At the Chilton School District Building and Grounds Committee meeting held last week, members of the Community Committee brought forward their recommendation that the district build a football field and track facilities on the high school campus rather than renovate the existing facility located at Morrissey Park.
Jamie Wieting, Eric Fhlug and Becky Lemke represented the Community Committee which was created in summer 2019 and consisted of 20 to 25 members who met twice in 2019 and again in 2021 to discuss the safety issues that were brought to light by the Co-curricular Committee after they toured the existing facility with Activities Director Corey Behnke in May 2019. At that time, the decision was made to no longer hold high school or middle school track meets at Morrissey Field until safety concerns were addressed, although football games were not affected.
Lemke reminded those present that the primary concerns they were tasked with reviewing included the need to provide travel to and from practices, having a safe place to go during inclement weather, degradation of the track facilities, and the open access of the park area that allowed playing surfaces to be littered with broken glass and created a potentially unsafe place for unsupervised younger athletes.
Wieting said the committee initially brainstormed for ways to fix the existing facility at the Morrissey Park area and looked at many options. She said they also needed to think about whether it made sense to keep hosting athletic events at Morrissey if all the safety concerns could not be met.
Lemke said in March the Rettler Corporation provided the committee with proposals and cost estimates for both sites, which included $6,843,720 to renovate the existing facilities and $5,876,300 to build new football and track facilities on the high school campus. She added that the representative from Rettler was not sure whether the discus and shot putting areas could even be rebuilt at the old site because of concerns about being in a flood plain.
Lemke said, “Bottom line, everything can fit here, and everything here addresses all four of the safety concerns.” She added, “Money didn’t necessarily make our decision, but to put the facilities here is a million dollars cheaper than putting it over there, and we wouldn’t even have everything that we need over there.”
Committee members pointed out the renovation estimate did not include the cost of a new building that would be needed to provide a safe place for athletes and fans in the event of severe weather, or the continued transportation costs for the athletes to and from practices and games.
Building and Grounds Committee Chair Randy Lisowe stated that the WIAA wants schools to have safe structures available for athletes and fans in case of bad weather during sporting events. He said, “It really wouldn’t make sense for the district to build a building on city property, and I’m sure the city wouldn’t build a building for us.”
Wieting said that even if renovations were made to the track at Morrissey, the district would not be able to hold regional or sectional events, and she feels that is a disservice to the community.
Fhlug also pointed out the added safety of having ample parking on the school campus versus having to park on the streets around Morrissey Park. Lisowe agreed that parking at the Morrissey Park site was an issue. He also stated, “I think the older generation, they don’t see the concerns that we’re seeing. They love the site, most people do, and the tradition.”
Superintendent Sue Kaphingst said the Building and Grounds Committee would bring the recommendation to the full board later this month, and this project will become part of the facilities study. She said April 2022 is the earliest that the construction project could be brought to referendum.