The South Winn fundraising committee has launched a $100,000 campaign to pay for football field improvements and a new track at South Winneshiek High School.

A donation form appeared in a recent monthly newsletter, and a fundraising letter also was sent to every post-office box holder in the South Winneshiek School District.

"There are several factors that make this project a necessity: the safety of student athletes and the community, the availability of state-of-the-art facilities and the need for a better leveled, drained and irrigated football field/track area," the committee said in its letter.

According to South Winneshiek Superintendent Chris Hoover, the football field had become flat, which means water pools. The high school's limestone track is unusable for most of the spring due to drainage issues, forcing athletes to train on the streets.

"Running on hard surfaces for prolonged periods of time can cause a variety of injuries ... with three major highways running through Calmar, this does not make a safe situation for runners or drivers," the committee explained.

The center of the football field needs to be at a slightly higher elevation than the outside boundaries of the field to drain properly.

"If adequate drainage does not exist on the field these spots will hold moisture, making that area of the field increasingly wet, muddy and eventually lower than other areas of the field. This will cause an unsafe situation for athletes and cause the field to develop trouble spots," they said.

The football field also did not have a built-in irrigation system, requiring the field to be watered using a system of garden hoses and sprinklers that requires being assembled and moved during regular intervals throughout the day. A built-in irrigation system will ensure water coverage for the entire field and save staff time as well as money for the District, according to the committee.

South Winn is one of only three school districts in the Upper Iowa Conference without an all-weather surface track facility and as a result the District can't host high school track meets. When it's South Winneshiek's turn to host the Upper Iowa Conference, Hoover said the District has to "borrow" North Fayette's or Decorah's track and host it there.

"Providing an all-weather surface would equalize running facilities and allow students and community members to enjoy a safe walking and/or running environment," the committee said.



Progress

The project is being undertaken in three phases to ensure the football field and track are usable for the 2013-14 school year.

Last fall, the south side of the hill near the football field was moved about eight feet to allow room for a perimeter fence around the track and sidewalk access to the home side bleachers.

The gravel road entrance was removed and covered with dirt and will be planted with grass. A new entrance was constructed north of the baseball diamond, which will eliminate the traffic between the football and baseball fields to improve spectator safety. Visitor bleachers will be removed from the track and set behind the perimeter fence. A sidewalk access will be built on the visiting side.

This spring a new drainage system will be placed underground around the perimeter of football field and to the inside of the track. The system will be run by a timer allowing for irrigation to take place day or night. Landscaping projects are planned throughout the sports complex.

During the period from April through July, the old limestone track will be replaced with an all-weather synthetic surface track. Bids for the track will be opened at the District Board room at 1:30 p.m. today, Thursday, March 28.



Committee members

Members of the fund-raising committee include Jerry Balik, Scott Conway, Gary DeVilbiss, Darcy Einck, Mark Elsbernd, Bruce Gullickson, Superintendent Hoover, Gary Johnson, Jan Johnson, Mike Johnson, Kevin Kearney, Jason Ohrt and Barb Schwamman.

In an attempt to cut costs, the District has been working with local contractors.

Reilly Construction of Ossian and Wiltgen Construction of Calmar are assisting the District. Midwest Track and Tennis of Denison and Midwest Irrigation of Park City, Ill. are also doing work for the District.

"We hope as the project goes along we'll be able to use more and more local people to help out with the project, as a volunteer or if they have products they might be able to give us a good price on," Hoover said.

Anyone interested in contributing to the project can complete the form in the fundraising letter, or contact South Winneshiek at 563-562-3269.