river rocks, among other duties. Heard said about 180 kids overall came out to help, as did a handful of parents and alumni. Heard sent out a notice to coaches that they would be having a “rock stacking party,” but it was not mandatory for anyone to come.

“I think our turnout was pretty good,” he said, “and I think what it does when you have the kids do the work is it gives them a little ownership of their facilities and makes the kids appreciate it more so maybe they might do a better job of policing it and holding people accountable.”

“It wasn’t easy work for them,” added Heard. “It was pretty hot out and stacking rocks is no fun, but the only way we could get it up there was to stack the rocks by hand. There’s no way we could’ve done that without having the kids come out and their manpower.”

Heard said he has more ideas for making improvements at the high school, including revamped locker rooms, but the athletic department’s funds have all been used up at this point.

“All that will have to be another day,” he said, “and I’ve got to catch my breath from these projects anyway.”

“I don’t know how or why these things happen and come together like it has,” added Heard, “but I’m just going to continue to work hard at it and continue to try and make things better for our kids.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry