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Field house gets $100,000 donation

Armwood High School has gotten a big boost toward securing funding for a 15,000-square-foot field house and training facility that will be used primarily by the school's football team.

The combined donation of $100,000 comes from the Don and Erika Wallace Family Foundation and Lazydays RV SuperCenter in Seffner.

The donations - $50,000 each from Lazydays and from Lazydays founder Don Wallace and his wife, Erika, - bring the total amount raised toward the new field house to a little more than $600,000, said Cheryl McBride, executive director of the Armwood Hawks Nest Capital Campaign.

The cost of the project is $1.2-million.

"We were hoping to be further along at this point when we started," she said. "But we've been very fortunate with what support we've gotten."

The campaign began in April, with officials hoping to announce the completion of their goal during the beginning of the 2006 football season.

"We thought we could get it done in around six months," McBride said. "But the summer months hurt us because people were out of town and the students weren't in school."

The necessary funding could be obtained as early as this spring, she added. Groundbreaking will begin sometime next year, most likely in April, and construction is expected to start Aug. 1.

"We're now in the smaller donation phase," said Bill McBride, who ran for governor of Florida in 2002 and is a member of the Hawks Nest board of directors. "We've got two big events in January where, upon their conclusion, we hope to have the majority of the funding secured."

There will be some assistance from the School Board, he added. Armwood is scheduled for a classroom expansion that could tie into the field house project, allowing some county funds to be used towards its completion.

The proposed field house will include a weight room, training room, locker room, meeting rooms and indoor facilities for girls' flag football and cheerleading practices. It will be located in what is currently a parking lot directly east of the football field.

Proponents of the field house point to the current, inadequate facilities used by the football team as justification for the project. The Hawks, winners of state Class 4A championships in 2003 and 2004 and the first Hillsborough County football team to win a state title since 1969, currently use a converted classroom for a weight room and have no team meeting area.

"The reason this is important is because (Armwood coach Sean) Callahan takes these kids in the ninth grade and turns them into great people," Bill McBride said. "His program is now in its sixth year, and it's been widely successful."

"I feel confident we'll reach our goal because of the number of commitments we've already obtained," Cheryl McBride said. "There are a lot of people out there who are interested in our project. The Seffner community is stepping up. But not just that. It's Hillsborough County that's stepping up.

"When we win, it's not just a win for Armwood but for Hillsborough County."