When Paul Soucy became Hermon High’s athletic administrator in 2002, one of his early priorities was to identify sports-related needs at the steadily growing school.
What he has discovered since then is an abundance of community spirit that is steadily turning that wish list into reality. Over the last six years the school, its children and folks of all ages in Hermon, Carmel and Levant have benefited from the development of the Greater Hermon Community Athletic Complex.
What began as preliminary conversations with local soccer parents, coaches and other interested parties has evolved into a variety of improvements including the recently named Pottle Field, an upgraded soccer facility named for Barry Pottle, a prominent local businessman and Hermon High graduate, resident and former school board member who with his wife Suzanne have been generous supporters of the effort.
Work on the soccer field has included the addition of aluminum stadium seating for 560 fans, seasonal bathrooms attached to the concession stand and storage building and lights that make the facility available not only for high school teams, but also various recreation department programs.
There’s also a brick entrance to the soccer field that includes a wrought-iron archway, three flagpoles for the U.S., Maine and Hermon High School flags, and a granite donor wall to recognize contributors to GHCAC improvement projects.
And that’s the magic of this effort, the grass-roots support for providing enhanced recreational opportunities for people and families who have decided to make this area their home.
Individuals, community groups, businesses, the school department and local government all have been involved. Fundraising efforts have included a golf scramble that has raised more than $40,000 in six years, and donations have ranged from cash to heavy equipment and from supplies and materials to volunteer labor that has greatly reduced the cost of these improvements.
Take the seating at the soccer field. It cost $40,000, Soucy said, but by having “an army of volunteers” put the 15 rows of seating together themselves, saving $10,000 to $15,000.
“It isn’t necessarily a lot of people with deep pockets,” said Soucy, “but it’s a lot of people who just want to help in any way they can.”
More recent improvements include enlarging the school’s field hockey field to regulation width, four new tennis courts, and a walking trail funded by a grant secured by the town.
“This is a good example of what people can accomplish when they share a common goal,” said Soucy.
Not everything has been smooth sailing. Plans for a larger tennis complex were turned down by Hermon voters in early 2007, but public and private money still funded the recently completed facility.
“The tennis courts are getting a lot of use from students and groups throughout the community of all ages,” said Soucy, including a contingent of area senior citizens.
And while several phases of the GHCAC improvement project have been completed, expect more phases to come.
“As an athletic director you always have goals,” said Soucy. “I’d love to see a track around our soccer field, and a goal for next year is to have a press box and storage building behind the new bleachers.”
Certainly Hermon is not alone among communities that invest heavily in recreational pursuits through its citizens, community groups, businesses and municipal entities.
But it does represent another reminder of the power of collective resolve.