A 'National Wounded Warriors Center' for Mammoth

Having built Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra into a thriving entity, Kathy Copeland says she has set her sights on something bigger.

Scheduled to speak before the Town Council on Wednesday, July 16, Copeland presented plans for a “National Wounded Warriors Center,” which would be situated adjacent to the student housing building at Cerro Coso Community College.

All she needs, she said, is $23 million in private donations to get a shovel in the ground.

“I’m very excited about this,” Copeland said before the council meeting. “This is my new baby.”

It is a very large baby.

The center, which would be open to assist any veteran in need of specialized help, would offer a range of services, including mental health programs, physical and occupational therapy, and substance abuse programs.

It would not be strictly affiliated with the nationally based Wounded Warriors Project, which is specific to wounded veterans of the military actions following the events of 9/11.

Rather, Copeland said she envisions a facility open to all veterans who may have injuries as a result of domestic, as well as theater-of-war, actions.

“It’s a lot more than just a building,” she said. “It would be a place for veterans who are ready to push the re-set button in their lives.”

The center would use no public or taxpayer funds, she said, adding that an aggressive, fund-raising effort already is underway.

“The center will house 38 men and women looking to ‘reboot’ their lives and emerge with a new hold on life,” Copeland wrote in a written slide-show presentation to the council.

The architect of the center, she said, is Mammoth’s Bruce Woodward, whose latest completed local project was the Rock ‘n’ Bowl building on Chateau Road.

Woodward has designed a multi-story structure that includes 26 individual bedrooms; three family suites, a kitchen, dining room, and exercise room, plus space for a patio, gazebo, conference room and 55 parking spaces.

Larry Walker of the Mammoth Design Group drew renderings of the proposed center.

The bulk of the fundraising effort would be in the sale of the naming rights to the building, currently set at $10 million.

(For comparison purposes only, naming rights to AT&T Park in San Francisco cost the sponsor $50 million over 24 years; Overstock.com bought the naming rights to the Oakland Coliseum for $7.2 million over six years, according to public documents.

(Among medical care facilities, there have been Hasbro Children’s Hospital at Rhode Island Hospital; Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian; The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey; and Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA.)

Surrounding the proposed Wounded Warrior Center is a network of bike paths, hiking trails, sidewalks and bus routes, all of which already exist as part of the college campus.

The college is situated off Lower Meridian Boulevard, across the street from Mammoth Elementary and Mammoth Middle schools.

Copeland, who launched Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra in 2007, characterized her presentation as a “soft unveil” of the project, but there is nothing that is soft about the overall effort.

She said she hopes to begin construction next summer (2015).

She also emphasized her belief that Mammoth was the best possible site for such a center, given the success of DSES, the Mammoth Hospital’s physical therapy expertise, and the mountains themselves.

“It will be a safe haven and a home for Wounded Warriors in these healing mountains, in a town that loves and respects them and among people who are grateful for their service,” she said.