'Significant donations' pending for new field, track

Cary Ashby • May 17, 2019 at 1:00 PM

It’s full steam ahead for the newly formed Whitney Field marketing committee.

Corey Ream, Norwalk City Schools director of operations, provided the school board with an update Tuesday and encouraged the members to consider what parts of Whitney Field should be named. Whitney Field is where the Truckers and St. Paul Flyers play their home football games and track meets.

The committee’s ideal plan is for a new football field and track to be installed in time for the start of the 2020 season. The costs currently are unclear.

Ream, Norwalk High School director of student activities Josh Schlotterer, Joe Widman, Matt Chapin and Will Chandler are on the Whitney Field marketing committee.

Ream said there has been interest by a few people to give “significant donations” and those people and/or businesses should be recognized for their contributions. 

“We don’t want it to look like NASCAR down there,” he told the board, referring to naming rights.

In addition, Ream said there has been a lot of interest in “in-kind donations” and contractors making contributions.

“We have a lot of commitments, not a lot of signatures,” he added. 

Superintendent George Fisk said it’s exciting “seeing everybody pushing toward the same goal” of wanting to improve Whitney Field, instead of what has seemed like only “pockets of people” who have been passionate about it in the past.

“It’s a great investment for the community,” added Fisk, especially considering the number of students who are impacted by what happens at the facility.

The superintendent agreed with Ream that no matter what happens with naming rights, “we want it tastefully done.”

Fisk told the board he has been impressed with the way Bassett’s Field at True-Lay Stadium in Port Clinton handles advertising. He said there is “a lot of advertising,” but it’s tasteful.

“It doesn’t overwhelm your experience of the game,” Fisk added.

During the January board meeting, Schlotterer presented a list of recommended improvements to Whitney Field from the improvement committee. The visitors bleachers and turf/field conditions were the highest priorities at the time.

The board, in March, heard a three-phase renovation plan to improve Whitney Field from Marie Dowling, of Behnke Landscape Architecture. The estimated total cost was between $2 million and $2.4 million. The first phase, calculated to be between $875,000 and $975,000, was a turf field while Phase II covered the track for $325,000 and $375,000.

“We’ve got to raise enough money to do it right,” Fisk told the board Tuesday, referring to the football field and track.

When it comes to the track, Ream said the cracks in the base are a major issue.

This summer, Dant Clayton, a Louisville, Ky. company, is replacing the visitors bleachers for $118,720, which will be paid through the permanent improvement fund. The school board approved the project in March, so it would be complete by the time football season starts.

On Tuesday, the board approved the Whitney Field improvement committee demolishing and removing the “pump house” in the northern end of the parking lot. According to the meeting agenda, it was determined “the building is unneeded, obsolete and unfit for use.”

“It has a leaky roof. … The building has definitely lived its life a couple times over,” said Fisk, who noted the site “could create a lot of parking spaces.”

Originally, the structure was near the site of the city pool. It later was the Norwalk football team weight room and most recently has been used to store track equipment. Given the current condition of the building, Fisk said he is amazed how the items have survived over the years.

Ream said the reason to demolish the building is to regrade the grassy area and turn it into additional parking, which will allow better access to the lot. A local contractor has volunteered to level/grade that area.

“All that is donated cost,” Fisk said, referring to the demolition and regrading. “We are very fortunate that a group of contractors are volunteering to complete the Whitney parking lot renovation.”

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