District to create master plan for athletic facilities

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By Dave Bell

A meeting between Vandalia school officials and representatives of several community organizations was held last Thursday to launch the process of creating a master plan for sports facilities in the community.

Superintendent of Schools Rich Well told a group of about 28 individuals that the process started with discussions several years ago about an all-weather track, but has subsequently spread to include other facilities near the school complex some owned by the school district and some by the Vandalia Park District.

A lot of schools in our area have upgraded their facilities, Well said. Were kind of stuck. Our facilities need to be addressed.

In all, the districts wish list totals about $12 million.

We shot for the moon, Well said. Its a massive project. But its almost got to be all or nothing, because if we start with the track and football area, it impacts several other areas.

Aside from its scope, another unique aspect of the project is that it will be funded by grants and gifts not school district funds.

Were not going to use school money for this, Well said. This whole idea is based entirely on grant money or gifts.

As the project has evolved in recent months, Well has brainstormed with an architectural firm, discussed the possibilities with the board of education at its spring retreat and kicked the idea around with district administrators.

Hes also secured grant-writing training for two district employees Staci Carroll (media specialist) and Brian Holliday (assistant principal at VJHS). The pair will be writing proposals to foundations.

Carroll told the group last Thursday that she already has identified 14 foundations that she can write for athletic facility grants.

Now, we wanted to bring the community in on this, Well said.

As he spoke to the group, Well displayed the architects model of one possible arrangement for the sports facilities. Included are the football field and track complex, baseball and softball fields, a wrestling and weightlifting building, soccer field, tennis courts, a fine arts performance center and an outdoor swimming pool to replace the aging city pool.

We took everything from Eighth Street to the railroad tracks and imagined we were starting over from scratch, Well said.

The track is where we started for the track teams, for the physical education classes and for walkers from the community, Well said.

Currently, the track has a cinder surface and still is 440 yards rather than 400 meters. In addition to getting an all-weather surface, it also needs to be reconfigured to meet regulation length and width specifications. And while the track is being done, the football field and bleachers must be addressed.

Similarly, when the track and football complex is expanded, it will encroach on the tennis courts to the south and the softball field to the west.

Thus, he said, there was no place to stop once the process was begun.

Its extravagant, Well said of the plan, but we decided to go for the whole Christmas list. Why not in Vandalia? Why not our kids? If were going to dream, lets dream big.

To help with grant writing, representatives of various school and community groups will be asked to provide statements about how the enhanced facilities will help the school, the city and the county.

After the meeting, Well said that although the prospect of the new facilities is exciting, the challenge will be to maintain our intensity over the next several years.

This is a long process, and the waiting is the struggle.