HEROS Project Receives $100K Boost from AgWest Farm Credit

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From left, Hermiston High School students Jace Burns, Blake Palzinski and Jackson Bradshaw remove irrigation handlines June 15, 2023, in preparation for a permanent reel irrigation system at the Hermiston Oregon Sportsplex at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, Hermiston. Last week, AgWest Farm Credit officials donated $100,000 to HEROS. (File photo)

The Hermiston Oregon Sportsplex’s fundraising drive got a healthy gift Monday, July 24, when AgWest Farm Credit officials in Pendleton donated $100,000.

HEROS volunteer Josh Burns said he was thrilled about the donation and the community’s generosity.

“Numerous people have donated lots of money, lots of time and even in-kind donations as far as labor and supplies and things like that,” he said. “I’ve lived here a dozen years and it blows my mind how giving this community is when there is a real need in something that is going to benefit others.”

The donation was the second time AgWest Farm Credit has given to the HEROS project, Agwest relationship manager Darcy Sexton said, adding that the firm provided a $3,000 Rural Community Grant earlier in the fundraising process.

“Part of our mission statement is to support our rural communities, and this is one way that we can help ensure that we have an impact in the communities where we live and work,” she said.

AgWest Farm Credit is an agricultural lending cooperative serving farmers, ranchers, timber harvesters and aquatic producers throughout the West, according to its website.

Burns said the sports complex is located near the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, 1705 E. Airport Road.

“We received approval from the city of Hermiston since they own the grounds,” he said. “We essentially leased it from the city last October and have started this project to put in six multi-use fields over there that is currently just bare grounds used for overflow parking for the fair and rodeo.”

Burns said the intent is to use the fields for soccer, lacrosse, seven-on-seven football, flag football and other sports requiring fields. They will also be practice fields for the community, he said.

“What we are really excited about is the ability to host large tournaments for like regional travel teams, things like that,” he said.

He said the complex already has its first event booked for the third weekend of September — a lacrosse tournament that’s expected to bring in teams from across the Northwest and California.

According to Burns, the project’s first phase began last fall and consisted of obtaining approval and setting infrastructure in place to plant grass this past spring. Phase 2 began with getting the grass established and handing it over to Hermiston Parks and Recreation, which will operate the space.

Phase 3 consists of finishing fundraising for the $2.6 million project, Burns said, adding that HEROS volunteers have raised more than $1 million in cash and in-kind services.

“So we’ve rocked along through Phase 2, and now we’re just in what I would say is fundraising mode to get over the final hurdle to be able to light the fields,” he said. “We’ve got the infrastructure in place. The pole bases are in place, but we need about another $750,000 to light two of the fields. That’s our first goal. The remaining half a million (dollars) will get us to lighting all of the fields.”

Burns said because they want the facility to last, they are using 60- or 90-feet metal poles to light the complex and concrete bases that will handle windy conditions.

“We’ve got to raise a lot of money to get those things done, and our goal is to have that done by next year,” he said. “We can play on it now, we’re just not ready to have night time games and practices until we finish raising funds to get the lights done.”

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