Akin Field improvements may begin in April
By Scott Bellile
Phase one of Hortonville High School’s athletic complex renovation is moving forward.
The Hortonville School Board approved the estimated $1.2 million project on Aug. 28.
The first phase involves the laying of artificial field turf and the replacement of lighting and the scoreboard.
The district identified these particular projects as needs, Hortonville Area School District Superintendent Todd Timm told the Press Star Tuesday, Sept. 5.
At future meetings, the school board will discuss how to cover the work. Options include 2017-’18 budget dollars with the possibly of additional 2018-’19 budget dollars, as well as taking money from the school district’s fund balance.
Work is anticipated to begin next April and finish in the summer.
Hortonville architecture firm Blue Design Group created project plans in 2015.
Timm said construction contractors’ bids for phase one will be approved in December or January.
During the Aug. 28 school board meeting, HHS Athletic Director Andy Kolosso said coaches weighed in on which schools’ artificial turf felt comfortable for student-athletes to play on.
“We’re looking right now at what Green Bay Southwest, Pulaski, Menasha has put in,” Kolosso said. “We’ve all seen those. We like those. So it’s very conducive to soccer, it’s very conducive to football and I think as far as getting the P.E. people out there too. It’s easy to maintain, too.”
A phase two has been discussed but would not be tax dollar-funded like phase one. These improvements are wants rather than needs so they would be funded by donations, Timm told the Press Star.
The wants include installing new bleachers and integral locker rooms, expanding the concession and restroom building, creating additional storage and putting in a new welcome plaza.
ThedaCare and the Hortonville Football Booster Club have committed $200,000 in donations. However, these would be paid over a five-year period.
The total cost of Akin Field renovations, including the proposal for a second phase, is estimated to be around $3 million or $4 million.
Impact on spring ’18 sports
“We might be able to get a better price if we do it in the spring because most places want to do this work in the summer,” Timm explained to the board.
Beginning in spring would mean no home games during the spring 2018 season for the Hortonville Middle School/Greenville Middle School track team, the HHS track team and the varsity girls’ soccer team.
Coaches for the three impacted teams – HHS track coaches Robert Smith and Kevin Sours, HMS track coach Tara VanCaster and varsity girls’ soccer coach Paul Everett – wrote letters to the school board stating they endorse the project despite their teams’ inability to compete there for one season.
In the end, Hortonville Area School District is estimated to spend a few hundred dollars more on busing soccer and track athletes to a total of 10 extra away games than it would spend to host home games.
HASD would pay $1,823 for extra busing while saving $1,580 by not hiring officials for home games, according to estimates compiled by Kolosso and HASD Transportation Director Harry Steenbock.
History of enhancements
Dave Wuebben, director of business services, shared with the board a memo chronicling the history of enhancements made to the athletic complex.
He stated that from the East Central Conference era to the recent switch to the Fox Valley Association, the school’s outdoor complex has been “modest” compared to other conference schools’. HHS has struggled to catch up with its rivals because it “lags behind” on and delays its upgrades.
In February 1998, a $752,000 referendum failed. The improvements would have included a 24-foot crown on the football field, drainage underneath, a rebuilt track with a rubberized surface, bleachers with a capacity of 950, a press box, a restroom and concessions building and a storage building.
In May 1998, a scaled down $295,000 referendum passed because the crown, drainage system and storage building were eliminated from the proposal. The school board chipped in $29,000 to bring the allotted funds to $324,000.
In February 2001, a referendum failed that asked taxpayers for $650,000 to improve the track and field. So in February 2002, the school board authorized spending $53,400 to repave the track and widen it by 2 feet.
In April 2007, the board authorized a $73,600 installation of a rubberized track surface. The intent was to allow the general public to use the rubberized track. Since then it had to be closed off due to concerns of vandalism.
In June 2008, the board authorized a $57,800 installation of visitors bleachers. Improvements have not occurred since.
“As the summary shows, we have been able to make improvements over the years although it often takes several tries, and some reduction in scope, and time to ultimately make it happen,” Wuebben stated. “The 1998 upgrade was huge at the time, but it has been almost twenty years since then and our student and visitor population continue to grow. We are no longer a mostly rural school district, but now a much more suburban and rural district with close proximity to the greater Fox Valley.”
Wuebben acknowledged any improvements come at a high cost. He stated growing student enrollment over the years has generated and will continue to generate “significant funds” to carry out the work.
To view a design plan and read a 2015 story containing more information on the proposed Akin Field improvements, go to “Hortonville High seeks donors.”