New sports facility in Alamo brings community together

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There used to be a dirt field where Alamo Navajo High School’s new multi-purpose sports facility currently sits.

After much research, after a great deal of hard work and planning, and after willfully accounting for the wishes of an entire community, Alamo Navajo School Board, Inc. broke ground on that facility this past November.

To say it’s no longer a dirt field would be an obscene understatement.

On that former amalgamation of dirt and rock stands what serves as a testament to the dedication the ANSBI has to Alamo and its people. The field itself is state-of-the-art Field Turf. Both end zones sport the name of the school’s mascot, the Cougars, and lane three of the recently laid track reminds potential visitors exactly where they are with the embedded words: Cougar Territory.

Midfield boasts the permanently affixed image of a cougar, accented in appropriate white and sky blue.

In addition to the turf, there is a new concession stand, a scoreboard, and there are newly installed home and visitor bleachers. Soon the stadium will sport lighting and P.A. systems. Locker rooms will eventually follow.

And all of this was well-planned and intentional.

“The spirit is high,” ANSBI Executive Director Michael Hawkes said.

“I think the anticipation is high.”

Alamo is heading into its first season of organized eight-man football, which it’s never had previously, and the people of this small, somewhat remote town are directly responsible.

The ANSBI sent out a survey about 15 months ago, and the people spoke.

The board provided Alamo residents with a Likert questionnaire asking them if they thought added athletics would help local kids more willingly attend school. Having a football program was a popular response, so the board obliged.

“We thought that it would have a huge impact on our student body, which I think it has,” Hawkes said.

Just four years ago, the ANSBI helped build a wellness center at the cost of $5.4 million, a structure designed to help address an underlying health issue in the community.

“The wellness center was a combination of funds that were garnished under the diabetes awareness grant,” he said.

Diabetes is a disease that afflicts about 16 percent of the 3.3 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S., according to the Indian Health Service, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We wanted to address that illness. We went after grant money and utilized different pockets of money to get that done,” Hawkes said.

The next thing Hawkes and the board wanted was to make sure area youth were staying physically active, as well as having them participate in maintaining the spirit of the school.

“That’s one of the things that kept me in school,” he said.

“I had teammates that were on the football or track team. It’s a very positive thing.”

The good news is that Alamo has an attractive, brand new sports facility. The even better news is that the board built the thing without compromising the sanctity of any other program.

About five years ago, Hawkes and the board started an investment committee.

“We’ve been very fortunate in our investment strategies,” he said.

“They (Hawkes and the board) started third party billing initiatives through the Alamo health clinic that allowed them to utilize monies that don’t infringe on any other scholastic entities.

“This is all money that doesn’t take away from other programs,” Hawkes said.

“All of this was money that ANSBI garnished from new investment strategies.”

Thus, the new $2.2 million facility was ultimately constructed by the powers that be with the sole intention of building a facility for the benefit of the school and community.

They have achieved a rare feat: creating athletic initiatives and opportunities without taking away from educational, social or any other athletic programs.

On Aug. 25, the newly formed eight-man football squad will took the field for its first scrimmage, an event that should have signified the intentions of a community that means to accomplish more than just future gridiron glory.

Because while an exciting new football team is good for morale, there’s more to it than that. It’s a matter of education and simple economics.

“You have to remember, we are more than a school,” Hawkes said, referring to the fact that Alamo is a composite of teachers, coaches, administrators and Native American residents that make up a unique community of individuals.

To help address that fact, the ANSBI helped build a $4.2 million staff housing facility that allows the community to recruit and keep high quality educators and health care providers in hopes of retaining individuals necessary to the well-being of local residents.

“We’re the second largest employer in Socorro County, with 280 employees, five divisions and 54 programs,” Hawkes said.

“That’s part of the planning process.

“You can’t maintain that motive for education if you don’t have teachers returning, and students becoming familiar with classroom management techniques by the teachers. They have to readjust every year, and that’s been part of the problem.

“Anything we can do to help with staff retention is a plus,” Hawkes said.

Regardless of current administrative insight or qualms, this fall’s unripe football team seems to be privy to the best interest of the board. In light of newfound concerns about concussions and player safety, Alamo has taken every precaution.

“We’re equipped with state of the art equipment,” Hawkes said.

“We spent a little more on the helmets because concussions are a huge issue. We have very safe equipment.”

Whether or not the specifics of yielding a successful fledging football program are on the front burner, Hawkes and company are staying true to the overall goal of benefitting the Alamo community and the educational process. Enrollment at the school this year alone is up by at least 70 students, and they’re expecting an eventual enrollment of 350.

“Any amenities that we can help to offer, this present board has had the foresight and the fortitude to see it through, so it’s been a positive,” Hawkes said.