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Bears to begin 7-game football schedule against Pinal rivals

COOLIDGE — In a season that’s going to be anything but normal, Coolidge football fans will at least feel connected with their roots due to their opponents in the first couple weeks.

After months of uncertainty over whether a season would even take place and, if it did, how it would look, last week the Arizona Interscholastic Association approved the conditions under which a football season could proceed, giving the green light to schools to finalize their schedules.

For the Bears, this means a seven-game regular season, down from the usual 10, beginning Oct. 2 and running through Nov. 13. Most of those games will come against regional opponents American Leadership Academy-Ironwood, Mesa Eastmerk, ALA-Gilbert North and Gilbert Christian.

However, the season begins with a couple treats for traditionalist football fans. First, on Oct. 2, is the big rivalry game at home against Florence. Typically, this game comes later in the season, so this will be an instant test of how the Bears look following the graduation of quarterback Valentine Rodriguez.

Then the next week, there is the return of another rivalry that has been on hiatus in recent years, when the Bears will travel to Eloy to take on Santa Cruz Valley. The Dust Devils are among the key contenders for the 2A conference following the promotion of Thatcher and Eagar Round Valley.

Rounding out the Bears’ home schedule is Safford, which will be visiting Coolidge on Oct. 30.

There was speculation that the dates on the AIA’s fall sports calendar could be pushed back if the executive board felt COVID-19 metrics were not yet at appropriate levels to return to athletic activities.

Instead, those dates will be followed. For football, that means official practices were allowed to start Monday, with the regular season kicking off Oct. 2. Volleyball practice began Monday, and its regular season will start Sept. 16.

The executive board is comprised of representatives from AIA member schools, including board president Toni Corona, who is the athletic director at Safford High School.

“With this data and the state’s recorded number of COVID-19 cases declining over the past two weeks, the board felt competitive sports and activities at the member schools can be successful within recommended guidelines,” the AIA stated in a press release.

The revised recommended guidelines are covered in a 17-page document, which is available to the public on the AIA’s website at This comes on the heels of the AIA releasing a document that covers several sport modifications that are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during athletic activities.

“I would like to say on behalf of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, especially for the sport of football, we would not have been able to make this decision until this time right now based on the metrics,” AIA executive director David Hines said in a statement. “So the metrics have gotten to a place that we can start football practice. That we can start the heat acclimatization (guidelines). That we can get kids in a helmet and shoulder pads and begin doing work.”

Other fall sports, such as golf, badminton and soccer, have already begun practices. Golf has also started official competitions.

“To say we are happy to be where we are now is an understatement,” Hines said. “The board members really took their time to make sure that this could be done safely. We think it definitely can. With the help of everyone at our member schools doing their part, we can absolutely make this a memorable season.”

The winter sports season will start one week later than planned to accommodate the extension of the fall sports season.

Coolidge football schedule:

  • Oct. 2 — Florence
  • Oct. 9 — at Santa Cruz Valley
  • Oct. 16 — ALA-Ironwood
  • Oct. 23 — Eastmark
  • Oct. 30 — Safford
  • Nov. 6 — at ALA-Gilbert North
  • Nov. 13 — at Gilbert Christian

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VFW helps kids in Coolidge create crafts

COOLIDGE -- A kids’ arts and crafts program is just one of several functions in the works at the Coolidge VFW post as summer closes and autumn approaches.

Kids of all ages are invited to Sgt. JD Watkins Jr. VFW Post 3713 at 328 W. Coolidge Ave. on Saturdays later this month to build miniature projects with their own hands.

VFW member John Carter started a pilot program with a few families and supplies donated from Lowe’s Home Improvement stores from the area.

“What can I do to make the world a better place? What can I do to make people happy?” Carter asked of himself to explain why the program started. “This made a lot of kids happy, and I like making my kids happy first and foremost so I thought I’d see if I could get them to donate a bunch of their kits and do a little project here. Turns out Lowe’s was very happy to partner with us. I’m not even done collecting all the kits yet. My service doesn’t stop just because my enlistment ended.”

Carter had been participating in a similar program at The Home Depot for his four children, ages 5, 2 (twins) and 18 months, but that store discontinued the hobby kits, which are not retail-sold items there or at Lowe’s. So he tried Lowe’s stores in Casa Grande, Phoenix, Gilbert and Queen Creek and was warmly received with so many kits he decided to invite the whole community.

“I wanted to get an initial feel for the general interest in the public, if people were interested in coming down and sure enough they were. I had a couple of families come and sign up.” he said. “Due to the restrictions, I’m not sure how comfortable the public is so we have hours slots from 10 to 1, with 1 being the last slot. We’ll have 10 children in each hour. We have plenty of space to separate them, and we’ll rotate through. I have enough kits for all of them.”

Some of the kits include projects for making wheelbarrows, basketball hoops, birdhouses or note holders.

“We’re also taking a lot of suggestions,” Carter said. “I only have so many ideas. I want to know what Coolidge wants to see. What do you want your kids to be active in? And this is something that is successful so far, but why not hear from them directly? I want them to tell me what you want, and we will make it happen if possible.”

Later on, Carter, who works as an industrial firefighter, is hoping to give kids fire-safety training using authentic equipment and start a third program geared toward high school-age youths.

“Firefighters will come in and we’ll have the spray hose and let the kids do some scenarios where they’ll get in the truck, raise awareness for them. They have little plastic helmets and booklets. I’d like to bring in fire extinguishers and light a small fire in the back and teach children how to properly use an extinguisher as well.

“We can never do enough for our kids. I can’t do enough, but I can try. I’m even going to start teaching smelting and blacksmithing to kids if I can get a small forge. It’s more for the high school-range kids. You want to make sure kids stay out of trouble, keep engaged and learn a useful trade, and it’s a trade that isn’t very common.”

Carter and post Cmdr. Derek Hulsebus are hoping to have the program available at least once a month starting Saturday or Sept. 26.

For more information about the arts and crafts program, call Carter at 518-344-8112 or search for him on Facebook.

Hulsebus wants to clear up a misconception he believes many people have about the VFW and its community involvement.

“They think all we do is come here sit and drink beer and smoke cigarettes, which is not the case,” he said. “We have programs for kids whether they be youngsters, middle age and high school kids, and a lot of people have never even heard of that so getting that information out there (is vital).”

The VFW has several programs that provide college scholarship or grant money, Hulsebus said.

“Support for the community is important because it shows people that we care about other people, it shows that we’re here to support them. It also encourages them to get involved in more things and doing things like that you’re going to build a better neighborhood, you’re going to have neighbors that get to know each other and like each other and want to do stuff together and hang out. More positive things happening for kids. They grow up to be positive adults if they have more positive things as kids,” Hulsebus said.

Free community movie nights and a car show and block party are just two of the immediate functions the VFW has on slate this year.

The Good Vibes Car & Bike Show is scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 24 on Coolidge Avenue. The show is open to classic, muscle antique and custom cars, street rods, motorcycles, trucks, low riders and rat rods. The deadline for early entires is Oct. 1 and the fee is $20 per entry. There will be sponsor awards, best of show, raffle prizes, food and drink from Pita Patio Grill and other vendors and a DJ.

The Rock the Block Party will be held later in the day. Both activities are fundraisers for veterans assistance the VFW and American Legion provide, such as Operation Hydration for the National Guard and holiday dinners at each of the posts in Coolidge.

The VFW also will be resuming its twice-monthly free movie nights on Fridays in the lot east of the post.

“When it starts cooling down, we’re going to start a movie night, project a movie on the side of the building,” Hulsebus said. “We give out free popcorn and a drink for anyone that shows up. Cars drive up, sit there and watch a movie. It’s pretty cool. Occasionally we bring in bounce castles. We had a petting zoo for the 75th anniversary (of the post). We’ll do more stuff like that.”

GM to make electric vehicle, supply batteries for Nikola

DETROIT — General Motors announced its second major electric vehicle partnership in less than a week on Tuesday, this time a $2 billion deal with startup Nikola.

GM will take an 11% ownership stake in the Phoenix company and will engineer and build Nikola’s Badger hydrogen fuel cell and electric pickup truck. The Badger is expected to be in production by the end of 2022.

GM also will help with cost reductions for Nikola's other vehicles including heavy trucks, and the company will use GM's battery system and hydrogen fuel technology.

On a conference call Tuesday, Nikola founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton said the agreement relieves his company of the expense of building another factory to make the Badger. Nikola, however, will keep building a U.S. factory in Coolidge to make heavy trucks.

Milton called the agreement a “dream” partnership.

“By joining together, we get access to their validated parts for all of our programs, General Motors’ Ultium battery technology and a multi-billion dollar fuel cell program ready for production,” Milton said. “Nikola immediately gets decades of supplier and manufacturing knowledge, validated and tested production-ready EV propulsion, world-class engineering and investor confidence. Most importantly, General Motors has a vested interest to see Nikola succeed.”

In exchange for the 10-year deal, GM will get $2 billion worth of Nikola's newly issued common stock that will come in three increments through 2025.

News of the deal sent shares of both companies surging despite a broader-market downturn. Nikola's shares jumped $14.50, or 40.8%, to close Tuesday at $50.05. GM advanced $2.38, or 7.9%, to end at $32.38.

The move sets up GM for a new revenue stream and possibly a change in its business model, essentially becoming a parts supplier to other companies for electric vehicle frames, batteries, controls and components.

GM has been under pressure from Wall Street to more quickly monetize its electric vehicle technology, and industry analysts have suggested spinning off its EV unit as a separate company.

Barra said on a conference call that GM has a “platform that others can use that's going to give us scale and help us drive efficiency.” She said the electric vehicle platform and batteries are attractive to other companies, which is a huge opportunity for GM.

“We're going to leverage that and really seize the opportunity that we have to grow,” she said.

However, she wouldn't comment on whether GM is in talks with other companies.

Nikola will be responsible for the sales and marketing of the Badger, but it will be built on GM's new battery electric truck underpinnings and use GM fuel cell and battery technology. GM also will supply batteries for other Nikola vehicles including heavy trucks.

GM has its own battery electric truck, a GMC Hummer, due to go on sale a year ahead of the Badger.

The deal is the second major partnership announced by GM this month as it lines up companies to share in the costs of developing electric and autonomous vehicle technology. On Thursday GM said it would join with Japanese automaker Honda to share the costs of building vehicles powered by batteries and internal combustion engines.

GM expects to get more than $4 billion in benefits from the deal with the stock as well as from contracting to manufacture the Badger. GM also will get supply contracts for batteries and fuel cells and electric vehicle regulatory credits that can be used by GM to comply with fuel economy and pollution standards, or sold to other companies.

Nikola Corp., which hasn’t made a profit yet and lost $86.6 million in the second quarter, expects to save over $4 billion in battery and powertrain costs over 10 years.

Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives, in a note to investors Tuesday, wrote that the deal is huge step forward for Nikola, giving the company credibility with Badger production and its hydrogen fuel cell and semi truck ambitions.

“There have been many skeptics around Nikola and its founder Trevor Milton's ambitions over the coming years, which now get thrown out the window with stalwart GM making a major strategic bet on Nikola,” he wrote.

Nikola, founded in 2015, became a public company in June after a merger with VectoIQ, a publicly traded special-purpose acquisition company.

When it went public, Nikola added former GM Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky, CEO of VectoIQ, to its board of directors.

Barra said that Girsky made initial introductions to help start the deal.


AP Business Writer Michelle Chapman contributed to this report.

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CAVIT reopening set for October

COOLIDGE — The Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology is now hoping to open classrooms to students on Oct. 13, pushing the previous date back from Tuesday.

The CAVIT Governing Board voted 4-0 Sept. 2 during a teleconference meeting to accept Superintendent Mike Glover’s recommendation of the Oct. 13 target date. Tuesday’s scheduled reopening date was established by the board at its Aug. 5 meeting.

Absent from the meeting was the board’s Eloy area representative, Mary Duarte.

With Pinal County not meeting public health benchmarks set by the Arizona Department of Health Services for beginning in-school learning and other community services, CAVIT was unable to launch in-person schooling by Tuesday, Glover told the board.

Coolidge and many other public schools in the county are working on a similar time frame, Glover added. He also said CAVIT students “have been doing a good job with online learning” this year.

At the start of this year, CAVIT had 870 students, an increase of 50 from the end of last year, and as of Sept. 2 enrollment had reached 875, Glover told the board.