LHS capital campaign nearing goal but still opportunity for donors large & small to participate in once in a lifetime project

LACONIA — "We are shooting for $1 million, we're 80 percent there," said Ed Emond, business administrator for the Laconia School District. As the High School construction project approaches completion this summer, providing the district with a reconstructed Huot Regional Technical Education Center and a best-in-the-region athletic facility, the district is redoubling its efforts to raise an even million from private sources.
The project, which includes several new science labs, is projected to cost a total of $16.8 million.
A recent update from general contractor Harvey Construction, according to Emond, reported that the project was progressing under budget and well on schedule to be completed this summer. Soon, workers will place the granite steps leading up to Fitzgerald Field — named after former football coach Jim Fitzgerald — at Bank of New Hampshire Stadium. Those steps, as well as pavers and bricks that will line the path into the stadium, are available for purchase by local organizations or individuals who wish to be a lasting part of the project.
Of the 20 granite steps, said Emond, six remain unclaimed and can be engraved with a name or message in exchange for a $5,000 donation to the campaign.
For a $1,000 gift, donors can engrave a 12-inch-square granite paver, of which 40 were initially available and 15 are still up for grabs.
Emond said there are also opportunities for donors to sponsor a brick in the walkway; a large brick for $250 or a smaller one for $125.
"It's an opportunity for people in the community to participate in this project," said Emond. Those interested in learning more about the opportunity, visit the district's website at www2.laconiaschools.org or call the district office at 524-5710.
The first phase of the Huot Technical Center project is complete, with students in several programs already utilizing a newly-constructed, 34,000-square-foot building along Dewey Street. Attention has now turned to the old Huot space, which will be renovated and reconstructed. Meanwhile, crews have also been busy all school year behind the school, moving countless truckloads of earth to re-shape the hill behind the former site of the football field into a three-tier configuration.
The first tier, located where the football field used to be, has been converted into a parking lot with room for 140 cars, with a small practice field to the south side. Raised above the parking lot will soon be a state-of-the-art synthetic playing field — Bank of New Hampshire Stadium — able to host all sports that play on a rectangular field. Grandstand seating is in place for 775 cheering fans, including a press box donated by Mas-Con. A third tier, yet higher than the playing field, will be the site of Bobotas Field, a natural grass practice field.
City Councilor Matt Lahey, one of the proponents of the campaign, said much of the progress toward the million-dollar goal has been thanks to corporate donations — Bank of New Hampshire, Irwin Automotive Group, Irwin Marine, Meredith Village Savings Bank, Eptam Plastics, among others — and Lahey said there are further naming rights available. For example, he's courting possible sponsorships for the stadium's press box and concessions stand, as well as for the Huot Center's automotive program.
For those who don't have a corporate account from which to make donations, though, Lahey said the stair, paver and brick sponsorships represent a rare opportunity for individuals. "As residents of this city, as alumni, they have a chance to play a role in a significant improvement," he said.
Craig Kozens, teacher, football coach and soon to be the school's athletic director, noted that the stadium will be the premier athletic facility in central New Hampshire, and is likely to remain such for a long time. For those who sponsor a portion, however large or small, he said, "They'll have a lasting piece of the entire project."

Teacher and football coach Craig Kozens, left, and City Councilor Matt Lahey look out over the rapidly-progressing construction project that will soon result in a new athletic facility and Huot Regional Technical Educaiton Center on the Laconia High School campus. The capital campaign, helping to fund the project, has a few remaining opportunities for individuals and companies to leave their mark on the facility. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)