$1 million donation offered to Douglas High

Big George Ventures, a northern Douglas County developer, has offered to donate $1 million to Douglas High School toward the completion of an all-weather track and other improvements to Keith "Duke" Roman Field.

In return, the company has asked that the football field, track and the surrounding area at the school be named the "Big George Complex."

The Douglas County School District will conduct a special meeting Thursday at the high school media center at 4:30 p.m. to decide whether to accept the donation.

"Incredible is the right way to put it," Douglas cross country coach Keith Cole said Thursday. "It was a good thing I was sitting down when they told me about this. It was just hard to fathom, absolutely unbelievable. It is a tremendous donation."

Cole, who has been raising money for the track project for the better part of the last six years, said he got a call from Big George project manager Robbe Lehmann just before the school's Christmas break.

"He said they were interested in making a sizable donation and we decided to work out the nuts and bolts after the break," Cole said. "When we finally sat down as a group to talk about it, they said they'd like to give us $1 million.

"I nearly fell out of my chair. I still can't even believe it."

Douglas had raised about $110,000 for the track in the last six years and in the spring of 2004, the school board committed an additional $200,000 to the project. Last August, the board committed the funds to pay whatever part of the remaining cost the school couldn't raise.

This donation, in essence, would erase that need.

Big George purchased 100 acres of land in the north Valley area at a Bureau of Land Management auction last October. It plans on building 300-350 eco-friendly homes there, according to Lehmann. The company's owner, Raymond Sidney, of Stateline, was an early software engineer at Google. After leaving the world of high-tech employment, he retired and moved to his current home.

Lehmann said he and Sidney were looking for a way to contribute to the community.

"Raymond and I were both interested in running, we both ran track in high school," Lehmann said. "We were aware that the track down at the high school was just dirt and we knew they were trying to raise funds for that.

"We are still kind of starting out and we wanted to do something to invest in the community and show we are committed to making this a better place to live. As a company we are going to build quality products. This sports complex will also be a quality product."

Cole said plans for the facility would possibly include a field house, a refurbished press box, new track equipment, and necessities for other sports at the school. The primary concern, however, is a number of on-field improvements, such as a new sprinkler system, drainage improvements and new grass.

"The list of possibilities is endless," Cole said. "What they have done for us is basically give us the opportunity to have the premier sports facility in Northern Nevada.

"It's not just the kids who will benefit from this, but the entire community."

Upon hearing the news of the donation, Douglas varsity football coach Mike Rippee was almost speechless.

"The fact that we have the opportunity to build a facility like this ... it's hard to put into words," he said. "We could be the showcase of Northern Nevada for games and events, if not the entire state."

Cole said the effects of the donation would be felt by many generations of Douglas students to come.

"We are so incredibly thankful to Mr. Sidney and Robbe Lehmann," he said. "Words don't even begin to express what they have done for us."

n Joey Crandall can be reached at jcrandall@recordcourier.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.


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