BY MARIO CONDE
A new school year started this week, and soon Calexico High School athletes will enjoy the recently improved Ward Field.
Generations of Calexico High School graduates attended games and graduations at Willis Ward Field in Calexico. Ward Field was inaugurated in 1957 and is named after Willis Ward, a Calexico High School football player who died at one of the games. According to a Calexico Chronicle article dated November 17, 1960, “The Willis Ward Field” was the winner of the football field naming contest sponsored by the Calexico Chamber of Commerce. The name was officially adopted during the halftime ceremony at the Calexico-Brawley game and proclaimed by the school board president Allen Yourman,”
The article continued, “The name was adopted in honor of the CHS player who was killed on the old football field located at 9th Grade Academy on November 3, 1933. Ward, 18 years old at the time, was at the bottom of a pile-up of players. He was dazed when he arouse, but left the field under his own power. He collapsed soon after and died within less than an hour at the city hospital.”
For the last several months, there has been work to renovate the Willis Ward Field at Calexico High School and have it ready for the start of the football season. The renovated field includes, new bleachers, a weather track, a new modular restroom and a concession stand.
Superintendent Maria Ambriz said the district always wanted to update the facility and said the district has been fortunate to secure one-time unrestricted funds that were invested in facilities as per the direction of the Calexico School Board.
“State funding doesn’t always guarantee us facilities funding and so, therefore, this is where the board decided to make an investment,” Superintendent Ambriz said.
Ward Field will have two new sets of bleachers that will hold approximately 3,000 people. Ambriz said that the old bleachers were deteriorating and becoming costly to repair, so they decided to get new bleachers that cost over a million dollars.
The field was recently laser leveled with the assistance of the Abatti family. The all weather track was built and funding to complete it came from the Measure J bond that allocated $630,000, and the rest of the money came from the unrestricted funds. The weather track will be dedicated to Jesus Rojas and Cal Armstrong who were coaches for cross country and track and field.
For School Board President Lorenzo Calderon, Calexico High School Class of 1980, this was long overdue. He thanked past and present boards and the administration for sharing the same vision of investing in school facilities that will benefit students in the years to come.
“Athletics help students achieve higher goals in life. We believe that by getting our kids engaged in sports we open more opportunities for them to be able to be successful in the future,” board president Calderon stated.
Other facilities improvement at Ward Field that is in the works is putting lights at the baseball field in order to have games in the evening.
Ward Field work is expected to be completed by the end of the month so it can be ready for September 1st when the Calexico High School Football team receives the Yuma Criminals in their first home game of the season