All the Junior Indians Football program wanted was a chance to raise funds for FieldTurf at 's Schumann Stadium, and on Monday the organization got that chance.
The School Board unanimously approved , which paved the way for fundraising to begin. The Junior Indians now begin a new challenge of raising $800,000 to install the new turf.
The survival of the Junior Indians program, in a way, hinged upon the board’s decision to allow fundraising to begin. By 2014, new WIAA girls softball rules require the district to have a regulation-sized field if it wants to continue hosting home games. Open space at is the prime spot to construct a new diamond. However, the Junior Indians now play at Franklin School, and a new softball diamond would leave the football program without a field.
The Junior Indians currently use the practice field, which would be the future site for the softball field, for its games on eight Saturdays a year. The Junior Indians couldn't play at Schumann Stadium if it remains a grass field, since it couldn't handle the heavy wear and tear on it. New turf would give the Junior Indians a home, and allow the softball field plans to move forward.
“I wanted to make it clear that the Junior Indians brought this forward because we may potentially lose our field in the future…if we don’t have a place to play, our organization can’t continue,” said Annette Virlee, who sits on the Junior Indians board. “It seems to be the ultimate solution and if we can raise the money, we will be ecstatic. We're just asking the board for a chance to try.”
Junior Indians President Doug Menne said the organization would be in fundraising mode regardless. If FieldTurf isn't a go, the group would begin raising money to purchase vacant land to build its own facility somewhere in the village.
“We didn’t put all this blood and sweat into the program to see it die off now,” Menne said.
The School Board made it clear Monday that a single shovel will not hit the dirt on the project until all $800,000 is raised. Board member Faith VanderHorst also added an amendment that a minimum $25,000 payment be placed into a replacement fund for the field.
The funding for replacement is expected to come from roughly $25,000 in maintenance . Athletic Director Dave Petroff said additional revenue may also come from rental fees and naming rights.
“This has been a thorough decision-making process and the board has had a lot of questions to make sure our bases our covered in the event anything happens,” said Board President Kathy Shurilla. “We had to make sure this fit into the district plan, and didn’t take away from educational programming in the district.”
In terms of a five-year plan, the installation of turf would be the first domino to fall in a jigsaw puzzle of field reaarangements at the high school. FieldTurf would allow a practice field to be converted into a softball field, and it allows for enhancements of the soccer fields as well. FieldTurf allows the varsity team to practice in Schumann Stadium without putting wear on grass field.
Now, the work is just beginning for the Junior Indians. The district's Capital Improvements Committee, which Petroff is a part of, will also play a leading role in finding donations for the field. Immediately after the meeting, Petroff was gathering the troops and planned a meeting next week to organize a strategy and create a steering committee.
“We are going to have to make some phone calls and bang on some doors, but I think there’s enough interest out there to make this happen,” Petroff said. “We need to go after people that can make a sizable donations to make our goal in a timely fashion. I’m confident the donation from the Junior Indians will give us some momentum.”
Petroff said there have been a few inquiries already from unnamed individuals who may have interest in making a donation. If history repeats itself, Falls may be successful in finding significant private donations. When the district was building the new track, Petroff said it received a $164,000 donation from Don Mullett and the Bradley Corp. — after making a cold call.
If all goes to plan, the Junior Indians and the Capital Improvements Committee hope to have the field installed by August 2012.