Copper thieves leave North Valley stadium dark

FRESNO, Calif.

Both crimes happened within three days. Just as the district was getting an estimate on repairs for the first incident, the thieves came back and left so much damage the entire stadium now has to have its electrical, fiber optic, and telephone lines completely redone. Damage is estimated at $56,000.

Insurance will end up paying for most of it, but at a time of state budget cuts, it's still a significant hit. "The $5,000 cost to the general fund is just $600 or $700 short of what we would receive from the state for one student to attend school for one year. So we're basically taking the money that we would receive for one student back out to make this repair," said Golden Valley Unified Chief Business Officer Jim Monreal.

The theft came as a shock to some parents, who said they were somewhat confused about a dark practice a few weeks ago. "It was like 9 o'clock and we were like, 'This shouldn't be happening, they should have the lights on for these boys'. We couldn't see, they couldn't see," said parent Tonya Molina.

The crimes come just before the Hawks' second season in their brand new stadium. It was completed at the end of the last football season. Students said the timing of the thefts has left them frustrated. "It would be one thing if it was during the summer... but it kind of sucks it happened two weeks before our first home game," said senior Drew Whittemore.

In the meantime, the Madera County Sheriff's Department is investigating the incident. As the district's operations manager pointed out the damage, he said the thieves clearly came well prepared. "These wires were hot. So whoever had done this probably had either insulated cutting equipment or insulated gloves or we probably would have had a dead body here," said Dave Baughman.

Monday night, the district's school board members awarded a contract to a company to make the necessary repairs. The goal is to have the project done in time for the first home game, scheduled for September 2.

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