The Union R-XI Board of Education unanimously approved a motion Monday to move forward with a portion of a project to make improvements to its outdoor facilities at the high school.

The board voted 6-0, with member Teresa Connelly absent, to start construction on the new track and turf field, and to remodel the entrance to Stierberger Stadium.

Originally the board approved in February a $1 million plan to replace the track, put in a new turf field, complete with sponsor logos, a center logo and colored end zones, and make the stadium improvements, as well as plans for new visitor bleachers, interior fencing and an expanded high jump.

But the board voted with the stipulation that before the work could begin, funds had to be raised to make the improvements through obtaining sponsorships from local businesses, and so far, the district is short about $326,000.

Athletic and Facilities Director Chris Arand told the board he had signed on 14 sponsors who committed a total of more than $250,000 thus far, and have two more sponsors ready to commit, which would bring that total to about $332,800.

Superintendant Steve Bryant said the new turf field would save about $160,000 in field maintenance over the next eight years, which is the guaranteed life expectancy of the turf. That money saved, along with some other available funds, would give the district about $674,000 for the project so far.

“We’re at that magic point if we’re wanting to move ahead with this, we need to make some commitment to get the project completed,” Bryant said.

The board will move forward with the turf and track portions of the project, but will put the logos, visitor bleachers and high jump on hold until more funds are raised. Funding for the stadium improvements is already in place through a private donor.

Bryant said there were some additional funds available in the district’s capital improvement fund, but board member Virgil Wiedeman said he would be opposed to using any of the district’s money.

“When we did our bond issue, it specifically said the improvements were going to be private money,” Wiedeman said. “I want to keep our word.”

Bryant emphasized that none of the money used for the outdoor project would be used from the bond money.

Arand said there were other avenues of raising money, such as brick pavers and individual one-time donations.

“We got things rolling, and we’ve money coming in and a lot of people are excited about it,” he said. “I think the more we commit and it’s actually going to happen, I think the more people get excited about it.”

Don Bollinger, a representative of ATG Sports, LLC, Herculaneum, the company contracted to do the work, said the project will begin around May 20. It would not be completed until August, which would give the district some time to raise more money.

The completion of the Union outdoor project will add it to the list of schools in the Four Rivers Conference area that already working on turf football fields, but what makes the district unique is that its field will be done completely with donations.

Bollinger said Washington is spending $2.3 million, Owensville is spending $1.1 million, St. James, $1.3 million, all with zero dollars from fund-raising, Bollinger said. His company also is currently working on an outdoor project at Rolla, costing around $1 million, with only $200,000 coming from fund-raising.

“Out of all the districts around, this community has really come together and shown its support in just a few months raising $332,000,” he said.