How did the Ronald Reagan Sports Park get its name?
How Did the Ronald Reagan Sports Park Get Its Name?
In the 1970s, Temecula was a rural town of about 4,000 residents. There were no supermarkets or stoplights, and the place we now call the Promenade Mall
was a pasture for dairy cows. The wide open spaces all around were dotted with growing neighborhoods.
The residents were involved in community life and many were active on softball and Little League teams. Yet, there was no place to play, except vacant lots or school playgrounds. Needless to say, they really wanted a park where teams could meet, children could run, and families could go for picnics.
But there was a problem. Parks are usually built with government funds and there was no city government in place. What should the residents do? Wait? Give up? Not a chance! They decided to build a sports park on their own, without any government assistance!
They asked the Kaiser Development Corporation, which intended to master-plan the area as a residential community, to donate some land, so the town could construct a park. Kaiser was skeptical that such a small community could build a sports park, so the company agreed to donate the land on the condition that, if it was not used as a park, title (or ownership) of the land would revert back to Kaiser.
Fund-raiser after fund-raiser was held to help get the project started. The whole community chipped in. Volunteers pulled weeds, planted trees, and raised light poles. Civil engineers and contractors donated equipment and equipment operators donated their time. Parents and children pulled weeds and planted trees. Restaurants fed the volunteers. Many, many volunteers donated their time doing whatever they could at the site. More fund-raisers, like spaghetti dinners and barbeques, were held to raise money for things they needed. They even held a fund-raising rodeo! There seemed to never be enough money and, at one point, it seemed as if they would never succeed. For three years, the citizens of Temecula worked together to make it happen … and it did. They built their sports park!
But they didn’t stop there. As hard as it was to build the sports park, it was just as hard to maintain it. Leagues were charged fees, but they just weren’t enough to cover all the maintenance costs, so people still had to volunteer. Volunteers mowed lawns and picked up trash and more fund-raisers had to be organized. The people of Temecula took the initiative, which means they were ready and willing to take the action necessary to get the job done.
At the same time that Temecula was getting its start as a rural community, Ronald Reagan, two-term Governor of California, owned land in the Temecula Valley and planned to live here. He loved ranch life, the horses, the trails, and the hard outdoor work it required. Later, in 1981, his life took a different turn, and he changed his plans. He was elected President of the United States of America.
Remember, he was familiar with the Temecula Valley, so he knew about the residents’ efforts to build the sports park on their own, without any government funding. (Temecula did not become incorporated as a city until 1989.) About the same time the sports park was completed, President Reagan spoke at a meeting of the U.S. Olympic Committee in Los Angeles.
It was March 3, 1983. He encouraged the committee to work hard together to put on a successful summer of Olympic Games. The President talked about how sports were a great way to bring people together. He described the “noble American tradition of direct citizen involvement,” the very definition of democracy. He explained:
“One of the top priorities of our Administration has been to encourage the American people, as individuals and as organizations in private and business life, to get more directly involved in getting things done, solving problems, and helping each other. Private initiative,” he recognized, “is our most precious American resource, and it is as alive today as it was when our ancestors used to join in barn-raising parties when need for a neighbor.”
The President cited examples of what can happen when the right spirit of “Can-do” and “I will,” replaces “Let’s wait,” and “I won’t.” That is when he mentioned Temecula.
“… the folks in a rather small town, Temecula. They got together and built themselves a sports park, held fund-raising barbeques and dinners. And those that didn’t have money volunteered the time and energy. And now the young people of that community have baseball diamonds for Little League and other sports events, just due to what’s traditional Americanism.”
In 2004, when President Reagan died, John Hunneman wrote a column about him. He quoted the President’s words about Temecula. Then Mayor Mike Naggar, long an admirer of the former President, asked at a City Council meeting that the sports park, called Rancho California Sports Park at the time, be renamed, “Ronald Reagan Sports Park.”
At that meeting, four citizens got up to speak in favor of the name change: John Hunneman, Adele Harrison, Hailey Paige Strode (a third grader), and Perry Peters. Perry also asked the City Council to allow the citizens of the community to raise money privately to build a monument to the volunteers who created the park and to the President who honored their “typical American spirit.”
With others, these local residents who spoke out at the City Council meeting, formed the Friends of Ronald Reagan SP (Sports Park), an all-volunteer 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization to raise funds to build the monument as a permanent way to honor those volunteers, President Reagan, and the valuable quality they had in common: individual initiative.
Since that time, Friends of Ronald Reagan SP has constructed a monument, which consists of plants, benches, a granite wall with Reagan’s Temecula quote, the names of major donors, and a statue of President Reagan. He has a shovel in his
hand, and his sleeves are rolled up … ready to go to work! FRRSP is actively raising funds to complete the monument, which is missing four additional statues that represent the first volunteers who worked on the park. The four statues are of a father, mother, son and daughter, all hard at work.
If you are as proud as we are of the founding members of our community and the American spirit of individual initiative that President Reagan recognized, you are invited to join us in helping to finish the monument!
Four more statues and we’re there! See the Monument section of this website for more information.