The Pacer Turf Project is raising money to help pay for the $1.7M project.
It’s time for turf.
After years of canceled games, “home” games played on the road, indoor practices and seemingly endless field prep, it’s time for turf on the Lakeridge baseball field.
The Pacer Turf Project broke ground at Lakeridge at the end of October and is expected to be completed by mid- to late-February, but that’s only half the work. Supporters of the Lakeridge baseball program still have to raise $500,000 to pay for the portion of the project not covered by the Lake Oswego School District.
But before we talk money, let’s talk need. Let’s talk about why this project was necessary in the first place.
As it turns out, springtime baseball in Oregon is a fraught pursuit, one often made more difficult by the presence of chilly temperatures and — yep, you guessed it — rain. Lots and lots of rain.
One of the best ways to offset the challenge of Northwest Oregon’s soggy springs is to play baseball on artificial turf rather than natural grass. But until now, Lakeridge was one of just two schools (along with Oregon City) in the Three Rivers League that still played on a natural grass varsity field.
The consequences of playing on grass are obvious — teams with grass baseball fields have more games canceled, more games moved to other sites and more practices canceled or held inside.
Indeed, the Pacers were able to use their varsity field for just 18 days during the three months of the 2022 spring season, with the impact felt most in April when the Pacers had to play six straight TRL games (their full three-game series against both Oregon City and Lake Oswego) on Lake Oswego’s turf field. Often, those field swaps also resulted in canceled junior varsity and freshman games, as well as lost concession sales.
“It’s gonna be extremely beneficial to the high school baseball program, but also to Lakeridge High School as a whole with other sports,” he said. “It also saves a tremendous amount of work that volunteers and parents have done over the past years, and we invest about $30,000 a year in maintaining those fields.”
Beyond that, there’s the negative of not knowing what impact the weather will have on a given day.
“One of the things that is unknown on a daily basis is basically ‘Will we get to play? Will we get to practice?’” Pearson said. “This is going to ensure that our kids (and) other programs can use the field in any kind of weather situation that is tolerable and allow us to continue to build a championship program here at Lakeridge High School.”
The youth programs
While the Lakeridge varsity program will benefit most directly from the addition of the new turf field, it’s not the only team that will profit. Not by a long shot.
The new turf will play a huge role in ensuring that the school’s JV and freshman teams get to play all their scheduled games, but the benefit goes even beyond LHS’ various high school teams.
The turf surface will allow the area’s youth teams to play and practice as regularly as possible, as well as ensuring that Pearson and his coaches can continue to offer the various specialty camps and clinics that have helped build the next generation of varsity players.
“This is going to allow us, from kindergarten all the way up to the eighth grade level … to utilize our facilities on the weekends, during the week and in the evenings,” Pearson said, noting that Lakeridge tee ball and coach-pitch teams will be able to set up four separate fields on the turf for simultaneous use. “Parents will be able to go out there, pop their lawn chairs out and everybody gets together to watch their kids participate in a spring sport. So we’re excited about that.
“We’re also excited about the ability to hold our camps outdoors, camps in the fall, some other things in the summer such as fielding and all kinds of different functions that we can do to improve our program.”
Back in 2019, the Lake Oswego School District allocated $1.2 million to pay for installation of a new artificial turf surface on Abramson Field, the varsity baseball field at Lakeridge. But due to delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the timing of other athletic facility improvement projects, the Pacer Baseball Booster Club needed to raise an additional $500,000 to help complete the project’s total cost of $1.7 million.
“LOSD had earmarked certain funds for athletic facility improvement projects in 2019 and the LHS varsity baseball field was always high on our list of priorities, but we were waiting to see how other projects finished up to ensure available funding,” said Stuart Ketzler, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for Lake Oswego School District. “The pandemic did interrupt timelines for the other projects that were higher on that priority list, but with their completion last year, we determined this summer that — along with a $500,000 contribution from the Pacer Baseball Booster Club — we could now turf the whole LHS varsity baseball field.”
The LOSD school board in October approved the contract for the project with FieldTurfUSA, which is expecting to complete work on Abramson Field in February 2023.
Movers and shakers
In response, supporters of the Lakeridge baseball program came together and launched the Pacer Turf Project. Led by Pearson and the sponsorship committee (known as the Turf Committee) of Kevin King, Allison Gregory, Rick and Amanda Metz, Ted Zahn and Laura Berta, the Pacer Turf Project’s goal is to raise the additional $500,000 needed to pay for the project.
According to the Pacer Turf Project website, the group’s purpose is simple — “Lakeridge is one of only two Three Rivers League schools that do not have a turf field. That will change soon, as construction on the field has begun, with a scheduled completion date of February 2023. However, we still face a funding gap we need to meet by February 2023.”
King and Gregory emphasized the various partnerships that have helped the project come together, crediting the cooperation, support and assistance of Lakeridge High School Principal Desiree Fisher, Lake Oswego School District Executive Director of Secondary Programs Lou Bailey, LHS Athletic Director Mark Horak and the LOSD School Board.
“It takes everybody to get something like this done,” said Gregory, who also serves as Secretary on the Pacer Baseball board.
Donate to the Pacer Turf Project
To support the installation of artificial turf to Lakeridge’s Abramson Field,
After the school district approved a $500,000 loan in late September that allowed work on the field to begin, members of the Pacer Turf Project got to work. Their initial push was called “The Race to 200” — an effort to get 200 parents, program supporters, businesses and alumni to donate $500 each to help repay the first $100,000 of the loan.
After finding success with the Race to 200, the Pacer Turf Project just kept rolling. By late December, the group had raised $67,000 and was aiming to hit its first $100,000 by the end of January or earlier.
“The (school district) agreed that if we raised $100,000 to start the project … then they would split the other ($400,000 over 5 1/2 years),” said King, a 1995 Lakeridge graduate whose son Jonny is a freshman in the Pacer baseball program. “The moral of the story is that they approved … us to start the project with $100,000 down and then take a loan out.”
In addition to their success with the Race to 200, the Turf Committee also got a $10,000 donation from Pacer Youth Baseball, $2,000 from its PAC and the rest from individuals and company matches.
“(The donation from Pacer Youth Baseball) was significant,” said Gregory, whose son Calvin is a sophomore in the Lakeridge baseball program. “And that was from their own fundraising, from their opening day and all the other things they do. And the rest is from individuals and company matches, which have also been significant.”
Now, the Turf Committee is working to raise the final $33,000 of that first $100,000, generating those funds through a variety of sponsorship opportunities and the sale of commemorative bricks that will be installed on site.
“Raising our first 50 grand, that was huge,” Gregory said. “It came in really fast in the beginning and now it’s taking more effort, which is completely predictable, right? We started with the baseball community and now we need to broaden our scope and start looking outside the baseball community to all of Lake Oswego and beyond.”
How to help
Those sponsorship opportunities are advertising spaces on the tops of each dugout, advertising spaces on the snack shack, advertising spaces on the hitting barn and 25 stadium seats.
Each of those sponsorship opportunities will include a commemorative brick with the name of the individual, family name or business name.
Additional funds will come through the sale of individual commemorative bricks for $500 each that will be installed behind the home plate bleachers and eventually stretch all the way to the hitting barn adjacent to left field.
Bricks sold in the future will be installed elsewhere around the varsity baseball field complex. A first annual fundraising gala, “Play it Forward,” is also planned for April 15, 2023, and will include silent and live auctions and opportunities for corporate sponsorship.
King emphasized that operational funds raised to support the Lakeridge baseball program — money that pays for uniforms, equipment and more — are separate from the turf project.
An ongoing project
As big a deal as that — raising the first $100,000 — is, it’s just the start of the work for the Turf Committee. While the school district was able to give Pacer Turf Project favorable terms on its loan, the group will need to continue fundraising over the next 5+ years, with payments of $85,000 due each November through 2027.
“This is designed to get us from $67,000 to $100,000, but it’s also designed for the upcoming years,” King said. “In the upcoming five years, it’s also designed to resell those (advertising/display spaces). … So the three phases are always intact — the community ask, the corporate fundraising and the brick program.”
With the project well underway and projected for a mid-February completion date, Pearson and the members of the Turf Committee know there’s a lot of work left to be done, but a lot to be thankful for, too.
“The three things that are most important to me are being grateful to the school district, the access and what it’s going to do for the program — short term and long term — the access that the youth community will have to field, and more importantly, to thank them for the support they’ve already given to the project.”
For more information on the Pacer Turf Project, or more information on how to donate, contact Lakeridge head baseball coach Ray Pearson at Pacerbaseball1@gmail.com.