It's a day that Douglas cross country coach Keith Cole always knew would come.
"I always knew we'd get here," Cole said. "It's just a little hard to believe it's happening now."
Cole watched as tractors tore up curbing and work crews methodically cut down the goal posts at Keith Duke Roman Field.
Closing out one of the most eventful days in Douglas High School sports history, the Tiger athletic program broke ground on the more than $2 million renovation of the track and football field in front of a crowd of nearly 100 student athletes and faculty Monday afternoon.
Douglas principal Marty Swisher accepted a $1.6 million check from Ray Sidney, owner of Big George Ventures in a ceremony at the high school's media center and presented an artist's rendering of the project to culminate a whirlwind of activity for the day.
Permits for the all-weather track project and installation of field turf at the high school cleared early Monday morning and crews began work immediately.
Cole thanked Sidney profusely at the beginning of the festivities.
"Henry Adams once said that a teacher affects eternity," Cole said. "You never know where you're influence will stop.
"Mr. Sidney, I want you to know that with your donation, you will affect eternity as well.
"Look out at these faces. Every single time a baton is passed, a touchdown is scored, a field goal is made - your donation will make memories for these kids.
"They'll come back 10, 20, 30 years later and they'll be able to say that it was here on this field, on this track, that I became who I am today."
Sidney stood near midfield after the festivities concluded with his hands at his hips, glancing around at the complex.
"It was nice to see everyone so excited, so happy about this," Sidney said. "We just wanted to do something that would help out the community.
"I'm going to have to come down to see some Tiger games next year. I can't wait to see the finished product."
Carson-based Horizon Construction was contracted to do all the excavation, drainage and prep work for the two new surfaces. The football surface will be provided by Sportexe and will include the 2-1/-inch blades, allowing for more comfort and less injury to the players. The field will have orange end zones with the words "Douglas" and "Tigers" and a tiger head will be painted at midfield. Lines for soccer will also be painted in.
About the only thing remaining from the old field will be the vaunted Rock of India, which has been sitting at the south end of the complex for the better part of the last 15 years. The Douglas football team gathers near the rock at the close of every game.
Atlas Tracks will install the all-weather track. It will have two acceleration lanes for running sprints on both sides of the track.
To complement the new track, $120,000 worth of track equipment will be purchased for the team. The equipment package will include high jump and pole vault pits, 16 starting blocks, 90 hurdles, uniforms for 120 athletes and a $25,000 timing system with two cameras that are wirelessly connected to the starting gun and digital clocks.
The project is slated for completion by August.