COLORADO SPRINGS. In the more than 130-year history of St. Mary’s High School, the Grace Center for Athletics and Community Service has only been serving the Pirate family for the last almost 12 years. But during those years, the Grace Center has played a large and important role, not just in the St. Mary’s community, but in the greater Colorado Springs community. Now this vital part of the community is in need of new turf and track at the stadium.
“For the Grace Center to remain the premier Catholic outdoor sports facility in southern Colorado, the artificial turf on the main field and the eight-lane track are both in need of replacement,” said Rob Rysavy, St. Mary’s incoming president. “St. Mary’s has always strived to be a positive presence in the city and state, and one important and visible element of that presence is continuing to make available to the community outstanding athletic and outdoor event facilities.”
The facility is utilized for practices and games by almost all the St. Mary’s outdoor sports teams including baseball, cheerleading, cross country, football, lacrosse, soccer, and track and field. Local organizations are drawn to the Grace Center’s central location near Union and Fillmore and its magnificent views of Pikes Peak, as well as its carefully-maintained facilities, including a natural-grass baseball field, a natural-grass multipurpose field, and a multipurpose artificial turf field stadium and an eight-lane track.
Currently there are also five local soccer clubs and a soccer league that rent the facility year-round. However, since the fall of 2006, the Grace Center has hosted events for a variety of organizations including the Olympic trials for USA Archery in 2012, Special Olympics, the Colorado State Games, U.S. Association of Blind Athletes, the American Cancer Society, and USA Women’s Boxing.
“Although the facility is heavily utilized, it has been lovingly maintained,” Rysavy said. “The life of the main field and track have been extended beyond their originally planned lifespan because of the very careful maintenance directed and overseen by the superb Grace Center staff. The stewardship of the facility and the commitment to its health are reflected in the innumerable student and parent volunteer hours logged there as well as the multiple Eagle Scout projects planned and carried out by Boy Scouts who are also members of the St. Mary’s community.”
During most of St. Mary’s history, having a facility like the Grace Center was just a dream. Instead the school’s teams would go in search of open fields around town and rent them. The dream of an athletic facility started to take shape when LeRoy Landhuis offered to donate land for the project. The land was on Union Boulevard, just a few miles north of the St. Mary’s campus, making it a great location for the complex.
The community service aspect of the new complex was in the forefront of Landhuis’ thoughts from the beginning. It was Landhuis who requested that the complex be made available for use by many schools and nonprofit organizations and that the name include that service component, as well honor his mother, Grace Landhuis.
Jim Cristelli, Grace Center manager, said the Grace Center’s year-round utilization rate of all the facilities averages between six and eight hours per day over five to six days per week. The careful and deliberate renting of the Grace Center facilities generates enough rental income to offset some of the routine maintenance costs. However, replacing the artificial turf and track will require a larger and more aggressive fundraising effort. The cost for those replacements will likely require an investment close to $500,000.
“That is a big expense for St. Mary’s, but it is a small price to pay to ensure the students and community have the same opportunity to learn and grow in a competitive sports environment,” Rysavy said.
More details are forthcoming about this important facility and the efforts to keep it as the premier Catholic outdoor sports facility in southern Colorado. If you would like to participate in helping to keep this great facility as one of the many outstanding features of St. Mary’s High School, please call the school at 719-635-7540 and ask for the President Rob Rysavy or the Associate Director of Development Joe Trechter.
(Amy G. Partain is director of communications for St. Mary’s High School.)