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Committee reveals plans for a new Southridge Community Plaza

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jeff Keller looks around his home office that has been devoted to his oldest son, Andrew, who was killed in Afghanistan. Jeff is wearing a special shirt that will be sold during Friday's Memorial Game at Southridge. The stars are aligning for Southridge High School.

After years of lamenting the lack of outdoor restroom facilities, a proper concession stand, an outdoor gathering place and welcoming entry to the Skyhawks stadium, a community effort to create a plaza incorporating all of those pieces and more is gaining momentum and support.

Since the school opened its doors to students in the fall of 1999, the south side of campus has felt incomplete to students, parents, faculty and community members who use the facilities.

That is all on the verge of changing.

A committee of dedicated volunteers this week unveiled the Southridge Community Plaza Project, a privately funded improvement project “Reflecting the pride of our community that will honor Andrew Keller as well as others who have fought and given their lives for our freedoms.”

Fans who attend Friday night’s Memorial Game honoring the 22-year-old Tigard soldier and 2008 Southridge graduate who was killed in action last year, will also have the opportunity to learn more about the project and ways they can support its creation.

The proposed plaza will offer restrooms, concessions, proper lighting, an inviting community space with seating and permanent ticket booths for events. After hundreds of hours of brainstorming and adjusting plans, the project gained tentative support from the Beaverton School District, Southridge leaders and the city of Beaverton.

Schematic designs provided by Woofter Architecture reveal what the ambitious plaza will include.by: ARTISTIC RENDERING: WOOFTER ARCHITECTURE - The rendering provides an aerial view looking southeast at the proposed Southridge Community Plaza.

The school will bid a long-overdue farewell to porta-potties and the dark, temporary concessions trailer under the bleachers. Instead, concessions and restroom facilities will be located on the east end of the stadium, allowing use by both home and visiting fans along with improved spectator access to all field sports and track events.

The muddy, bark-chipped area between the football field and school building will be transformed into a plaza that will allow students and classes to go outside and enjoy an inspiring space.

“A lot of the pieces have come together at the right time,” said Principal Todd Corsetti of the plans. “A lot of energy came around the time of the tragic loss of Andrew.

“The community was looking for a meaningful way to pay tribute to him.”

When the School Board decided earlier this year not to change its policy that would allow the school to name the stadium after Pfc. Andrew Keller, thoughts turned to the creation of a different type of memorial on campus.

“I think the community has come up with something that will be even more impactful that will honor Andrew and other members of the military as well as provide a place to recognize past and future members of our community,” Corsetti said. “The new Community Plaza will transform an area that has been an eyesore into a warm, welcoming and inspiring place.

“Most high schools in our district have an entry that defines who they are and what they are about. This plaza will be that place for Southridge and a source of pride for the entire South Beaverton community.”

The Keller family was proud to join the effort and has been inspired by the outpouring of support from the community in the past 13 months, said Jeff Keller, Andrew’s father.

So far, the project has garnered more than $62,000 in cash donations and $105,000 in in-kind donations to go toward the plaza.

“What’s come from all of this is a plaza that will have an amazing impact on future generations of kids and a place to bring us all together and celebrate who we are as a community,” Jeff Keller said. “It’s a symbol of how powerful a community can be in the aftermath of a tragedy and really rally around each other.

“Andrew inspired all of this, and the community built this. It’s overwhelming sometimes and pretty amazing to see what this community can do. We live in an incredible place.”

The new plaza will have a wall of honor, a wall of generosity and a wall of hope, to recognize members of the Southridge and greater South Beaverton communities.

The project also calls for the creation of a circle. At its center will be a bronzed helmet with the No. 13 modeled from the helmet Andrew Keller wore while playing for the Skyhawks. The area will also have a wall sharing Keller’s story and another with a quote from a letter he wrote to his mother Kim before his deployment to Afghanistan, “... but isn’t that what life is about? Making the ultimate sacrifice for that small chance of making a difference in sombody’s life.”by: ARTISTIC RENDERING: WOOFTER ARCHITECTURE - The rendering shows an inspirational plaza honoring Pfc. Andrew Keller that is part of the proposed Southridge Community Plaza.

Players will be able to run through that area and touch that helmet on their way to a game or meet.

Dave Garske, an operations manager for Hoffman Construction and the father of two sons who graduated from Southridge and another son who is a sophomore, is one of many volunteers on a booster committee spearheading the project.

“There is a lot of momentum to get this plaza built, and we’ve created a comprehensive plan that addresses everyone’s wish list,” Garske said.

He estimates the project has a $1 million “street value,” but with the support of community donations, the cost to construct the plaza will be reduced.

“This will be more than a plaza — it will be an amazing community area,” Garske said. “We have a lot of passion behind us, people who have dedicated their time, energy and resources to make this happen. To see this dream become a reality in the next 12 months is really exciting.

“We have a great start, but have a long ways to go to reach our fundraising goal. We’re looking for community members to join us.”

You can help

For more information about the Southridge High School Community Plaza in honor of Pfc. Andrew J. Keller, visit srhscommunityplaza.wordpress.com. To contribute to the effort to create the plaza, contact Becky Tymchuk at Btymchuk@aol.com or Dave Garske at davegarske5@gmail.com.

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