A new element has been added to the outdoor athletic/band complex renovation project currently under way at Washington High School.

The school board last Wednesday approved a proposal by the WHS Athletic Boosters for a new entrance gate and canopy.

A rendering of the new entrance, which features two access gates and three columns, along with a large canopy with the wording — Home of the Blue Jays, Scanlan Stadium at Rauch Field — was reviewed by the board. Ornamental metal fencing also is proposed.

The athletic association asked the board to finance the project up front and the club will pay the district back over a four-year period or sooner if funds are available.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $125,890. Byrne & Jones Construction, St. Louis, the general contractor for the field and track improvements, will oversee the work.

The athletic association also plans to reimburse the district $5,000 for the Blue Jay logo that will go in the center of the field.

District CFO Shelley Kinder said it makes the most sense to build the entrance while the complex is being rebuilt, rather than waiting until the booster club can raise the necessary funds or secure financing for the project.

School board members agreed and said if the project is put on the back burner now, it may never get done.

“I feel we need to go ahead and do it now,” said Dan Contarini, board member.

Board President Scott Byrne agreed, saying now is the best time, while the area is already torn up and utilities are exposed.

“It would be a mess to try and redo the entrance later,” he said.

Byrne thanked the athletic boosters for taking on the project.

“Once again they’re stepping up to the plate for us,” he said. “The boosters have probably spent half a million dollars on that complex over the years and spend so many hours raising money so we can have what we have today.”

Contarini said the district could never repay the athletic club for all it’s done over the years.

“Thank you is inadequate, but thank you, for all you’ve done,” he said to the athletic club representatives at the meeting.

New Complex

Work is progressing on schedule at the athletic/band complex, school officials said.

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 football field is expected to be ready for the football home opener Sept. 6.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the deteriorating complex had become not only an embarrassment to the high school and district, but also a liability.

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.

The overall 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.