San Marcos teaches community in the field

John and Mardi Warkentin cut the ribbon on the new, state-of-the-art field at the renamed Warkentin Stadium at San Marcos High. The Warkentins donated $500,000 to the project. (Randy Weiss photo)

Leave it to a public high school to score such a powerful lesson plan.

And with it begins a new era in Santa Barbara athletics on the South Coast.

Wednesday evening’s official ribbon cutting of San Marcos High School’s buffed new Warkentin Stadium and Sut Puailoa Field is a textbook study on community impact – a final unveiling of The Field of Champions Campaign, a near two-year initiative to replace the school’s aged football/soccer natural grass field with new state-of-the-art synthetic turf.

Ditto for its well-worn track.

“We first had to believe it could happen,” said Tim Vom Steeg, TFOC Co-Chair, SMHS parent and NCAA-champion UCSB’s men’s soccer coach who kicked-off the evening’s all-star line-up of eight presenters.

It was to be the ultimate test.

And they sure passed in grand style.

Said Dave Odell, President of the SB Soccer Club, a SMHS parent and Westmont College Athletic Director, a key ingredient for success was “the special three-way partnership with the school district, SMHS administration and the SB Soccer Club, despite the initial daunting task” of raising funds during especially challenging economic times.

Toss into the mix the school’s Booster Club, dedicated parents, students and community supporters.

The unique partnership underscores the creative measures required to address increased public demand for quality fields for the many local youth, club and scholastic sport teams.

This $1 million-plus fundraising campaign was ‘slow-mo’ at first with donations trickling in.
It culminated with a $500,000 financial boost from ‘angels’ John and Mardi Warkentin whose three kids (Kara, Paul and Mark) were stellar Royal athletes.

In their family’s honor, the former Valley Stadium now bears their name.

For many years to come.

Rich Ridgway, Field of Champions co-chair, donated his time, energy and resources as a contractor to see the project come to fruition.

Also impressive are the many in-kind and volunteer contributions made by generous local contractors and businesses, parents, soccer families and others who stepped up in a big way – those who waived fees or reduced their costs, or who worked countless hours without compensation to complete this collaborative project.

The evening’s final speaker, Rich Ridgway, the other TFOC Co-Chair and a SMHS parent who also voluntarily served gratis as the TFOC general contractor, provided a steady stream of individuals and organizations who gifted their professional services – from reviewing plans and securing permits to scoreboard painting and replacing light bulbs, to re-wiring the entire stadium, to putting up the new goalposts (including one special DPHS Charger dad) and more.

The list was more like a ‘Who’s Who’ of local rock stars who help make our community such a special place to live.

The details all could have added several hundred thousand dollars to the cost of the project and delayed its scheduled completion.

But that wasn’t meant to be.

The good news is that it’s time to play football here with the Royals home opener vs. Hueneme on Friday evening.

And about the Royals’ new digs …

Will Lorenzen, San Marcos ASB President, said the Field of Champions united the community and the school.

“It’s been a total team effort and thank goodness for Rich (Ridgway) who did so many things quietly behind the scenes. It surely wouldn’t have all come together without him,” said the new stadium’s patriarch, John Warkentin.

“It’s amazing what our community and our parents can do when pulling together,” chimed Christy Lozano, now in her fifth season as SM women’s soccer coach. “We’ve already practiced on the new turf and it’s going to change our game by allowing our athletes to best showcase their skills while reducing the risk of injury.”

“It really has united our community and our school,” added Will Lorenzen, San Marcos ASB President.

“We’re all really stoked,” offered Athletic Director Abe Jahadhamy. “Our kids and our community are really fortunate to have such an incredible facility!”

And, it was only fitting that, immediately after the ribbon cutting and after a few quick photo ops, that it was time for soccer practice for two local club teams …

The future … and The Field of Champions is here.


The Warkentin children returned to their alma mater to celebrate with their parents.

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