Seven years and thousands of hours came down to this one night in Ripon.
The Ripon High Stadium celebration Thursday was the pinnacle of that effort involving the generosity of the community and hard work of volunteers.
Some who went above and beyond weren’t even from Ripon. Take Myron Costa of Oakdale-based Rockin’ R Grading and Excavation. He brought along the heavy equipment to demolish and grade the sports facility two years ago, and came back recently to remove 1,200 cubic yards of dirt from the track.
Spearheading the way was Stephanie and Vince Hobbs, who, along with the help of others, put together a grassroots effort to build the recently completed all-weather track while renovating the playing field and other parts of Stouffer Field.
“It’s impossible to think that we did it during a tough economic time,” said Stephanie Hobbs, president of the Ripon Community Athletic Foundation.
This non-profit organization took on the task of installing $1.3 million in donated infrastructure.
Vince Hobbs served as the foreman of the project. He spent a bulk of the summer “in the trenches” getting the track ready for this day and thanked those who supported the cause including RHS students.
His wife, Stephanie, remembered the moment in which she was inspired to improve the conditions of the RHS facility. In February 2007, she attended a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps event.
“I was standing in a sand box,” said Hobbs. “I was shocked at the condition of the track.”
Those in attendance for the stadium celebration were a representation of every group in Ripon, according to Stephanie Hobbs.
Also included were special guests such as representatives from the offices of state Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) and U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock); Ripon Mayor Chuck Winn, Vice Mayor Elden ‘Red’ Nutt, and council members Leo Zuber, Dean Uecker and Jake Parks; Ripon Unified Superintendent Bill Draa, school board President Donna Parks, and board members Kit Oase and Mike Fisher; Ripon Police Chief Ed Ormonde; and Ripon Consolidated Fire District Chief Dennis Bitters, to name a few.
Merv Stouffer, son of Weslie Stouffer, for whom the stadium is named after, was also on hand. He recalled at age 3 attending the first-ever game played here when the field was dirt rather than sod.
“It was unbelievable,” Stouffer said. “You couldn’t see (the game) because of the dust – it would clear only when someone (injured) was being carried off the field.”
That was in the early 1930s when Wes Stouffer was the principal of the school. According to Merv Stouffer, his father was a 5-foot-6, 130-pound running back at the then College of the Pacific in Stockton, playing football for the legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg.
Stouffer became a place kicker. He had a chance to be the hero against San Jose State as his extra point kick appeared to be the difference in the game. Only problem was the Spartans scored a last-minute touchdown, recalled Merv Stouffer.
Ripon Community Athletic Foundation past and present board members along with the Brocchini family and PG&E were also recognized.
The ribbon-cutting made it official that the track now belonged to the community. Members of the Ripon youth football Chiefs coupled with Ripon High football players and the various cheer squads celebrated by running on to the track and the football field.
Vince Hobbs provided a few of the house rules of the renovated facility: No food or drinks (sugars and acids here can be damaging to the track); no cleats; no dogs (service dogs only); and no golfing.
“There’s still more work to be done,” he said.
New bleachers, for starters, come with an estimated price tag at $1.1 million. RUSD has earmarked some money for the restrooms and a new snack bar is also part of the master plan.
A temporary wall and banner space has the names of those who have donated or helped out in the efforts, and will soon make way for a permanent wall in its place.