Six and a half years ago, Palisadian Jim Wadsworth said he felt called by God to spearhead a movement to install an athletic playing field at Calvary Christian School. Since then, his faith was tested numerous times, yet he never stopped believing. Last Thursday morning his prayers were answered. Calvary Christian held a dedication ceremony to inaugurate its $2.5 million synthetic turf field (located at 701 Palisades Drive at the foot of the Highlands), which will serve not only the parish school but the entire Palisades community. “I’m so excited to reach this milestone,” Wadsworth, who owns a real estate development and asset management firm in Santa Monica, said in a speech before the school’s students and faculty. “This has been a collective effort of so many people and we wouldn’t be here today without their contributions.” After opening remarks by Head of School Teresa Roberson, Wadsworth thanked Community Council member Kurt Toppel, AYSO Region 69 Commissioner Debbie Held, local attorney Marty Trupiano and Amgen construction engineer Dave Callahan, among others, for their contributions to his effort. “Kurt saw the merits of the field early on and staunchly supported us at council meetings, Debbie wrote letters of support and attended hearings downtown, Marty volunteered countless hours reviewing and redrafting legal documents required for city and state approvals, and Dave offered excellent advice throughout the design and construction process.” Wadsworth, a 25-year parishioner at Calvary Church, also thanked land-use attorney Mark Allen, Coastal Commission member Susan McCabe, civil engineers Lloyd Poindexter and Pat Montelana and construction management team members Frank Gamwell (principal), Gavin Miller (vice president), Ed Lloyd (senior project manager), Marc Dublin (business development) and superintendents Peter Gregory and Will Foraker. On hand to celebrate with Wadsworth were his wife Kay, assistant head at Calvary School, and two of their three kids, Jill, 29, and Jordan, 23. Then the school mascot, Casey Cougar, led a cheer and a flock of white doves was released. Letters from U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, Senator Barbara Boxer and City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa were presented in recognition of Wadsworth’s commitment to the project. “There was a point when the field proposal seemed destined to be defeated,” Wadsworth continued. “It was then that two people stepped forward from the city attorney’s office, having the foresight to see the mutual benefits this field would have. These two women, Cecilia Estolano and Cynthia McClain Hill, worked tirelessly with me to arrive at a compromise solution for public usage.” Finally, Wadsworth thanked City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski and her staff, chief deputy Lisa Gritzner, district director Debbie Dyner-Harris, field deputy Monique Ford and former deputy Kristen Montet. Public usage of the new field will consist of 18 Saturdays a year as well as six discretionary days to be determined by Palisades Recreation Center Director Cheryl Gray, who was also present. Mondays through Thursdays, the field will be used for Calvary’s after-school sports programs-flag football and cross country in the fall, soccer in the winter and track in the spring. “There’s such a need for the field and it’s such a beautiful facility, we want others to use it too,” said Marti Willens, Calvary’s middle school director. “It’ll be used every day for recess and P.E. The 7th- and 8th-graders play flag football and soccer in the Delphic League and the 5th- and 6th-graders play in the Coastal Canyon League. We’ll also play intramurals up here at lunch. There are so many great uses for the field.” Miscikowski attended the ceremony along with Jenny Toder (representing Assemblymember Fran Pavley), Viet Tran (representing Mayor James Hahn) and Ben Saltsman (representing Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky). She stepped to the podium after Wadsworth and praised him for his perseverance: “I can’t say enough about this man. In 1972, when I started to work on this canyon and this land, we had a big battle and we ultimately settled on a land-use plan for Santa Ynez Canyon. We agreed that we would carve out an Institutional Site for a church and school (we didn’t know who would own it) and we carved out an open space behind the school. “Then in 1997, Jim came up with his concept. He said ‘I think of playing fields as open space too, and we should make it for the students and children of the Palisades, too.’ He made that promise-and kept it. He had a shared vision for all the children-it really was his vision to push the envelope and build something for the children of the future.” PCM, the management firm that served as general contractor for the project, began work April 12, just over two months after the California Coastal Commission issued the long-sought permit. The project consisted of excavating 10,000 yards of dirt at the north end of the site, building retaining walls along the back against the hillside and installing synthetic turf measuring 90 yards long by 40 yards wide and covering 32,400 square feet. White and yellow lines are marked into the turf, which is called SmartGrass, and the school’s Cougar logo is painted at midfield. “This is truly a celebration day for Jim Wadsworth,” Roberson said. “When he began this process in July 1997, some of our students were not even born yet. Over six years, he sacrificed literally thousands of hours of personal time. Jim knew the children at Calvary and in the Palisades needed more athletic space and we thank him for his commitment.” One of the beneficiaries of the field will be Held and her local AYSO program. “It’s awesome,” she told Wadsworth afterwards. “You had a vision. I’m so glad you hung in there and I know the hoops you had to go through.” Held said AYSO will lease the field for $12 an hour, and its younger age groups will play games there 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays from August to November. The YMCA will also have practices and games there starting in April. “I was elected in July 1997,” Miscikowski said in her speech. “In August I had my first meeting with Jim. He already had a plan in mind. That shows his commitment. He set a goal, engaged other allies like Community Council and AYSO, and the result here is that everybody’s a winner.” Highlands resident and Calvary student Lauren Kohli was as excited as the adults: “I play intramural soccer at lunch. We play two 10-minute halves, seven or eight girls on a team. It’s exciting to be on the new field. It’s real cushioning, it definitely feels like real grass.” The California Coastal Commission approved Wadsworth’s proposal by a 7-1 vote in December 2001 but findings of fact procedures and general backlog delayed the issuing of the permit for 14 months. “I’ve seen it through all the different phases, from the time it was dirt,” said Dallas Price-VanBreda, whose Price Family Foundation earlier donated $250,000 to the new gym campaign at the Palisades Recreation Center. “We were one of the initial donors and it’s very exciting to see the project come to fruition. We got involved financially because five of my grandkids went through the school. If we had given in to the ‘nos,’ this would have never happened so our thanks to Jim for hanging in there. He knew it was the right thing to do.”
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