Quite a feet: Bergen Stampede raises funds for field project

-A A +A
By Stephen Knapp

For the hundreds of panting peewees who ran in last Friday’s annual spring Buffalo Stampede at the Bergens, running around in circles presented the shortest route to success.

“It’s a lap-a-thon,” explained Bergen PTA member Stacy Michener. “Each group of kiddos comes out and runs for 20 minutes, and each child runs with their grade and class. They’re raising money for the field.”

Bergen Meadow’s three kindergarten classes were the first out of the gate, noisily filing down to the muddy gravel expanse behind the school about 9 a.m. on May 16. In front of them, bright orange cones marked out a roughly circular track maybe 100 yards around.

“This isn’t a race,” advised Bergen Meadow principal Peggy Miller, resplendent in a furry buffalo-style cap. “You don’t have to run the whole time, and you can walk as much as you want to.”

Already keyed to a fever pitch, the kids looked unconvinced, each of them clearly anticipating a record-breaking 20-minute sprint. At a word from Miller, they surged forward like a sneakered tsunami, little feet kicking up little clods of moist dirt as they ran. As it happens, thanks to the efforts of numerous area residents, businesses and organizations supporting the Bergen Meadow Field Project, next year’s Stampede should be somewhat cleaner and a whole lot greener.

“We can put in the grass with the money we have, so we’re going ahead,” said Pat Shea, athletics supervisor for the Evergreen Park and Recreation District. “Work will probably start in June, and we expect to be finished before school starts in August. Amenities like fencing and backstops are going to cost extra, but we’ve got a lot of different fund-raising efforts going on in the community right now.”

In fact, the community has already chipped in to the tune of about $130,000, starting with a cool $100,000 from EPRD — a sizable bit of chum that attracted $200,000 more from Great Outdoors Colorado.

“GOCO needs to see community commitment before they’ll OK a grant,” explained George Kling, who sits on the Bergen Meadow Field Committee, the group charged with coordinating the several fund-raising efforts. “That initial $100,000 made it happen.”

In addition, the project received $10,000 each from Stingers Soccer and West Jeff Baseball, $5,000 each from Mountain Area Lacrosse and Mountain Area Midgets Football, and a tidy $2,500 from West Jeff Girls Softball. That money — $332,500, altogether — should be ample to coat the coarse dirt field with a forgiving blanket of knee- and elbow-friendly grass.

When completed, the 2.5-acre spread behind Bergen Meadow will feature one full-size baseball field plus another of more compact dimensions, a full-size multi-purpose field, and two midsize fields suitable for football, soccer and lacrosse. If that sounds like a lot to ask of 2 acres and change, it is.

“The way it’s laid out, we can mark off the fields we want to use depending on the season and the sports that need them,” Shea explained. “We have an intergovernmental agreement with the school district that says Bergen Meadow gets exclusive use of the field every school day until one hour after school lets out, and park and rec gets it from 4:30 on, and on non-school days.”

As Shea pointed out, however, the estimated $50,000 necessary to trick out the fields in true sporting style will have to come from the local citizenry. Happily, the nickels and dimes are piling up fast. Catamount Constructors, EMA Partners and five area families have, together, put up a generous $20,000 in matching funds, and other private sponsors are rising to the challenge. Private funds are being channeled through the newly reconstituted Evergreen Recreation and Park Foundation.

After their screaming, shotgun start, it took exactly one lap to persuade about half of Bergen Meadow’s kindergartners that Miller’s remark about walking wasn’t really so lame, after all. After two laps, only a handful of tiny track stars still managed better than a brisk saunter and, by the fourth time around, the event had settled down to a casual, pint-sized promenade. After 20 minutes, the kindergartners retired from the field and were replaced by the first-grade class. When all of Bergen Meadow Elementary’s young fund-raisers had done their breathless best, the PTA volunteers folded up their tents and took their Stampede to Bergen Valley Intermediate.

“We have businesses and private citizens who’ve sponsored single kids, or single classes, and even whole grades,” said Michener. “The community has really been great about supporting this project.”

In past Stampedes, the kids of the Bergens have helped the PTA raise money for things like laptop computers, printers, a kiln and a stone wall. This time around, they were running for a place to sit.

“We’re trying to raise enough money to purchase seating for the field,” explained Michener’s PTA colleague, Sheanna Mulligan. “We decided seating was a good focus for the PTA because it has educational applications, too. We’re hoping for $12,000 to $15,000, which should be enough for bleachers and sideline seating.

“The most we’ve ever raised at a Stampede is $9,000, so we definitely did a general push to get sponsorships before this one. One message we want to convey is that this will truly be a community-wide asset.”

To learn more about the Bergen Meadow field project, visit www.bergenfields.info.