Nov. 10, 2004 - When Canyon del Oro's football team takes the field next season for its home opener, the Dorados will be seeing the world in a whole new light.

The Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board has reached an agreement with Pima County for the design and improvement of Canyon del Oro High School's football field, located at 25 W. Calle Concordia.

The county has set aside $250,000 toward replacing the field's antiquated lighting system. The money, minus $7,500 for county administrative costs, will come from a bond approved by voters at the county's May 1997 Special Bond Election.

Initially the funds were to go toward adding lights to the school's softball field and improving the sidewalks around James Kriegh Park, then known as Dennis Weaver Park. According to documents from the Amphi School Board's Oct. 26 meeting, both Oro Valley and Pima County agree the money would best serve as improvements to the football field rather than the softball diamond.

The lighting at CDO has drawn complaints over the years for its "spillage" which seeps into the surrounding neighborhoods. The current lights have been estimated as being anywhere from 10 to 30 years old. Local schools such as Pusch Ridge Christian Academy and Ironwood Ridge High School have converted to a "shielded light" which creates a protection for the evening sky.

"It's worse than daylight," said Doug Aho, Amphi School District's Executive Manager. "We're trying to be dark sky friendly."

CDO officials are aiming to maintain a strong relationship with the community.

"We want to be a good neighbor," said CDO athletic director Ed Moody.

Aho has experience when it comes to providing safe and neighborhood-friendly lighting. The executive manager oversaw the construction of Ironwood Ridge High School five years ago. In 2003, IRHS was the recipient of first prize in the year's International Awards for Quality Lighting Design by the International Dark-Sky Association. In 2001 Painted Sky Elementary School was recognized by the same organization.

As well as reducing light spillage into the neighborhoods, CDO's new lights will reduce already high energy costs. With the $242,500 made available to the high school, adding a lighting system to the softball field proved to be too costly.

Aho estimates a single light tower for the field could run as high as $30,000 and to properly build a functional lighting system between four and six towers are needed. Add in the cost to provide electricity to the field and the cost rises beyond the budgeted amount, said Aho.

The town of Oro Valley waived the funding for the sidewalks at James Kriegh Park. The current sidewalks are not in need of an upgrade, said Aho. Although the poles at CDO's field are in excellent condition, the biggest challenge facing workers will be removing the current ballasts from the light tower. Each ballast weighs an estimated 30 to 45 pounds.

Deciding on a time to raise the new lights on the football field is estimated to begin sometime between the end of the football season and the beginning of the soccer and track and field seasons.

"Right now we're looking at some time in December to get started," said Aho.

CDO's stadium is home to more than just its football team. Aside from football, soccer, and track and field, CDO hosts Tucson Youth Football League games, and other community-based events.

CDO's softball field may not be getting new lights but it will be receiving new backstops and netting around the field, said Moody. Also getting a make-over this winter will be the dugouts on the school's baseball field.

CDO isn't alone when it comes to renovations to its high school in the up-coming months.

Across Oro Valley, Ironwood Ridge is remodeling its gym with a new look. The basketball court will be outlined with a border trim, making the court "basketball-only" for its boys and girls teams. In addition the four-year-old gym is getting a brand new scoreboard.

Outside, IRHS is moving its discus and shot put rings into the stadium in hopes of attracting major region meets and perhaps one day the state finals. Other fields will be equipped with retaining walls and fences to keep out the sand and debris that get on the fields via rain and wind.

Not far from IRHS in Marana, Mountain View High School recently underwent a first-time renovation of its stadium. This summer the school spent more than $10,000 to restore its football field. Bare spots where grass wasn't growing were filled in and the field was leveled out.

"It's the first time its been redone since I've been here," said Mountain View Athletic Director Susan Sloan, "and I've been here since the beginning." Mountain View High School was opened in 1986.

Money to "redo" the field came from the district's maintenance and operations budget, said Sloan, and was long overdue.

"It was becoming a safety factor," she said. "Our kids were getting hurt"

Back across town in Oro Valley, kids aren't getting hurt in Immaculate Heart's new gym. That's due to funding issues with the town, plans to complete the school's gym have been put on hold months after construction had begun this summer. According to Immaculate Heart Athletic Director Mike Grogan, the school has just received its plans and specs from U.S. Steel which will cover the $200,000 cost to construct the new gym. School officials are hopeful the new gym will be big enough to host 1A Region tournaments and functions.

"Hopefully it will be completed by May," said Grogan. Until then Immaculate Heart's boys and girls basketball teams will play its home games at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, 8650 N. Shannon Road.

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