On February 18, the West Liberty-Salem Athletic Association (WLS-AA), West Liberty-Salem Board of Education (BOE) athletic liaisons, and Superintendent Kraig Hissong welcomed a crowded cafetorium of parents, community members, educators, and coaches to the first of many meetings regarding the Tiger Strong Fieldhouse project. In January, the Board of Education approved a resolution voicing its support for the Athletic Association to move forward with fundraising based on the conditions that the project would be funded by 100 percent donations for The Fieldhouse construction and that the Board would provide final approval of designs. Both the WL-SAA and the Board of Education recognize, after many years of conversation, a need to provide a safe space for student athletes to receive training in the best possible facility.
While the name, Tiger Strong Fieldhouse is new, the concept is not. For many years, administration, BOE, coaches, and the community have acknowledge an ongoing need to expand current athletic training facilities. It was after January 20, 2017, Ryan Cole, project visionary, his family, and the athletic department decided to partner and inspire our community to give back in the same selfless and inspiring way that so many people did on that day and the months following. The countless hours spent mending and restoring the faith of our community is the foundation and motivation behind this project. The vision of the Fieldhouse is simple: inspire future students to develop the characteristics and attributes our community displayed that not only healed our small town, but inspired the 100 percent fully-donated Tiger Strong Fieldhouse. Since then, the West Liberty-Salem Athletic Association has worked with Link Construction on preliminary building plans, a projected cost for construction, and formed a planning committee – working hard to find donors to support their vision.
The original concept of The Fieldhouse project was a 12,000 square foot athletic training complex with a gym, weight room, and floating track. However, as plans for the development of The Fieldhouse continue to evolve, so does the impact such a facility will have on the entire student body. Clubs and other extra-curricular activities, including but not limited to the music department, Science Olympiads, and general class usage for large scale projects, have also played a vital role in the development of a multipurpose approach to The Fieldhouse plans. A fieldhouse will create an avenue for every sport to practice in season, off season, and year-round, while providing additional, needed space for other school-related activities. If you’ve ever walked the halls of WL-S after school, you will find track, cross country, baseball, softball, and cheerleading teams utilizing the halls, cafeterias, and classrooms for practice space. Not only is this unsafe, but it doesn’t allow our students to properly train or evolve as competitive athletes. The Fieldhouse will offer an extra gymnasium space with multipurpose floor allowing baseball, softball, track, soccer and football, to name a few, an indoor space in unfavorable weather conditions. An elevated running track will offer a safe space for training, and the addition of a weight room will give wrestlers full access back to the mezzanine in our current gym. Basketball and volleyball teams currently practicing late into the evening will gain earlier gym time, and will be more cost effective by eliminating the current use of Adriel for additional gym space. The Fieldhouse will also address the need for outside restroom facilities/locker rooms to reduce traffic in our buildings during out door sporting events, thus eliminating current porta-john rental.
With any donation-based project, support from the community is key. The West Liberty-Salem Athletic Association is supporting the initiative by raising funds and donating 100 percent of the proceeds directly to the Fieldhouse foundation. In the last three years, the WLSAA has raised $100,000 in funds through the Reverse Raffle Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction and the Labor Day Festival. In addition to helping the Fieldhouse financial goal, they provide vital support to our current athletic programs through online athletic apparel sales, team meals, sponsoring youth athletics, concession stand staffing and financial aid for senior banners. They have paid off the stadium seating project, provided stadium lighting, new basketball backboards, provide 4 scholarships a year, and recently provided a new basketball shooting machine. Their financial stewardship and support is essential in the project. Currently, the WL-SAA has $317,000 in donated funds in their account, a $110,000 guaranteed donation to the Fieldhouse project, and have supported in raising $525,000 in pledges toward the current $1 million goal. While the WL-SAA support is vital in the funding of this project, community support will also play a major role. At the heart of the Fieldhouse, an honor room will recognize the many donors who made this building possible, commemorate the events of January 20 2017, and acknowledge the heroes from that day. The WL-SAA asks that the community consider a pledge to the construction project, and any additional fundraising ideas are welcome. You can find more information about making a pledge here. http://bit.ly/2gpkHXV
A follow up public meeting will take place on Wednesday, March 6, from 6:30-7:30 p.m., in the high school cafetorium. Please plan to join us and watch the West Liberty-Salem Website (District News-Fieldhouse), West Liberty-Salem Facebook page, or follow Facebook/thetigerstrongfieldhouse for more information.