Bob Peters has seen just about everything change at Centralia College over the years, a steady flow of new faces and spaces.
A pillar for Trailblazer athletics for 36 years, Peters was shocked a few weeks ago when he was told that the campus’ new state-of-the-art, 4-acre multi-sport complex will don his name. Bob Peters Field was dedicated Monday at a ceremony honoring Peters, who is now the longest continuously serving athletic director in the state of Washington.
“Since the journey started in 1986, every building since I’ve been here has been changed,” Peters said. “That’s because Centralia College has a vision, and when people look at this field it’s one of the best in the Northwest, if not the best among the community colleges.”
In the works since 1999 when the college first started buying neighboring lots needed to build the site as part of its master development plan, the college broke ground on the project last spring. The school’s baseball team held its first practice there in January and hosted the inaugural game in February. The complex also hosts softball, soccer and features a porous turf that allows rain to flow through into a drainage system, decreasing disruptions from rainy weather. Students have contributed more than $3 million toward the project through student fees.
Peters said the site should also be a boon for the broader community.
“The athletic complex will benefit downtown, because typically our games have been on the other side of town,” Peters said. “I think it will draw people into downtown on the weekends. People will come for a game and then filter into downtown to eat and shop, tying in a better connection to the college.”
In the past, teams have played on shared fields in Centralia. College officials say the new field will boost the athletic department and help with recruitment of athletes.
A regular on the campus since he was a kid, Peters grew up on Silver Street, a block from the college, and spent his childhood sneaking into the gym and playing on the athletic fields. He graduated from Centralia High School in 1979 and started at Centralia College that year, playing basketball and later earning an associate degree. He transferred to Western Washington University and also played basketball there, completing a degree in education.
After college, Peters came back to Centralia and started looking for work. It wasn’t long before he got a call from former coach and athletic director Bob Reimer, who hired Peters as part-time assistant men’s basketball coach. He started teaching health and physical education at the college.
Peters worked the assistant coach gig from 1986 to 1990 and coached the women’s team at the same time from 1988 to 1991. He took over as head coach of the men’s basketball program in 1991 and was named the college’s athletic director, while continuing to teach classes.
“It was the family environment that kept me here for so many years,” Peters said. “I love working with kids and seeing them succeed … Plus, all my family is here. I always wanted to be close to my family.”
The college’s athletic facilities served as a sort of second home for he and wife Shawn’s three children, Hillary Hull, Bailey Moon and Christian Peters.
“My parents bought a house really close to Centralia College for proximity to a job that is pretty demanding at times,” Moon said. “Even during my dad’s coaching days after the final buzzer went off, the job was not done — he would spend time cleaning the bleachers, sweeping floors, restocking the concession stands and any other task that needed to be done.”
Among his greatest achievements, Peters points to two Presidents Cups — an award recognizing academic success of student athletes — as well as countless friendships formed throughout the years.
Peters said he’d like to be remembered as helping provide memorable experiences for student athletes, and as someone who did it the right way and led by example through leadership and work ethic.
Marco Azurdia, director of the Northwest Athletic Conference, described Peters’ leadership as selfless.
“Bob Peters is a man of integrity who speaks few words but speaks with a purpose,” Azurdia said. “Bob has always been about the team and others before himself.”
Longtime friend Duncan Stevenson, athletic director at Pierce College, said the field dedication is a fitting tribute.
“There are very few people in this profession who are fortunate enough to have gone on the journey that he has,” Stevenson said. “To be born and raised in this community, to be a high school star athlete and win a state championship here. And then he gets to come back to his hometown and carve out a remarkable 36-year career. It’s been phenomenal to see the work that Bob has done here… not only for Centralia College but for this community.”
Although fully functional, Centralia College President Bob Mohrbacher said visitors can expect a few finishing touches to be added to the sports complex in the near future. Along with permanent bleachers and extended netting to keep home-runs from breaking windows, new signage will also soon read “Bob Peters Field.”