Conneaut SPARC in the News

Find out the latest news about the Conneaut SPARC project here.

Click to expand each of the archive news pieces on the right.

May 13, 2014 - Star Beacon - Conneaut, Edgewood alums to play football to help sports complex

By MARK TODD – Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — Graduates of Conneaut and Edgewood high schools will play football next month to raise money for a CHS sports complex.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. June 13 at the CHS football stadium at Maple and Stadium avenues. Proceeds will help the SPARC program, which is using donations to improve the football stadium, install a track/field complex and construct tennis courts.

“We hope to raise between $15,000 and $25,000,” Chris Brecht, who is coordinating the game, said Monday.

A company that specializes in arranging games between former students, Alumni Football USA, has been hired to stage the spectacle between the Route 20 rival schools, Brecht said. The company will provide uniforms and equipment for the full-tackle game.

So far, upwards of 25 people have signed up to play and have been practicing a few weeks, although twice as many have expressed some interest, Brecht said. “Mostly guys in their late 20s and early 30s,” although one player is in his late 40s, he said.

More players are needed to get teammates a breather during the game, Brecht said. For more information, contact Brecht at his State Farm Insurance office (593-1191).

Alumni cheerleaders from both schools will participate and could be joined by CHS alumni band members, Brecht said. Children enrolled in a camp conducted by CHS cheerleaders will also perform.

A Chinese auction featuring a wide array of merchandise will be held, Brecht said. A special commemorative program, filled with photos and stories that detail the history of the Conneaut-Edgewood rivalry, will be sold. Proceeds will also assist SPARC, he said.

Tickets will be available in a couple of weeks, Brecht said.

“We’re hoping for a really good crowd,” he said. “It should be a neat event.”

November 9, 2013 - Star Beacon - Another phase in Conneaut sports complex ready for launch

By MARK TODD – – Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Another phase in Conneaut’s ambitious scholastic sports complex has been unveiled to the public.

This week a sign was erected along Stadium Avenue announcing the Ricaurte Tennis Park, to be built directly south of the football stadium. But don’t expect construction to start anytime soon, cautioned Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent. While some money for the work is in hand, more is needed to finance the five-court facility, he said. Work will not begin until the entire project cost is in hand, Houston said.

“We have a generous donation to put us well on the way,” he said.

In May, school officials said $250,000 had been raised for a tennis court project expected to cost an estimated $600,000.

The courts represent the latest phase of a sports complex funded primarily through private donations. The CARE for Kids Committee is coordinating the creation of the complex, dubbed SPARC (Social Place for Athletics, Recreation and Community). So far, new bleachers, pressbox and multi-use building for the Conneaut High School football field and a $650,000 track/field layout opposite the stadium on Maple Avenue have resulted from the project.

The track/field complex is taking shape on several acres of land donated to the district a few years ago. This summer, a long-vacant commercial building on the property was demolished as a prelude to construction of an eight-lane, 400-meter track and other amenities.

Recent cold, wet weather has frustrated attempts to finalize the all-weather treatment to given the asphalt-based track, Houston said. Several layers of a rubber-like substance are traditionally applied, but the cold, damp climate has allowed technicians to apply only two coats so far, he said.

To do the job right, a series of dry days with temperatures in the 50s is needed to finish the task. That kind of weather isn’t expected for awhile, so work has been shut down, Houston said. He cautioned the track may not be ready in time for the start of the 2014 Spartan track season.

“Track starts awfully early,” Houston said.

October 3, 2013 - Star Beacon - Conneaut water towers will show Spartan spirit

By MARK TODD – – Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Two municipal water towers in Conneaut will take on the colors of the Conneaut High School Spartans in coming months, city officials confirmed.

A big tower on Brown Avenue may even feature the likeness of a Spartan if the price tag isn’t a budget-breaker, said City Manager Tim Eggleston.

The distinctive blue and gold of the Spartans will be painted this year on the new Creek Road tower wrapping up construction this year, followed by the Brown Avenue tower next spring, Eggleston said.

The color scheme comes on the heels of a big initiative to show community spirit for the Conneaut Area City Schools’ sports teams. School administrators anxious to align with a high school athletic conference have said a lack of local enthusiasm for the teams has hurt chances of membership.

Crews are completing work on the 166-foot Creek Road water tower, which is expected to be in service by the end of the year, Eggleston said. The 250,000 gallon tank will replace a decades-old version on the same road in Kingsville Township. The new tower will be emblazoned with the city’s name, according to plans.

Meanwhile, the Brown Avenue tank could bear the Spartan logo in addition to team colors. Eggleston said he is awaiting information of the cost of adorning the massive tank with the profile of a Spartan along with the phrase “Home of the Spartans.”

“We’ve got to see if we have enough in the contingency fund,” he said.

According to an engineer’s drawings, the Brown tank will be painted a deep blue and boast gold lettering. The Creek Road tower will have a similar display. City Council members had a say in the design scheme, Eggleston said.

City leaders are hopeful the Brown tank will get a customized look. “We’re trying to figure something out,” he said.

July 3, 2013 - Star Beacon - Conneaut board OKs track complex

By MARK TODD – – Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — A new track/field facility was officially approved at a special Conneaut Board of Education meeting Tuesday afternoon, prompting applause from members and people in the audience.

Construction of the $680,500 facility could commence by the end of this month and will be done by Nov.r 1, meaning the Conneaut High School track team will enjoy home field advantage for some of its events for the first time in many years.

“We’ll be ready to have a track meet,” said Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent. “It’s an exciting time. Our kids deserve this, our community deserves this.”

Board members unanimously approved the bid submitted by Vasco Sports Contractors of Massillon, one of three quotes for the project. Included in the quote is the construction of an eight-lane, all-weather 400 meter track, fencing around the track and a turf infield, as well as areas for long jump, high jump and shot/discus. Nets and goals for a soccer field are also part of the package.

Not included is any construction of storage buildings or locker rooms for the athletes or any track-related equipment, such as hurdles or pits. Small bleachers, not part of the quote but available to the district, will be installed at strategic locations at the facility.

The action marks the biggest expenditure yet for the CARE for Kids Committee, created some three years ago with the goal of creating a sports complex in the vicinity of the CHS football field. CARE is financing the work with money raised through donations.

Since the committee was formed, the football field has seen the installation of new bleachers and press box (partially financed by the school board), and work will begin soon on a multi-purpose building at the stadium.

Some $1 million has been earmarked for the track/field portion of the concept. Meaning more than $300,000 remains that could be used to address the other needs, including equipment and buildings. Conduits will be installed that will provide space for utility lines, such as water pipes or electric cable, in case a need develops in the future.

The facility will rise on some eight acres of land donated to the school district a few years ago by Gerald and Mary Eighmy. The couple are also contributors to CARE for Kids, Gerald Eighmy is the committee’s co-chairman and the finished track/field facility will bear the family name. Their son, Scott, was at the meeting.

“This is just wonderful,” he said as the crucial vote was completed.

Vasco specializes in track/field installation, Houston said. “Their bid was so low because that’s all the company does for a living,” he said.

The company has handled projects at many colleges and high schools, including Painesville, Jefferson and Grand Valley, Houston said. “It’s a very reputable firm,” he said.

Soil compaction tests will precede the start of work, Houston said.

The facility will take shape on the site of the former Cummins Canning Co., which —decades ago — put locally-grown fruits and vegetables into containers. While prepping the land for the track, metal containers were unearthed by heavy equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency found the containers held no contaminants, officials have said.

June 26, 2013 - Star Beacon - What a relief! Rest rooms coming to Conneaut High School's football stadium

Higher-than-expected cost may result in some changes

By MARK TODD – – Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Rest rooms coming to Conneaut High School’s football stadium will be the first permanent potties at the site since the field’s decades-old bleachers were flattened four years ago.

Conneaut’s Board of Education, at a Monday night meeting, approved a $179,794 contract with Schwartz Construction to erect a multi-use building at the field. The structure — which will contain rest rooms, a concession stand and some storage space — should be in place before the Spartans’ Sept. 13 home opener against Geneva, officials have said.

The building will be the latest addition to a stadium that has undergone a complete facelift the past few years. The original bleachers, a New Deal project built in the 1930s, were demolished in 2009 when crumbling masonry created safety concerns. A set of aluminum bleachers arrived that year, followed by a 1,700-seat bleachers and press box in 2010, an upgrade that cost $446,000.

The bulk of the cost of the bleachers and press box is being borne by the CARE for Kids Committee, working to improve facilities for Conneaut’s scholastic athletes. The committee is also paying the entire cost of the multi-use building, said Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent.

Bids for the project were higher than expected, board members learned. As a result, change orders will be needed to pare back some of the niceties of the building to help preserve the CARE for Kids committee budget.

“It’s taking the kitty down a little low,” said board member and CARE committee member Michael Kennedy.

Board member Sonny Heinonen worried cuts in the wrong areas, such as roof work, could hurt the integrity of the building. Houston countered CARE has to save money for other obligations.

“The more money (CARE must spend on the building), the less they have going forward to make bleacher payments,” he said. “If we don’t shave $30,000 to $40,000 off the price, we’ll be cutting them down very, very close.”

In other business, the board:

• Agreed to hire the Brewer Garrett mechanical engineering firm to make repairs to a smokestack and roof at Conneaut High School and convert electric boilers at Conneaut Middle School to natural gas. Payment will come from money that remains in the district’s building improvement program from years ago. The work will save the district nearly $24,000 a year in utility bills, members learned. The middle school boilers weren’t part of a energy overhaul of the district a few years ago because of a wind turbine meant to provide lower-cost electricity to the school. With the turbine broken and the subject of a lawsuit, the decision was made to switch to natural gas.

• Approved a one-year contract with members of the Conneaut Classified Employees Association, which represents the district’s non-teacher employees, effective July 1. The workers agreed to forego a pay hike in return for no additional contributes to health care, Houston said.

• Approved a two-year contract with Doug Hedrick to serve as assistant principal at Conneaut Middle School. Hedrick, a teacher at CHS, will replace John Roskovics, who retired at the end of the school year. Hedrick, a Conneaut city councilman, will be paid $72,128 and will work alongside Joel Taylor, the school’s new principal.

• Learned the district’s school bus fleet, aside from a few minor snags, passed the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s annual inspection with flying colors. The board also authorized administrators to seek bids for a new school bus.

May 17, 2013 - Star Beacon - Track/field facility could see start soon in Conneaut

By MARK TODD – – Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Nearly a generation of Conneaut scholastic track athletes have never known a home meet, thanks to a course that fell short of state requirements. That could change next year.

At two separate meetings Wednesday night, Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent, announced enough funding has been received through contributions to start building some of the components of a track/field facility on eight acres of donated land opposite the Conneaut High School football field. “We have $1 million pledged to us for track,” Houston said. “We think it’s a done deal.”

Work on an eight-lane track, as well as areas for field events, could start this summer and continue into fall, Houston told members of Conneaut’s Planning Commission. Other aspects of the project, such as storage and lockerroom buildings, must wait until more money is in hand, he said. The land is bordered by Reig and Maple avenues and Madison and Center streets.

For many years, Conneaut’s track program has only participated in “away” meets for lack of a suitable facility. The school district was recently by-passed for membership in the All-American Conference, and its lack of a home track was one reason, said Gerald Eighmy, a local industrialist who donated the land to the district and also attended the meeting.

“It’s not fair, and we’re going to do something about it,” he said.

To make room for the improvement, a commercial building that sits on the land will be demolished very soon, Houston said. Quotes have already been obtained from a local contractor, he said. Conneaut’s Board of Education must still weigh in on the project, and its blessing will be sought after final drawings and blueprints are prepared, Houston told the board at its Wednesday afternoon work session.

Work on the track could dovetail with construction of a rest room/concession building at the football stadium. Bids for that building could be sought this month and construction should be finished before the start of the 2013 football season, Houston said.

The track is part of a sports complex unveiled three years ago by the CARE for Kids committee. At the time, organizers envisioned an upgraded football stadium flanked by a track/field facility and new tennis courts — all financed through donations.

The project was kick-started by serious structural problems detected at decades-old Municipal Stadium. For safety reasons, the stadium was demolished and its masonry bleachers replaced with aluminum seats. The following year, more bleachers were erected, along with a press box. This year will see the arrival of the dual-purpose building at the stadium.

Football teams will need another place to gather before kick-off and at half-time. For the past couple years, teams used the commercial building that will be razed this summer. Houston told Planning Commission members some temporary shelter, even tents, may serve as lockerrooms for home games in 2013.

The track-field complex work will also rob the football stadium of a big parking lot. Houston said he is negotiating with General Electric for use of the parking lot on the west side of its now-empty factory on Maple Avenue, a short walk from the stadium. Additional fencing and lights may be needed, he said. Fans will also be welcome to park along the many side streets near the field.

Tennis courts planned for land that once contained West Main Elementary School need more money to become a reality, commission members were told. Some $250,000 has been raised, but $600,000 is required.

CARE for Kids hope the enhance athletic facilities, which will also be available to the community, entice more people to settle in the community. Some people have opted to live elsewhere in part due to the district’s inadequate facilities, Houston said.

“People look at the amenities,” he said.

In the three years since CARE for Kids was created, nearly $2 million has been raised in cash and in-kind services, said Eighmy, a co-chairman of the group. “You’re going to see a lot going on out there,” he said.

Houston said he was very pleased with the response to date, ranging from contributions to discounts on services.

“It’s awesome how people have stepped up to help,” he said. “(Local contractors) have been treating us very well.”

Planning Commission embraced the sports complex initiative.

“I’m glad to see an aggressive plan like this,” said Ron Maki, commission chairman. “It’s long overdue.”

May 10, 2013 - Star Beacon - Metal dug up at future site of Conneaut sports field needs study

By MARK TODD – – Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — School officials in Conneaut could know soon whether metal containers recently unearthed at the site of a future sports complex pose an environmental threat.

Results from an analysis to be conducted by a company specializing in such work may be available in two weeks, Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent, said Thursday. Soil that encased the old containers is also being studied.

Several big, blue, trash bin-like boxes to hold the suspect soil sit on the property, once the home of the Cummins Canning Company. In the 1900s the business packaged locally-grown fruit and vegetables. The property is bordered by Maple and Reig avenues and Center and Madison streets.

The buried containers were found “a couple of days ago,” Houston said. Heavy equipment digging out the foundations of buildings that once stood at the site made the discovery, Houston said at a Thursday night at a meeting with members of Conneaut City Council. Debris to be tested is being placed in the boxes.

“It should have been a very simple thing,” Houston told council.

Cost of the excavation and analysis, not yet pinned down, will be borne by the district’s permanent improvement fund, Houston said Friday. It’s entirely conceivable the process will show the buried containers are completely harmless

The property, which sits opposite Conneaut High School football field on Maple Avenue is the future home of a track/field facility, a component in a much larger sports complex envisioned for the area.

The Environmental Protection Agency is involved in the process, Houston said Thursday. Mike Settles, spokesman for the Ohio EPA in Columbus, said Friday he was not immediately aware of the work at the school site but would make inquiries.

At the end of 2008, Gerald and Mary Eighmy donated the property to the school district. The gift included a 25,000 square-foot commercial building and nearly eight acres of vacant land.

A few years later, a new committee — CARE for Kids — announced it would spearhead a fund-raising campaign that would make improvements to the football stadium and flank the field with a track/field facility and tennis courts.

April 28, 2013 - Star Beacon - Conneaut sports complex to be studied by planners

By MARK TODD – – Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Whenever a benefactor decides to give a helping hand to Conneaut’s student athletes, the Conneaut Area City Schools district wants to be ready to act.

At a May 15 meeting, the city’s Planning Commission will get a glimpse of tentative plans for a sports complex that would flank Conneaut High School’s football stadium at Maple and Stadium avenues. The meeting wasn’t sought because new construction is imminent — that hinges on the arrival of money, said Superintendent Kent Houston. Instead, the district wants to be ready to roll should an influx of cash sudden materialize, and that means getting as much city approval in advance as possible, he said.

“We want to get all our ducks in a row,” he said Friday. “If something happens, it will happen quickly.”

City planners will examine the district’s plans for a vacant factory it received as a gift several years ago, Houston said. The Eighmy building sits on land opposite the stadium where the district one day hopes to put a track/field site and accessory structures. The Eighmy building would be demolished to make room for the proposed improvements on the north side of Maple Avenue, officials have said.

The concept is part of a years-old program to upgrade the facilities available to Conneaut students and residents. The CARE for Kids committee, formed in 2008 to examine the problem, came up with a concept dubbed Social Place for Athletics, Recreation and Community. At the time, SPARC envisioned a revamped football stadium, the track/field facility and tennis court immediately south of the stadium, on the site of the former West Main Elementary School.

So far, much of the football field portion of the plan has become reality, with new bleachers and a press box in place. Coming this year is a new concession stand/rest room facility. With the cooperation of the city, water and sewer lines for the little building were put in place last year while money for construction was firmed up.

“The city has been very helpful,” Cris Newcomb, Board of Education president, said Friday.

Donations factor heavily into the future of SPARC, officials said. More of the complex will be built when funding is in hand, school officials emphasized. Next month’s meeting with the Planning Commission does not mean additional improvements are imminent, Newcomb said.

“We’ve got to sit down as a board and discuss further (construction),” he said.

October 18, 2012 - Star Beacon - Pride Committee gets CHS fired up for Spirit Week

CONNEAUT — Homecoming is always a major event for an entire community to enjoy. This year, Conneaut High School celebrated it in a big way.

To start out the festivities, Conneaut High School Pride Committee put on a Spirit Week for the entire school to take part in. The days included Literary Character Day, Salad Dressing Day, Nerd Day, Decade Day and Spartan Spirit Day. Each of these special days gave the students a new way to express their creativity by dressing up to match the day.

Senior Carissa Nardo, who is part of the School Pride Committee, is always an avid participant of Spirit Week. “Spirit Week is very exciting and fun. It allows all students to celebrate their pride for CHS,” she said.

The most important festivities began Oct. 5 and included the pep assembly, Homecoming parade and Homecoming football game.

The pep rally is always a great way to bring the school together as a whole and showcase CHS’s school spirit. The pep rally consisted of introductions of the fall sports teams, band and cheerleaders; class cheer competition; and the first boys versus girls volleyball games with teams of boys and girls from each class facing off against each other. The girls were victorious in the sophomore, junior, and senior class games. After the school day was complete, it was time to get ready for the Homecoming parade. A lot of the students took part. The marching band led off and was followed by the Homecoming Court in their mustang convertibles. The Homecoming Court members included Alyssa Andes, Megan Glass, Jillian Heinonen, Mikahla Passmore, Maria Perkio and Angie Zappitelli. The cheerleaders and class floats followed the court. Class officers organized their class float.

Senior class vice president Michael Mirando was very pleased with his last Homecoming parade. “I thought it was great. All of the students showed amazing school spirit which made it enjoyable for everyone,” he said.

The parade ended at Conneaut’s SPARC (Social Place for Athletics and Community) complex for the football game. The highlight of the evening was the crowning of Alyssa Andes as Conneaut High School Homecoming Queen. Friday night’s activities ended with a tough fought double-overtime loss to Gilmour Academy.

On Saturday, the long awaited Homecoming Dance took place. The dance had a masquerade theme; everyone at the dance received a free mask or hat. The dance also had a photo booth as a new feature where students could pose with their friends with a variety of props.

The sophomore class put on the dance. Class secretary Carly Schreiber was very active in the preparations. “There’s a lot of work that went into making everything for it,” she said. “People may think it’s nothing, but it’s hard to balance out getting things ready for the dance, school work and then other school activities. But all the work we put into the dance was well worth it.”

The dance went from 8 to 11 p.m. in the CHS cafeteria. Homecoming Queen Alyssa Andes shared her favorite part of this cherished night. “I would have to say the senior dance was my favorite. It was nice to see our class come together and share one more memory at our final Homecoming at CHS,” she said. The seniors gathered together in a giant circle on the stage and sang to Green Day’s “Good Riddance.” They ended with a final senior class cheer.

Homecoming was truly a memorable time for all the students of Conneaut High School.

September 9, 2012 - Star Beacon - Schools, city may team to ease Conneaut traffic concern

By MARK TODD – – Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — A little city/school teamwork could relieve a serious traffic problem outside Conneaut’s two Gateway Avenue schools.

Parents waiting to pick up or drop off their students at Gateway Elementary School are clogging one lane of the street, forcing through traffic into the other lane — and into possible collisions, City Council members learned at a Thursday night meeting with Conneaut Board of Education members. The congestion also makes travel very difficult for school buses trying to negotiate Gateway Avenue near the elementary school and Conneaut Middle School across the street.

One possible solution is the creation of a new enter-only lane that would link the street with the elementary school’s west parking lot and pick-up area. The lane could accommodate more than dozen vehicles that normally would be put in harm’s way, said Superintendent Kent Houston.

“It would eliminate 90 percent of the cars on the road,” he said.

To help corral costs, the school district would like the city’s Public Works Department to excavate the entry lane using its heavy equipment. The district would absorb the balance of the cost, Houston said. The district is busy obtaining quotes, he said.

The lane would stretch approximately 150 feet, and stripes marked on the school’s west lawn show its possible path.

City officials were intrigued by the project. “We could get CT Consultants (the city’s engineering firm) to take a look,” said Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch.

City Manager Tim Eggleston agreed, saying he will ask Public Works Director Bob Mannion to take a look at the lane. Officials will want to make sure the lane doesn’t interfere with any utilities that may be buried nearby.

“This is probably another good joint project,” Eggleston said.

Earlier this year, city crews helped the school district with a sanitary sewer hookup at the high school football stadium at Maple and Stadium avenues. The new line will service a concession stand/restrooms building that will be erected on the Stadium Avenue side of the field. The city’s cooperation was a financial boost to an organization, SPARC, that is raising funds to build a track and tennis complex — along with accessory buildings — adjacent to the football field.

Construction of the new building, financed primarily with grants from the Conneaut and Ashtabula foundations, is in a “holding pattern” until permits and final construction documents have been processed. School officials had hoped to have the building in place before the start of the 2012 football season.

“We are working on it as fast as we can,” Houston said.

The stadium has its own traffic problem that could be addressed with the city’s help, council was told. Football fans park their vehicles on either side of Stadium Avenue, a one-way street for decades, which creates visibility and safety concerns for vehicles trying to squeeze through to Maple Avenue.

“It’s a very tight fit,” Houston said.

The school district would like the city to make Stadium Avenue a two-way thoroughfare and ban on-street parking entirely. City leaders said they would consider the request, but had some questions.

“(The change) makes sense during football season, but does it make sense the rest of the year?” said Council President Thomas Udell.

June 30, 2012 - Star Beacon - Early data looks good for Conneaut Area City Schools

Early data looks good for Conneaut Area City Schools

By MARK TODD – – Staff Writer

In other business, the board learned the Social Place for Athletics, Recreation and Community program recently picked up $130,000 in grants and donations. SPARC is the name given the program geared to creating a sports complex adjacent to the CHS football field. Money was given the program by the Conneaut and Ashtabula foundations, as well as a private donation of $100,000. The money is being used to improve infrastructure in the SPARC area.

One project is the construction of a restroom/concession stand/tennis equipment storage building on the east side of the football field. Over the past several weeks electrical, water and sewer connections have been installed for the building. Much of the labor and materials were donated.
Houston has said the building’s timetable depends on donations received for the project. After Thursday’s meeting, Houston said he was unsure the building would be in place before the start of the Spartans’ 2012 football season.

To accommodate the installation of pipe and wire, sidewalks and fence on the east side of the football stadium have been removed. SPARC money cannot be used to replace them, creating a “little dilemma,” Houston said. To help raise money, the SPARC committee is interested in seeking sponsors and selling advertising on wooden signs that would be erected on the east-side fence.

June 19, 2012 - Star Beacon - Conneaut Foundation announces 2012 grants

By MARK TODD – – Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — The Conneaut Foundation’s board of trustees recently approved 13 community-based grants totaling more than $72,000 to local, non-profit organizations.

“It was a challenging process this year, as we received requests from many deserving organizations,” J.J. Eaton, board of trustees’ president, said in a statement. “The board worked hard reviewing each application and visiting personally with each organization. We are pleased to be able to provide support to non-profits throughout Ashtabula County.”

The 2012 recipients include:

  • Andover Public Library (assist a roof replacement project)
  • Autistic Children’s Foundation (help purchase adaptive equipment and material used during the Reach and Teach summer program)
  • C.A.R.E. for Kids (aid construction of a concession/restroom/tennis storage building at the SPARC sports complex)
  • Conneaut Community Center for the Arts (to benefit the CCCA summer art camp’s digital photography class)
  • International Association of Fire Fighters Local 651 in Conneaut (to help purchase fire prevention education material for pre-school and elementary students)
  • Conneaut Human Resources Center (for the purchase/installation of new doors throughout the building)
  • D-Day Ohio Inc. (for shuttle service and on-site transportation needs for the August re-enactment at Conneaut Township Park)
  • Gateway Elementary School (for equipment, supplies used in the school’s fine arts block)
  • Gateway Elementary School (purchase of technology equipment for students)
  • GO Community Development Corp. (soup kitchen expansion)
  • J. Edward Gilliland Geneva Rotary Foundation (assist the construction of a public park and pavilion near the Geneva Community Center)
  • Kingsville Public Library (to aid roof replacement at Simak Welcome Center)
  • Loving Equally All Families (for the purchase of materials used in home repair projects)

The Conneaut Foundation is a non-profit, private foundation serving Ashtabula County and northwest Pennsylvania. The mission of the foundation is to serve the charitable, education, scientific and cultural needs of the community through philanthropic and grantmaking efforts.

June 3, 2012 - Star Beacon - All-day concert July 14 Music to help musicians ahead at Jam Fest 2012

By MARK TODD – – Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — Hours and hours of music next month will help provide a permanent performance venue for Conneaut’s student musicians.

Jam Fest 2012, sponsored by Conneaut Music Boosters, will feature eight bands in an all-day concert July 14 at the Evergreen Lake Park campground on Center Road. The show starts at noon and could continue a full 12 hours, said Ron LaRusch, Boosters spokesman.

“Or until the campers kick us out,” he said, laughing.

The event begins with a show by the Conneaut High School Alumni Band, followed by “Dive Bar All-Stars,” “Relay,” “Witz End,” “Family Tradition,” “Nightmare on Orange Street,” “Small Town Revolution” and “Full Throttle.”

Proceeds will help construction a band shell and concession stand at the Conneaut school district’s SPARC athletic complex at Stadium and Maple avenues. The shell will provide a stage for future band and choral programs.

Jam Fest is the largest fundraiser ever for the Music Boosters, LaRusch said. The group was looking for a new money-making idea at the start of the year when Melissa Reydak suggested a big concert.

“This whole show is really Melissa’s baby,” LaRusch said.

Evergreen Lake ownership opened up the campground for the extravaganza, including stages and staff. It is a huge contribution, LaRusch said.

“This undertaking would not be possible if not for the unselfish giving of the LeVesque family,” he said.

Others are also lending a financial hand to the cause. All the scheduled bands are foregoing their usual fees to sing and play for the benefit, LaRusch said. Mark Morris, of Morris Sound in Erie, Pa., will handle sound and lighting at the show at a discount rate, LaRusch said.

Sponsors are also stepping forward, including Conneaut Telephone Company, Ron’s Roofing and Conneaut Moose Lodge 472. More sponsors are needed to help the Boosters reach their goals, LaRusch said. For sponsor information, contact Reydak at 440-813-7925 or at

Food will also be available at the concert, courtesy Poco Bandito, Phil’s Catering and JD’s Pizza. More food vendors are welcome to participate.

Drawings and raffles will also be featured during the show. Roger McCoy, of 98.3 The Bull, will emcee the concert.

Tickets are available at the campground, Burdick Plumbing and Heating, Poco Bandito, Rainbow Cafe, Burning Stone Cafe, Harbor Beverage, Conneaut Savings Bank or from Brenda Fields (593-3940).

Booster members have been busy promoting the spectacle.

“We’re really hoping for a good turnout,” LaRusch said. “And the show will go on rain or shine.”

February 25, 2012 - Star Beacon - Utility work well under way at Conneaut football stadium

By MARK TODD – – Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — Infrastructure upgrades that could help the Conneaut Area City Schools district build a new restroom/concession stand at Conneaut High School’s football field is well under construction, said Superintendent Kent Houston.

Installation of sanitary sewer lines on the east side of the field, abutting Stadium Avenue, is nearly complete, Houston said Friday. Water and electric line work will follow, he said.

When the utility work is completed, the district will be in a great position to act when enough money is secured to finance construction of the stands near the west end zone. “We want to be shovel-ready with the concession stand,” Houston said.

The infrastructure work was made possible by a $25,000 donation from The Conneaut Foundation to Social Place for Athletics, Recreation and Community, an organization working to raise money for an athletic complex that would flank the football field. As envisioned, a track/field facility, tennis courts and support buildings would be built adjacent to the stadium on district-owned property.

None of the district’s general fund money will be touched for the infrastructure work, Houston said.

The timetable for the concession stand work hinges solely on donations made to SPARC. If money is raised in time, the building could be in place before the start of the 2012 high school football season, Houston has said.

For the past several years, portable toilets have served the fans who attend Spartan football games. Permanent rest rooms would allow the return of CHS commencement ceremonies to the stadium, Houston has said.

The SPARC program began in earnest in 2009, with a two-phase makeover at the football stadium. Crumbling masonry stands built in the 1930s as part of a New Deal program were pulled down and replaced with aluminum bleachers. One year later, a much larger set of bleachers — capped by a new press box — were built on the opposite side of the field.

May 22, 2011 - Star Beacon - Conneaut sports complex sees big donations

By MARK TODD – – Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Some generous donations could accelerate plans to build a scholastic sports complex in Conneaut.

In one memorable day, CARE for Kids received donations exceeding $100,000 for the proposed complex, called Social Place for Athletics, Recreation and Community. Organizers foresee a track, tennis courts and accessory buildings someday flanking the Conneaut High School football stadium at Stadium and Maple avenues. CARE for Kids is the fund-raising arm of SPARC.

The Conneaut Foundation has provided $25,000 for infrastructure work, University Hospitals contributed another $25,000, and the Wheeler family of Conneaut has agreed to provide $25,000 over five years.

In addition, Jerry Eighmy, president of American Turned Products and CARE for Kids co-chairman, pledged to donate $1 for every $2 donated, up to $25,000. When totaled, the gifts exceeded $100,000, said Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent.

Foundation funds will be used to install water and sewer lines, along with other utilities that could expedite the construction of accessory buildings, like concession stands and locker rooms.

“The site will be shovel-ready,” Houston said.
Houston shared the news at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.
“This is an exciting development,” he said.
More dollars may be arriving soon, Houston said.
“We have a good underground movement with some big-time donors,” he said.

Last year, the school board launched a $446,000 football stadium improvement project that constructed home bleachers and a press box in time for the season. The board agreed to pay $100,000 of the cost from money earned from the sale of property, with CARE for Kids expected to raise the balance.

In other news, the board:

  • Learned that preliminary data from the Ohio Department of Education indicates CHS will receive its seventh consecutive “excellent” rating from the state;
  • Declared its efforts to obtain money to build sidewalks to some schools, “dead in the water.” The city cannot use state community development block grant money to pay the engineering costs for the Safe Routes to School Program as it had hoped, members said. Applications for the sidewalk program must be received by the end of this school year, a tight deadline the district and city cannot meet; and
  • Agreed to discuss soon the future of the aging Southeast Building, home to the district’s administrative offices and school-bus garage. A leaky roof and windows at Southeast will result in “pretty significant repairs,” Houston said.