New Field, Track Taking Shape

Work continues on a $2.3 million overhaul of the Washington High School outdoor athletic/band complex. The project is progressing on schedule and is expected to be completed in time for the Blue Jays football first home opener in early September. Turf installation is expected to begin the first or second week of July.     Missourian Photo.

Despite the rain, the project to overhaul the Washington High School outdoor athletic/band complex is on schedule.

“We are very excited about the progress made to date,” Athletic Director Bill Deckelman told The Missourian Monday.

The $2.3 million project includes a synthetic turf field, spray-on track, new lighting, new visiting side bleachers, fencing, improved ADA accessibility, concrete walkway around the track and an access road, as well as extensive excavation, earthwork and surface prep.

“The soil stabilization treatment was done early on which really helped with the schedule, even with the rain delays,” Deckelman said.

“The field will be ready for our Sept. 6 home opener,” he added. “We also hope to use the field for the Sept. 3 JV game which will be kind of a dry run for us in making sure everything is ready to go.”

Deckelman said the complex is a complete construction zone right now with multiple subcontractors at work on everything from concrete flatwork, prep work for turf installation, including putting in the drainage base, and lighting.

“When the turf starts to go down, that will be a noticeable change,” he said, adding turf installation is scheduled for early July.

“The turf will take awhile to put in, anywhere from three to four weeks,” he explained. “People will get excited when they see all of the green, but it takes a lot of time to do all the cut-ins.”

Deckelman said the track installation will be one of the final projects completed.

“We hope to start laying asphalt in about three to four weeks,” he said.

Excitement Builds

WHS Principal Dr. Frank Wood said it’s been fun to watch the progress and every day students and other residents come by to check on the work.

“There’s a really good vibe about the project out in the community and that’s great,” he said. “The kids who have been up here for camps and other things are so pumped up about it.”

Deckelman said it’s not just the athletes who are excited about the new complex.

“The band kids are too and really most of the students because they all use the field and they know what bad shape it had been in,” he said.

Byrne & Jones Construction, St. Louis, is the general contractor, but Deckelman said many of the subcontractors are local companies.

“It’s great to see so many of our local folks out there at the site,” he said. “It’s really a locally driven project.”

Deckelman said other than some minor hiccups, the work has run very smoothly with no major problems to date.

“I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this project,” he added. “It’s great for the school, the kids and the community.”

‘Long Overdue’

In approving the project, both the school board and Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said it was “long overdue” for the deteriorating complex which had become an embarrassment not only to the high school and district, but also the community.

This past year, the WHS track team had to utilize other area high schools for its home meets due to unsafe track conditions and the annual band festival, which attracts schools from across the state, was in jeopardy because the field was in such bad shape.

The band was forced to hold most of its practices in the parking lot the last several years to try and preserve the grass field from further damage and the high school P.E. classes had very limited access to the outdoor complex.

All of that will be in the past, officials said, with the new AstroTurf Gameday grass being installed. The field will now be completely multipurpose for use not only by the athletic teams, but also the band, P.E. and other classes, and the many community events held at the outdoor complex throughout the year.

Prior to seeking bids, school officials and coaches took several field trips to see what other schools have in place and talked extensively to athletic directors and coaches about what they liked and didn’t like about their track and field surfaces.

Officials said maintenance on the new track and field will be minimal compared to the annual costs for upkeep and repairs the district currently incurs.

Turf does not require watering, fertilizing or cutting. It will need to be groomed about four times a year and the grooming device was included in the bid, as well as extra granules that will need to be replaced.

The life of the new surface is at least eight years and some can last upward of 12 to 15 years. The track may require restriping after seven years.

One-Time Monies

The project is being funded through one-time monies in the district’s capital projects budget. The district also is using the $572,763 it received from Harman Becker in a settlement agreement with the city of Washington over tax payment for the project as well.

The WHS Athletic Association plans to reimburse the district $5,000 for the Blue Jay logo that will go in the center of the field.

The superintendent has said the project is about restoring pride in the high school.