WEST LIBERTY – West Liberty-Salem hosted a town hall meeting Monday for community members interested in learning more about the Tiger Strong Field House project.
First envisioned several years ago, the field house project became a reality in 2017 after the Jan. 20 shooting at the school. An outpouring of love and support made officials decide to fill a need for the school that would showcase the spirit of the community.
“It is our hope that this building and the honor room will help inspire future generations of students to value and develop those characteristics that were displayed so beautifully on that day and in the months that followed,” Ryan Cole said.
Cole’s son, Logan, was critically injured in the shooting but convinced to assailant to stop shooting and surrender.
Since then, the West Liberty-Salem Athletic Association has been collecting funds to build the field house, with a $1 million goal. The building is expected to cost $870,000, with the WLSAA currently in possession of $317,000, with a total of $525,000 pledged.
“It’s not just us. Everyone is involved. The coaches work their tails off for the things we do, because they know we’re going to give back to their programs,” WLSAA President Shane Godwin said. “We need to get the word out there that this is a totally-donated project. It’s going to be that way until we unlock the doors and kids start using it. There’s not going to be any tax money that goes to this. There’s not going to be any levies that pay for this. And if it takes us five years to raise the amount of money we want to raise, then it takes us five years.”
The project will create a full-scale gymnasium with a multipurpose floor for indoor training of outdoor sports, a floating indoor track, large weight room, locker rooms, public restrooms for outdoor venues and offices for coaches.
“The number one need I see coming out of this project is gym space,” Athletic Director Jake Vitt said. “It creates an avenue for every sport to participate and practice in the off-season, 12 months out of the year. With the elevated track, there will be no more running in the hallways.”
Currently, the WL-S gymnasiums are booked solid until 9 p.m. every day of the school week, with athletes using hall space to build endurance with running.
Vitt also said the new multipurpose room’s surface will take live batting practice better than the remodeled gym’s flooring.
“It’s so much more feasible than the current wear and tear we’re putting on our gym floors,” Vitt said.
As a result of the field house being built, the baseball diamond will have to be moved. But that relocation is happening with or without the field house, according to Superintendent Kraig Hissong.
Hissong, Vitt, baseball coach Jon Payer and others noted that foul balls are a safety concern for patrons and athletes in the stadium during track and field practices and meets.
The new location will take the diamond behind the softball field, with the two home plates butting against each other. This will allow patrons to have a joint experience at the fields and alleviate safety concerns. Bidding for that project could take place as early as this spring.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1775) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.