By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — An ad hoc committee charged with evaluating the state of Marshfield School District’s athletic facilities has developed an expansive list of potential improvements that could be made at several sites throughout the district.
The committee — composed of district staff, school board members, and community leaders — toured several other districts’ facilities, gathered public feedback via a survey, and worked with landscape architecture firm Rettler Corporation to reach its final recommendation.
Survey respondents rated an eight-lane running track as most needed when considering the middle and high schools’ athletic facilities. The track was followed by demand for improved outdoor practice fields, parking, a larger fitness and weight room, and a synthetic turf field.
The committee met likely for the last time on March 28 and has targeted four basic sites where improvements could be made: Marshfield High School, Marshfield Middle School, Madison Elementary School, and land just west of the high school and south of Tiny Tiger Intergenerational Center.
Discussing the planning process
Committee member and School Board Vice President Amber Leifheit expressed concern that the committee was looking at building a number of new facilities rather than fixing what the district already has. She said she would like to know the cost of upgrading or renovating facilities like Beell Stadium or the middle school track compared to building new.
“I’m not saying that we should go with repairing, but just kind of the way I personally approach expenses, you know, what are the options? If we can repair, it costs X. If we build new, it costs Y,” Leifheit said. She later added, “I just want the bigger picture to make a sound decision.”
The district’s Director of Business Services Pat Saucerman said on March 28 that the ad hoc committee’s goal was to determine the needs that exist rather than the financial logistics of the plan.
“Cost wasn’t necessarily something that you were charged to worry about all the time,” Saucerman said to the committee. “The cost effective part comes now in the next phase of this process, which is to refer back to the school board and the (Facilities, Safety & Transportation) committee and certainly to the finance committee.”
“Based on the ambition of what’s been presented here this evening, we know it’s going to be a healthy number that we’re going to have to address, and, to me, I don’t see a way short of a referendum that this is all going to get done at once. It’s certainly something that I believe will have to be phased in over time based on cost, based on what we believe to be the best process to do this,” Saucerman said.
School board and committee member Pete Mancl said community members have asked him about the cost of the upgrades.
“We’ve got to have a great game plan,” Mancl said in regard to financing the project.
Potential improvements to Marshfield High School
The most significant proposed change districtwide is the possibility of adding a multisport stadium just east of the high school, which renderings show would occupy much of the current high school parking lot and the baseball diamond. The playing field would be synthetic, which Marshfield High School Athletic Director Nathan DeLany said would allow effective practices in rainy weather, unlike a natural surface.
He added that the complex could be utilized for not just athletic teams but also physical education classes.
The current plan shows a 4,000-seat stadium that could accommodate football and soccer, and the field would be encircled by an eight-lane running track. Spaces for discus and shot put would be near the stadium with a pole vault area inside the north end of the track.
While the stadium would take up much existing parking, the plans show an expansion of the current lot to the south toward Becker Road. A projected 12 spaces total would be lost in adding the stadium while expanding the parking lot.
DeLany said he agrees with the community that the track is the top need. In reference to a new football stadium, he said, “At some point in time we also have to recognize that Beell Stadium is a 75-year-old facility that was built well during World War II. … Everything has a life cycle, and we have to identify that.”
The plan would allow for the practice fields north of the high school to be maintained.
West of the high school
Just across Palmetto Avenue to the west of the high school, sandwiched between Tiny Tigers Court and Becker Road, the plans show a possible new baseball diamond, which could replace the one eliminated in constructing the multisport stadium. The space would also allow for a soccer/football practice field and potentially adding 100 parking stalls directly west of the Tiny Tiger Intergenerational Center.
Madison Elementary already has large green spaces to its west and north. To the west of Madison, abutting Apple Avenue, plans indicate turning a large green space into a soccer field. North of Madison and bordering Becker Road is a possible addition of two softball fields and a football practice field that would overlap one of the softball fields.
“We don’t have softball on campus in any way shape or form. And from an equity standpoint, we just need to recognize what obstacles we may have,” DeLany said.
Marshfield Middle School
Putting a new outdoor track at the high school would address the top demand of survey respondents. However, the committee also identified replacing the current track at the middle school as a need. A new, six-lane track would be placed essentially where the current track sits, and inside of it the green space would be used as a multisport athletic field.
The new track would be the “same general footprint” as the current one, DeLany said, though it would go from eight to six lanes, resulting in more field space inside it.
Beell Stadium’s western bleachers could be removed to make room for a triple and long jump area. In the plans Beell is labeled as a space for a new soccer field, which could also still serve as a football field. Changes to Beell assume a new venue for football is built at the high school.
Inside Marshfield High School
On the southeast side of the Boson Company Fieldhouse, renderings show a new fitness area, to which the current weight room on the northeast end of the field house would relocate.
The renderings also show a potential expansion of the pool area, which would allow for more seating, possibly in a mezzanine style where spectators look down into the pool. Currently, spectators view pool events from the field house looking into the pool area. The pool addition is the only change that would affect the actual footprint of the high school as a whole, expanding to the east.
Saucerman said that the Facilities, Safety, and Transportation committee would be presented with the recommendation of the ad hoc committee on Thursday, April 7.
“I’m thinking between April and May time frame, possibly June, the discussion will be primarily about the total costs of the various phases of the project,” Saucerman said. “I see this as sort of a five- to 10-year, possibly even 15-year strategic plan for these different facets of the various projects that were recommended.”
Saucerman noted that because the school board has not had “any meaningful discussions” about the committee’s recommendation, plans for the facility improvements could certainly change.