Big George ups ante to $1.6 million

The principals at Big George Ventures changed their minds and decided not to give Douglas County $1 million to complete the track at Douglas High School.

They want to donate $1.6 million instead.

"Originally, the whole plan was to put in artificial turf," said Big George project manager Robbe Lehmann. "Big George prides itself in being an environmentally-friendly company and we want to further the goal. We just wanted to help and artificial turf is better than lawn. In keeping with what we want to do, $1 million wasn't enough to finish the project."

Lehmann said it will take $1.6 million to do the job the way they want.

"We want to step up and finish it off," he said.

The Douglas County School Board accepted the $1 million donation from the Minden-based Big George Ventures Feb. 2 for completion of an all-weather track and installation of a synthetic turf football field. In taking the donation, the board also agreed to name the track and field complex after Big George Ventures. The company now wants to remove the obligation of having its name for signage.

"They want to rescind the $1 million but want to give $1.6 million with no strings attached," said school board president Connie Wennhold. "We don't have to name it Big George."

The school board will vote on the change of plans in Tuesday's school board meeting 3:30 p.m. at Kingsbury Middle School. Also on the agenda will be the contract for construction of the track and football field project. The district received three bids with the lowest coming from Horizon Construction Inc. at $974,341.35.

Of the two bids received on the synthetic football surface, Sportexe Construction Services had the preferred 2.5-inch turf. Their bid came in at $429,265.27. The work Sportexe proposes includes synthetic turf with football and soccer striping, tiger head emblem at midfield and orange end zones with black letters.

Big George Ventures owner Raymond Sidney became a millionaire as a software engineer at Google and moved to the area. Both he and Lehmann were involved in track and field in high school and were interested in investing in the community. They learned about Douglas' plans for a new track so approached the high school in December about making a donation.

Construction for the project is expected to begin this month.

"It's awesome - a donation with no obligations," said superintendent John Soderman. "How wonderful for the community. (The company) is a great benefactor for the community."


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