Douglas Etten
detten@tahoedailytribune.com

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July 8, 2011
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Friday Night Lights continues drive for campus improvements

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - The poetic ring resonates the senses.

The personal sense of belonging offers sincerity on more than just one level, and when the Friday Night Lights project first began, athletic director at South Tahoe High School, Don Borges, was admittedly caught up in what his father's dream could eventually bring to the ST Unified School District.

Years later now, after watching the official ground breaking for the project last Tuesday, Borges knows for certain that what might have began as a discussion between him and his late father, has become a full-fleged community push to bring athletics as a whole back to the campus at South Tahoe High School.

"People want to make this out to be just a football project, but it's so much more than just that," Borges said this week. "It started as an idea my father gave me in his last years. Kevin (Hennessee) and I tried a couple of Friday Night Lights games and it snowballed since then."

$1.1 million later, the Friday Night Lights campaign is in good hands. Announcement last Tuesday that both Heavenly Resorts and STAR will match up to $20,000 of community donations brings a spurt of energy to the campus project that hopes to add enough money to the pot and support the installation of bleachers and a concession area as well.

"We have what we need for the field and lights," Borges said. "But if we can raise more we'll install the bleachers and concession area right along with it."

Plans are that when school gets back in session for the 2011-'12 campaign, the South Tahoe Vikings will be hosting their home soccer and football games at the newly renovated stadium.

Heavenly and STAR each intend to contribute $10,000 to the stadium construction and are challenging other community members to get their donations in by Aug. 15 to contribute to the donation match.

"These generous donations are an example of how local organizations are making a difference in the revitalization of community facilities and spirit," superintendent Jim Tarwater, said.

At the official ground-breaking ceremony, football players, cheerleaders, coaches, faculty, administrators and board members applauded the initiative of both organizations and other community members.

"We want to see our students thrive in Lake Tahoe and know how excited the community is to help renovate the stadium at South Tahoe High School," Pete Sonntag, vice president and general manager of Heavenly Mountain Resort, said. "In an effort to challenge the community and contribute to the fundraising goal, we are partnering with the South Tahoe Alliance of Resorts to match all cash community donations up to $20,000. We want this matching gift to be a strong gesture of support from us to every student, athlete, cheerleader, parent, and community supporter in Lake Tahoe."

Last year, the South Lake Tahoe community overwhelmingly embraced the "Friday Night Lights" concept when almost a thousand spectators turned out for two football games that were played under rented portable lights. Using $1.1 million in developer fees that are specifically set aside for school construction, LTUSD is now renovating the almost half-century old stadium with an artificial turf field, permanent stadium lighting, a concession stand and restrooms. LTUSD is actively seeking grants and donations to help cover the approximately $340,000 cost for the permanent lighting and artificial turf through its Friday Night Lights drive.

"It was a dream of my father and we'd like to see it started and see it completed," Borges said. "It's not just a personal thing, but for the community and the people that are going to be here in the future."

The foundation is attempting to raise another $500,000 to finish renovations on campus at the stadium. Boges said that the are close to $100,000 right now, and hopes that the community match from Heavenly and STAR can help them reach their goal.

"We are still looking for brick donations, or people who want to donate something," Borges said. "If they want to go higher we can do other programs. We've talked about a number of ideas. We have enough right now for the lights and field, but we're shooting for getting the bleachers and concession stand done in one swipe."

For more information on how to donate, contact Angie Keil, public information officer at LTUSD (530) 541-2850 Ext. 225 or visit www.ltusd.org.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jul 8, 2011 12:06PM Published Jul 8, 2011 11:49AM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.