Standing before a community that embraced and supported him, Patterson High School football coach Rob Cozart felt right at home Friday on a field only a dreamer could conceive.
“Back in December, this was merely just an idea, a dream, a vision,” Cozart told the capacity home crowd at Patterson Community Stadium. “The first thing I did was, I went to my family and asked, ‘Can you help? Can we build this?’”
Just less than a year later, Cozart and many others have helped transform the city’s community stadium into a renewed source of community pride, complete with $1 million-plus FieldTurf artificial turf and a forthcoming all-weather track surface.
Cozart joined local dignitaries, including Mayor Becky Campo and Superintendent Patrick Sweeney of Patterson Unified School District, to dedicate the stadium.
“This is an amazing facility that will stand the test of time,” Cozart said before the varsity football game with Escalon. “This was a community effort. This is for the community.”
He also noted that volunteers set a record Aug. 12 when they laid down an entire field of plastic foam, the foundation beneath the FieldTurf, in five hours.
“We pretty much spent the summer down here,” Cozart told the crowd in a lighter moment. “It goes to show you (that) the community was really together.”
Patterson High Principal David Stubbs spoke of the stadium’s humble origins in 1971, when farmers and community volunteers banded together to build a stadium from the ground up.
“Thirty-six years later, Rob Cozart took his dream to school leaders,” Stubbs said. “That dream is now a reality, thanks to the hard work, dedication and commitment of the Patterson community.”
Bruce Kelly, president of the school district’s board of trustees, commended government bodies and private businesses, groups and individuals for their contributions to the project. Those included the city of Patterson and Cozart himself.
“It’s a great effort,” Kelly said. “This project came in on time and under budget. Naturally, I want to thank Rob for sticking to this and making it happen.”
Mayor Campo said she was elated to see the resulting facility, a landmark for the community.
“I’m so overwhelmed to see all the kids smiling,” Campo said. “It’s so beautiful; it’s so overwhelming. We hope we continue to support our local boys and girls, so Patterson can finally be on the map and people can start noticing us.”
Before Cozart and Mayor Campo cut the honorary ribbon, the crowd heard presentations from office staffers of state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater.
Cardoza representative Chip Langman drew quite a few cheers and smiles as he got into the festive spirit during his brief presentation.
“Congratulations to Coach Cozart,” Langman said. “Since Escalon is not in the 18th Congressional District — go Tigers!”
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