Saint Stephen's raises $2 million to match grant for new athletic complex

kbergen@bradenton.comDecember 1, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Saint Stephen's Episcopal School Head of School Jan Pullen announced to a group of excited students, faculty and community supporters Friday that the private school on Manatee Avenue had successfully raised $2 million needed to help build a new athletic complex.

The money will be used along with a matching grant from a donor.

In May, Saint Stephen's parents and school supporters Elizabeth and J. Stuart Moore offered the school $2 million to put toward a new athletic complex if the school community could raise that same amount by a Dec. 1 deadline.

"We have secured the $2 million match," Pullen said to a cheering crowd in the school courtyard Friday. "We have met our goals."

In total, the cost of the new athletic complex, which will include a lighted, 800-seat stadium, is $4.5 million. Currently, the athletic fields at Saint Stephen's have no lights, and many sports teams are required to share fields for lack of space.

"One of the big things is we'll have lights," said Athletic Director Carlos Boothby, who spoke of the difficulty of scheduling multiple sports games before twilight. "Everybody's been really excited about it."

Though the challenge was issued in May, and a committee formed to generate donations, fundraising didn't get much traction over the summer, said Director of Annual Giving Tracy Vanderneck. Just a few months ago, the school had raised only about $30,000 -- the rest of the $2 million has been donated by the community in the past two months.

With the matching grant, the school has raised about $4.3 million for the project,

but has plans to make up the remaining difference. Pullen issued another challenge on behalf of an anonymous donor Friday. The person will donate $50,000 if the school can match it with gifts of $1,000 or more before the new year.

It seems school officials anticipate success -- groundbreaking on the project is already scheduled for March, and school officials say the complex will be finished by next school year. Plans for the complex also include an eight-lane regulation track, baseball and softball fields, new restrooms and a concession stand.

Boothby, an alumni, said the school has previously only been able to schedule one soccer game a day, even though they have four soccer teams. The track team practices on hurtles set up on a field. Other state-caliber athletes train without proper facilities or have had to move off-campus for games.

The school wants its new athletic complex to belong to the community as well. School officials said Friday that they had already reached out to the local Special Olympics to see if the organization would be interested in using their facilities.

"This is the missing link to create a world-class educational environment," said Elizabeth Moore, who has three children currently attending the school. "Athletics is a vital component of that."

Moore said the result was a testimony to how everyone did their share. Saint Stephen's, a private school that serves about 650 students, relies on donations from alumni, students, parents and the community for many of its needs.

"Because they believe in what we do here, they give," Pullen said.

As for the new challenge to raise the additional funds?

"We'll do it," Pullen said.

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