Sports Volunteer of the Month: Dedicated parent trio helps Dons rebuild athletic facilities

Jeff King, Kira Fay, and Greg Tebbe stand on the newly renovated floor in JR Richards Gymnasium at Santa Barbara High School.

Jeff King, Kira Fay, and Greg Tebbe stand on the newly renovated floor in JR Richards Gymnasium at Santa Barbara High School.

JR Richards Gymnasium, a nexus of athletic activity at Santa Barbara High School since 1950, has discovered its fountain of youth.?The newly renovated venue will officially unveil its fresh look this Friday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that commemorates the first major upgrades to the high school’s gym since it was built over 60 years ago.

At the center of the project are three parent volunteers – Gregg Tebbe, Kira Fay, and Jeff King -?from the Foundation for Santa Barbara High who spearheaded the effort, dedicating countless hours over two years to see it through.

These three “can-do” community members are Presidio Sports’ latest Sports Volunteers of the Month.

JR Richards had more or less remained the same since it was built in 1950 until this year. The wood floor that legendary athletes like Jamaal Wilkes and Karch Kiraly learned to play on had been sanded and re-polished so many times that nail heads began to stick out. Tiles had fallen from the ceiling without being replaced, most of the windows would not open, and the scoreboard had become unreliable at best.

Now, after two years of work, everything has been replaced and improved.

“It’s very impressive, the construction team did an amazing job, I think it looks beautiful,” said Tebbe, an alum from the Class of 1981 who is now a Dons parent and the coach of the tennis teams.


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Volunteers often go under-recognized even though they are extremely important to the athletic community. So important that many of the sporting events and organizations key to our lives wouldn’t be possible without those who donate their time to assist others.

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JR Richards Gym is used by thousands of students every year. The boys and girls basketball teams, the boys and girls volleyball teams, and the national champion cheer team need the practice space regularly. It is also used for Physical Education classes, school-wide events, and regional tournaments.

“My favorite experience no doubt was walking in the gym the day after the renovation was complete,” King said. “Its transformation has exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

Tebbe, Fay and King all saw the project as vital to keeping Santa Barbara High the school they want it to be. The trio raised $300,000 privately and worked with the school district to secure an additional $900,000.

“I think it’s just a wonderful school,” said Tebbe. “It’s a melting pot there. You get a great social education as well as a classroom education, and I think it’s a beautiful campus.”

The father of three went to Harvard and credits Santa Barbara High for getting him there. His passion is strong for keeping Santa Barbara High as good of a school as it can be.

“I’m a big believer in the public education system.”

Among the private donations was $20,000 from the Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation. The connection with Wilkes and Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table co-founder Bill Bertka helped get the ball rolling.

“That helped get this thing going,” Tebbe said. “People knowing that the Lakers were giving to this project just helped get people to believe that you were going to be successful.”

Other important donations came from scoreboard sponsors Montecito Bank & Trust and the Stoll Law Firm.

“I am so impressed with how so many groups backed this project and raised the necessary funds,” Fay said. “The SBHS parents, SB Business community, SBHS Foundation, Gym Renovation Committee, SB School District, SBHS alumni, contractors and more worked together to make the renovation happen.”

Fay is a parent of two Dons basketball players and King coaches the junior varsity boys team. They hope the new gym will benefit students for years to come.

“I helped with the gym reno for a lot of the same reasons Greg, Kira and everyone involved helped out: 800 kids use the gym everyday, it was broken, and someone needed to fix it,” King explained.

At the beginning of the campaign, Santa Barbara High principal John Becchio said the JR Richards Gym Renovation Project was a plus for all students.

“This project benefits every child at our school as well as our entire community,??Becchio said at the time. ?It?s not just about athletics; It?s about all the kids who pass through here and learn valuable lessons about friendship and teamwork and integrity and commitment.”

The Foundation for Santa Barbara High also has designs to work on Peabody Stadium, one of the oldest high school stadiums in California. The track is unusable and the grass field is restricted to the football and soccer teams because it gets chewed up so easily. A modern synthetic playing surface and a track that met CIF standards would require the restructuring of the stadium, making it a much larger project than JR Richards.

“It’s going to a pretty ambitious one, but it’s needed,” Tebbe said.