Board reaches consensus on athletic upgrades

District would pay to redo the track and cover half the cost of synthetic turf football, soccer field

By MITCH MAERSCH

Ozaukee Press staff

A new high school track and synthetic turf football and soccer field might be in the future at the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District.

The School Board last week brainstormed ideas on an array of athletic facility upgrades, coming to consensus on a few.

An estimate by the Milwaukee-based Kapur consulting engineering firm estimated a new track, shot put, pole vault, long jump and triple jump areas, football and baseball synthetic turf, bleachers, lighting, a scoreboard and new softball field would cost about $3.3 million.

Board members prioritized projects from the list.

Supt. Chad Brakke said the track should be done first, adding its upgrade is on the district’s strategic plan.

A new track costs $620,000. Field event upgrades and additions would cost nearly $75,000 more.

The district has been saving money in its long-term capital improvement trust fund, he said, so some projects could be covered or a certain amount of money could be given toward a number of projects with fundraising taking care of the rest.

A fundraising campaign, Brakke said, could involve naming rights, on which the district would need a policy.

Neola, an independent policy service provider the district uses to write many of its policies, doesn’t offer one on naming rights because the standards differ so much from community to community, Brakke said.

The advice Brakke has gleaned from researching fundraising campaigns is to set up projects so five or 10 donations cover the entire cost with contributors being honored on a donation recognition display.

The first step is to set up a committee of community influencers who have a stake in athletics to seek private fundraising. Every naming right would need to receive board approval.

“We throw it out there and we raise the funds,” Brakke said.

He said most projects need a big donation to start, but even if the district doesn’t get that it could start with its own money.

The district could contribute $1.5 million through the capital improvement trust fund, Brakke said.

Determining what facilities to upgrade is a tricky process since one impacts another, and the district has other factors in play.

Putting a fence on the high school’s softball field would require boys’ soccer to move since it stretches into part of the outfield. Playing boys’ soccer on the football field isn’t possible in fall since the grass wouldn’t handle that many cleats ripping it up.

The girls’ soccer team plays on the football field in spring, but it’s not ideal since the field is crowned to allow for adequate drainage.

If the football field would get synthetic turf, both soccer teams would also use it. But football field turf projects are often combined with new tracks so one project doesn’t rip up the work of the other.

In addition, the district’s $21 million referendum that was approved in spring calls for altering the drop-off and pickup process at the elementary school, which could impact athletic fields.

The district had sought to buy about a two-acre strip of land behind the elementary and middle schools from First Evangelical Presbyterian Church to create space for a bus loop and playground, but Brakke said he was told a couple of weeks ago that the church declined to sell the property.

That means the middle school playground may have to be moved to the west or south, both of which would intrude into the boys’ soccer field.

The speed of the referendum work could also affect plans. Buildings and Grounds Director Ben Lukens said the outdoor projects might not get started next summer, buying one more year for the boys’ soccer field.

Board member Kurt Kraus said he wouldn’t support upgrading the district’s softball field since Cedar Grove recently built two regulation fields not far from the schools.

Board member Lori Gruell said she wants to see the district commit to certain projects since some donors may give money toward any athletic upgrades and others might only contribute toward certain sports.

“If I’m a big contributor, I want to know exactly what your plan is,” she said.

Board President Chad Hoopman said, “I think we’ve done a very good job over the years” of paying off a project and then going to the next one.

Brakke said he wanted to provide the board with the cost of projects and fundraising options.

“I’ll move forward in any area you want to go,” he said.

The board agreed that installing synthetic turf on the baseball field for $800,000 was a low priority, despite the season being moved from the summer to spring a few years ago, which leads to games being played on wetter fields.

Board member Dan Bruhn said soccer and track top his priority list, and perhaps softball depending on the traffic flow plan.

“I think if we’re worried about funds, you sell your needs,” he said.

Bruhn said the track is also an educational entity since gym classes use it, and the community often walks on it for exercise.

High School Principal Josh Ketterhagen said the district already has triple and long jump areas, so that nearly $50,000 project isn’t a need. But the Rockets’ track and field teams lose points to five other Big East Conference schools on pole vault since the Cedar Grove-Belgium doesn’t offer it. Adding pole vault would cost nearly $20,000.

If the district would host track and field meets, it would be required to offer pole vault somehow, on school grounds or somewhere else, he said.

Kraus said the district should be “doing the track tomorrow” but it has been holding off because of the possibility of adding synthetic turf to the football field.

“To me, the school should just pay for the track,” he said.

Brakke suggested the district pay for the track and contribute $500,000 for synthetic turf for football and soccer, leaving fundraising to handle the other $500,000.

Board members didn’t take action but supported that plan and in December could approve creating a committee to do fundraising for the project.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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