Josh Schlotterer, Norwalk High School director of student activities, said the donations aren’t just vital to the project, but it’s “really important that both boosters are working together.”
“It gets the ball rolling,” he added, referring to the donations. “This is a great starting point.”
John Livengood, St. Paul High School athletic director, provided a similar perspective in a separate interview.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I want to express how thankful I am for the generosity of the community, boosters, community and businesses.”
Steve Traczek, representing the NHS athletic boosters, and Will Chandler, from St. Paul, recently presented respective checks of $300,000 and $100,000 for the Whitney Field improvement and renovation project. They made presentations prior to the Truckers’ Oct. 11 football game against Sandusky and the next night before the Flyers’ game vs. South Central.
The plan is replacing the football field after the current season and then installing a new track after it is used this school year. Norwalk school officials have said the minimum cost for a new turf field — “with no bells and whistles” — would be about $600,000, while a new track could cost upwards of $250,000.
Noting that Norwalk and St. Paul wouldn’t be able to fund such a project on their own, Livengood said donations from community members and businesses have made it a reality.
“It’s huge,” he added. “It’s great how the school communities are working together.”
The Norwalk City Schools board of education earlier this month approved the Whitney Field Improvement Committee and its marketing team to “solicit donors for the purpose of naming rights for the field, stadium, track, press box, scoreboard and any other permanent elements” of what will be called the Warren C. Whitney Complex. Board members passed the agenda item by a 4-1 vote, with John Lendrum voting against it. The solicitation of monetary and in-kind donations passed unanimously without any discussion.
In 1909, the district purchased about 16.4 acres from Theodore Washburn for nearly $3,300. Whitney, who held a “responsible position” with the Chase Piano Co. in Norwalk, said he took an interest in the project and wanted to “assist in this worthy cause,” according to the book “Norwalk’s Public Schools: A Narrative History to June 1960.” He donated $500 and later added a $50 donation.
Schlotterer, who called the $400,000 in donations “the first step,” said ultimately, the Whitney Field Improvement Committee wants to “make it a more welcoming field.”
“We are coming together,” he added. “Each side (Norwalk and St. Paul) is giving as much as they can to the project.”
Some improvements already are in place.
In February 2017, the Norwalk school board accepted a nearly $283,000 bid to replace and upgrade the home-side bleachers. The entire process took slightly longer than a month.
New visitors bleachers were installed in early October.
Dant Clayton, a Louisville, Ky. company, was expected to replace the bleachers this summer for $118,720, which is being paid through the permanent improvement fund. The Norwalk school board approved the project in March, so it would be complete by the time football season started.
But some complications forced the work to be postponed and the bleachers weren’t ready for the start of the season. Instead, Dant Clayton paid for temporary bleachers for the first five weeks.
New scoreboard and press box?
One of the possible improvements, depending on the amount of money being donated, is replacing the scoreboard, which is about 20 years old.
“The scoreboard needs to be updated,” said Schlotterer, who has researched LED scoreboards that cost between $120,000 and $150,000.
“That’s 100-percent LED,” the NHS administrator added. “You can advertise on there and promote school activities.”
An equivalent, but smaller, version is in the NHS gymnasium.
“We are going on our third year,” Schlotterer said. “It’s been a nice addition to the gym.”
In addition to a new scoreboard at Whitney Field, the improvement committee is looking into creative ways to remodel and maximize the space in the press box, Schlotterer said.
“It’s a really tight space up there,” he added, noting there are “more updates coming in the parking lot.”
Schlotterer said he sees the boosters’ donation as the Norwalk and St. Paul communities “coming together” and “being on the same team” for a common goal.
“We have great contractors that want to see the project done,” he added. “It’s about getting the project done for the betterment of everybody.”