ACP stadium renamed

Hamilton’s first-ever principal Dr. Fred DePrez was honored Sept. 22 by the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board by renaming Arizona College Prep’s football stadium after him.

Arizona College Prep’s football stadium, which brings a new level of energy on Gilbert Road in Chandler on Friday nights, now officially has a name.

Previously called “Knight Stadium” when it made its debut in late August, the host site for all of Arizona College Prep home football and eventually, soccer games will now be renamed in honor of Dr. Fred DePrez, who founded ACP as “Hamilton Prep” in 2007. The resolution was brought to the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board at its bi-weekly meeting on Sept. 22.

The motion passed unanimously.

“I really want to thank you so much,” DePrez said at the meeting once the vote had become official. “This is really a tremendous recognition, and it was completely unexpected. In fact, (former CUSD Superintendent) Camille (Casteel) called me about this 6 months ago and I thought, ‘I have been retired 6 years, how could I still be in trouble?’ It just caught me completely off guard.”

DePrez was the first-ever principal at Hamilton High School, which quickly grew both in terms of the number of students attending the school and in the success of its athletic programs. In 2006, he sought new ways to provide education opportunities for Hamilton students and families outside of the large classroom settings the main high school was providing.

So, he created Hamilton Prep, a high school within a high school. It officially opened to seventh and eighth grade students in 2007 using rented space from Chandler Christian Church, now known as Compass Church just down the street from the main Hamilton campus.

The demand by families to attend Hamilton Prep grew exponentially. In 2010, Erie Elementary School was repurposed and remodeled to house Hamilton Prep, which then became known as Arizona College Prep – Erie. Students and staffed officially moved in two years later in 2012.

The name and location change also allowed ACP to open its doors to more students. On top of seventh and eighth graders, high school freshman up to seniors were then able to enroll. The school had 359 students when it opened in 2012. But has since exploded to nearly 1,300 on its new high school campus.

“It’s been a tremendous thing for the community,” DePrez said of the school. “My grandson went there for a couple of years, so my own family has benefitted from this.”

Arizona College Prep has received numerous academic honors since its inception.

It was named an Arizona Educational Foundation A+ School of Excellence, a U.S. News & World Report Best High School, the top public high school in the greater Phoenix area by Niche and was awarded the 2019 National Blue-Ribbon by the U.S. Department of Education. Students have received millions of dollars in academic scholarships. Some have received individual honors and scholarships from Flinn, one of the most prestigious in the United States, as well as National Merit and Coca-Cola.

The school’s athletic programs, despite their young age compared to other schools in the district, have also produced high-level talent. Just last year ACP saw more than five Division I football players come out of its program that has only been around since 2018.

ACP head coach Myron Blueford said the renaming of the stadium, in some ways, solidifies it as their own. In newsletters sent every week to parents of players on his team, he would often refer to opposing team’s stadiums by their name – most commonly after former coaches or administrators at the school or district. But when highlighting a home game, he could only write “at ACP.”

“It will be cool moving forward to be able to refer to our stadium and it actually having a name,” Blueford said. “That aspect of it is really cool because it sort of solidifies the fact that we now have our own stadium.”

DePrez was nearly overcome with emotion at the board meeting when the resolution was read and approved by the governing board. Many of those involved at the district level were just getting their start in education when he was principal at Hamilton.

So, to be recognized by those he helped mold, including Arizona College Prep as a whole, was an honor he will forever cherish.

“It’s great to be part of this and be recognized this way,” DePrez said. “I thank you very much.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira

 

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