Ft. Bragg comes together to build new football field

October 17, 2011 8:53:01 PM PDT
Two months ago, 69 year old Jere Melo was shot and killed outside the town of Fort Bragg, where he was a city councilman. Melo had been involved in many community projects, including getting a new football stadium built at the local high school.

In 1991, the city decided to turn its dilapidated Green Memorial Field, scene of so much glory, into a swimming pool, meaning the end of football. For a high school with a century of gridiron tradition, that was unthinkable.

"The true way to measure a community's wealth is to see how they treat their young people, so we thought we would give them the best park we could," former player Joe Sutphin said.

But where would the money come from? In Fort Bragg, times were already tough. The Georgia Pacific Lumber Mill, where one of every four people in town worked, was closing. The commercial fishing industry didn't fare much better.

And yet they set out to build a new stadium.

If you were to pencil out the cost of building this stadium from scratch, it would come to roughly $15 million. In reality, they did it for $1.3 million.

How?

Begin with the public address system. They picked it up, used, from a minor league team. They bought the lights poles from the Port of Oakland, at less than one-tenth of the cost. And the seats? Well, the Anaheim Angels wanted $47 apiece, but when they heard what they were for, the team sold them for $10 each, even payng the sales tax.

Labor came from sweat equity: truckers delivered free loads, volunteers gave up weekends. In a time and place with no tax money to spare, Fort Bragg found a way.

From concept to kick-off, Timberwolf Stadium took eight years, and remains a work in progress, a case of a community coming to its own rescue.

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