ADA — With the largest ever gift to Ada City Schools already in the bank, a challenge has been issued to Ada fans and supporters to collectively match the $300,000 donated by 1956 graduate Archie Dunham and his wife, Linda. The gift is earmarked for a proposed state-of-the-art indoor practice facility for all sports, band and any other school activity in need of practice area during inclement weather.

How big will it be? Picture this, enclose the playground/football field at Ada Junior High. It will be 90 yards long with the 20 yard line to 20 yard line area needed for band practice for haltime performances.

The “Big Top” will be located on the Ada High campus off the southwest corner of the Craig McBroom Football Complex building.

Dunham, former president and CEO of ConocoPhillips, is retired and lives in Houston with high school sweetheart, Linda Burns, class of 1958.

Dunham, who returned to Ada as the commencement speaker for the AHS Class of 2002, visited Ada Thursday in conjunction with the gift and said it was one of several 'paybacks' for the Dunhams.

"What we are doing now at this stage in our lives is giving back to all the entities that had an influence on our lives. We are in the process of making gifts to Falls Creek, the Marine Corps, the University of Oklahoma, our local church in Houston, to name a few," he said, adding that other gifts are to colleges to help educate students from poor and middle income families.

With the Dunhams’ donation already in the bank with the Ada City School Foundation, a committee has been formed to seek donations for the remaining amount needed.

Local minister Scott Young and businessman Tom Bolitho have volunteered to co-chair the committee.

The project is expected to cost around $700,000-plus. In addition to Dunham’s donation, in excess of $139,000 has been donated, leaving the committee to raise another $261,000 before construction can begin, according to Ada City Schools Superintendent Pat Harrison. Harrison noted some schools funds will be involved for dirtwork, site preparation and landscaping.

The Dunhams settled in Ada in 1943 when Archie was 5 years old.

An above-average student, Dunham was active in band, choir, baseball and various leadership organizations at Ada High.

After graduating from Ada High in 1956, Dunham became the first member of his family to attend college when he enrolled at the University of Oklahoma.

He worked his way through college, spending his summers on a highway construction crew earning $1 per hour. He also was in ROTC at OU.

In college he not only performed in the “Pride of Oklahoma” marching band, but was on the Marine Corps drill team as well.

In 1960 he left OU with a degree in geological and petroleum engineering and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marines.

Marriage also followed college. Two days after he was commissioned he married his long-time sweetheart.

Dunham served his four-year obligation in the service. During this time he developed an interest in finance and economics, so he returned to OU and earned a master’s in business administration. Armed with his master’s and military experience, Dunham was recruited by 17 national companies.

Originally planned as a 60 yard by 40 yards, Dunham upped the ante with the large gift and a request that it be large enough for band practice as well as football and other activities.

The extra yardage not only benefits all sports and other activities seeking shelter, but is especially critical for the band. The Marching Cougars’ halftime and competition show covers from 20 to 20 yardline on a football field.

Head football coach Steve Dean and band director Paul Crowl echoed the other's comments on the need for the facility.

Dean's hunt for indoor facilities during the playoffs in 2004 is well-known as the Cougars moved among several different venues from the Pontotoc County Agri-plex to OU's cavernous indoor facility in search of a warm dry spot big enough to house them. Other occasions have found the Cougars seeking shelter. But Dean emphasized that the building will be available for possible use year round as needed.

"This facility will offer us an alternative when bad weather arises. It will allow our players to see gains in the off-season with speed and agilities. It will also help our players remain focused on our opponent during the season and not the weather, and it will be a relief from those 100-plus degree days in July and August," Dean said. "A huge 'Thank You' goes out to all the people who have made this dream a reality. Many young people of the Ada School system will benefit from this facility."

Crowl said the new facility will help the band immensely because of the constantly changing weather conditions.

“In Oklahoma you never know what the weather will be and we are limited on practice times and dates. I worry constantly about weather between September and October and now that is eliminated,” Crowl said. “It also offers a different surface to march on. We practice on a concrete surface that is slanted and most of our contests are on artificial surfaces. We really appreciate the kindness of our community in the endeavor of the new practice facility.”

The proposed facility will be a 39,000 square feet metal building with an outer wall height of 24 feet and a ridge height of 36 feet.

The fully insulated, AstroTurf practice area we be 80 yards long and 40 yard, 10 feet, wide. The outer area will have a 10 foot concrete wall way on all four sides.

Other amenities include two restrooms, a water fountain and two exhaust fans as well as overhead lighting and exit lighting.

Access will be through six 10-feet wide by 14 feet high overhead doors and four three feet by seven feet exit doors.

The outside will have a five foot concrete walkway on all four sides.

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