Arizona College Prep setting standard with new athletic facilities - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Arizona College Prep setting standard with new athletic facilities

August 17th, 2021 development
Arizona College Prep setting standard with new athletic facilities

By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

When Arizona College Prep first opened its doors on the campus of Hamilton High School in 2007, athletics were a mere afterthought.

The school, which offers students a rigorous curriculum focused on academic success in college, catered to a mere 500 students in its first few years. Eventually, enrollment numbers began to climb, and space became limited.

ACP made the move to its first standalone facility near Alma School Road and Erie Street, about a mile away from its elementary and junior high campus attached to Chandler High School. It’s there the Knights’ sports programs were born, including the football program run by head coach Myron Blueford.

As the school has continued to grow and the wait list expanded, so did the desire for students to participate in athletics on campus. Once again, ACP was out of space.

“We were definitely out of space,” school Athletic Director Jamie McClure said. “We had kids in every area. Academically, I think we were always with some of the charter schools. The difference is we didn’t have the facilities. Now, we have this product that has proven to be effective and amazing.”

The district governing board approved the $87 million campus near Gilbert and Ocotillo roads in Chandler. Construction finished in July just before the start of the new school year.

Along with sprawling classrooms in the large building are new fields and other athletic facilities. The gymnasium at the Erie campus was compact with just a few rows of bleachers on either side. The weight room resembled a small classroom with just a few squat racks and benches.

The softball, baseball and football fields were nonexistent. Even the soccer program, which had a field on campus, used a local Chandler Unified school for its home games, like other programs.

Now, however, the school has two softball fields – one for varsity and junior varsity – a sprawling weight room set to open on Aug. 16 along with its new, much larger gymnasium, locker rooms big enough to adequately serve all its sports programs and a junior varsity and varsity baseball field, which will don the Knights’ logo for the first time ever as the program is set for its inaugural season in the spring.

But perhaps one of the most exciting new facilities on campus is the football field. It’s where the ACP program, fresh off its first-ever region championship, will kick off its season Aug. 27 against Sabino. Blueford, while still weeks away, could hardly contain his emotion thinking about his team running onto their field and through the inflatable tunnel for the first time.

“I’ll probably have to come out here early to get all the emotions out,” Blueford said. “I gave them a rundown of how we are going to come out, a description of the tunnel, when we are going to ring the bell — a new tradition we are starting here — seeing the look on their faces, was what got to me. I think it’s going to be a special moment not only for this team but this school.”

Blueford played a significant role in the design of some of the facilities on campus, especially for the football program. He helped with the team’s field house, which sits on the southeast end of the field, and took complete control over the design of the weight room.

Along with several more workout stations and equipment, Blueford wanted the room to represent the growing sense of pride students have representing ACP on and off the field or court. The walls will be plastered with purple and silver, the school’s primary colors.

Inside a classroom at ACP, which has been designated for Blueford and his team to watch film, a picture of the old weight room is framed. It’s a constant reminder of where they came from.

“I can’t wait for the weight room,” Blueford said. “I’m excited this 2022 class gets to experience it because this is one of the hardest working groups I’ve ever had. When that room opens, there’s going to be a lot of excitement. They understand where we came from and I think that has motivated them.”

Growing up in Chandler, Pollack always aimed to make a difference in the community. He played baseball at Corona del Sol, right near the border of Tempe and Chandler. He went on to attend Arizona State University where he obtained his Bachelor’s in Secondary Education Mathematics. He later received his Master’s from Grand Canyon.

He and his wife moved back to Chandler just two miles from ACP’s new campus, where he was hired in April.

In late June, the team concluded its first-ever summer camp. This week, they began working on the new field for the first time.

“There’s all kinds of excitement,” Pollack said. “We had such a good turnout this summer and we have that same turnout now. The kids are all buying in. It’s just a great feeling.”

Having come from Corona and Arizona State, both with top-notch baseball facilities, Pollack was ecstatic when he laid eyes on the field for the first time. The grass has been well-maintained since it was first installed, and he’s already envisioned the ACP Knight head logo behind home plate this spring.

He’s also become aware of the new sense of pride among students who play baseball but never had the opportunity to represent ACP on the field. Pollack constantly reminds the players he has worked with since he was hired to be thankful for the opportunity they have in the spring.

“We had a couple upperclassmen who know the culture of the school and tried to use their experience to tie in to our program,” Pollack said. “We have a couple seniors and a couple of juniors who are biting at the bit to represent their school on the baseball field.”

The school has a new buzz surrounding it. Not only does McClure expect the athletics programs reach new heights on the field and courts, but she believes the academics — already high at the school — will continue to grow.

ACP now caters to just over 1,200 students with more on a waiting list. The school has come a long way since it shared space with Hamilton in 2007.

“We’ve never had a baseball or softball field,” McClure said. “We’ve never had our logo on a football field. We’ve never hosted a home track meet. Not only are we getting kids because of our academics, we are getting kids for our athletic facilities and it’s my goal to provide those same academic opportunities for our athletes.”