More than two years ago the Norsemen Booster Club began forging forward with plans to move high school football games off city-owned property and to the school-owned athletic complex on the west side of the high school.
All the hard work put in by booster club members and volunteers to date will come full circle on Aug. 19, when the Westby Norsemen host Darlington in the first varsity football game of the 2016 season at the new location. Home football games will be played on the interior of the school track, which was rubberized and upgraded several years ago and the grass infield was crowned and proper drainage was installed with the intention of utilizing the space for football in the future.
Keith Olson, the president of the Norsemen Booster Club, said the organization is very grateful for any and all donations to the relocation project and development of the athletic complex, which has been a huge undertaking.
The Norsemen Booster Club broke the project into phases in hopes of getting more people on board with the immediate needs of the athletic complex development and to help ease the transition costs. Relocating the games to school-owned property was all part of Phase 1. The first phase was estimated to cost approximately $200,000 and entailed construction of a press box (est. $155,000), scoreboard ($16,000-donation from Sleepy Hollow), goalpost installation (est. $1,500), plus sound system and utility work.
The goal posts were installed on Aug. 8 and the scoreboard was erected on the west end of the field on Aug. 9. Portable bathrooms will be set up and fencing around the area will be completed before Aug. 19. Without light towers at the athletic complex though games will be played at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoons instead of evenings.
The new press box outside dimensions are 48 feet long by 10 feet deep. It has a split faced block lower level, and wood and metal upper level. The lower level is divided into two separate rooms, with the west end being for stairs and storage and the east side used to serve concessions. The second floor is 15 feet in the air and allows for clear coverage visibility. There upper level has two coaches rooms, two media rooms, and one larger window for the scoreboard operator, public address announcer and additional media personnel. The estimated cost of the press box was $155,000. The new press box will receive additional finishing touches along the way and the former track concession stand is being converted into a ticket entry shelter.
When Westby varsity football Head Coach Andy Hulst updated the Board of Education on Aug. 8, he told the board none of this would have happened without so many helping hands, lots of communication, plenty of emails, volunteer labor and begging for money to fund the project. Hulst credited Eric Lehmann for keeping everything on track in regards to the new press box completion, which will be operational by Aug. 19. The Booster Club also received voluntary services from several area tradesmen who have donated countless hours to the project, along with generous donations from area businesses and individuals to bring Phase 1 to fruition.
The new home of the Westby Norsemen will be dedicated at a later date along with the acknowledgement of all donors to the project. Hulst said several special events are in the works including an all Westby football reunion. Westby will host four home games in 2016, Darlington, Viroqua, GET and Lancaster. The games are all scheduled to be played on Friday afternoons and will result in little to no loss of classroom time for athletes or students.
Board president David Eggen said what the Booster Club has accomplished in such a short time frame is miraculous and they should be commended for their efforts.
Next on the docket will be Phase 2, which involves the installation of high efficiency stadium lighting approximately $155,000 and elevated bleachers estimated to cost $190,000. Future phases of the overall project involves the completion of the parking lot; expanding the running track to eight lanes; moving field events for track; construction of a concession stand, with restrooms; and installing visitor seating on the south side of the track. There is currently an abundant amount of parking in the grassy area adjacent to the field, in the high school parking lot, and along the street; so the construction of a formal parking lot is not high priority at this time.
The Norsemen Booster Club website is being updated, but the FundRazr site is still active online. Contact Keith Olson (608) 606-3678 or send donations for future phases of the project to the Norsemen Booster Club, P.O. Box 0091, Westby, WI, 54667.