The Westby Norsemen Booster Club is moving closer to its dream of returning high school football games to Friday nights under the lights after purchasing used lighting fixtures and poles sold by the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

The Norsemen Booster Club submitted a bid of $10,000 for the used equipment, which was accepted in August. The organization is currently working to raise funds needed to have the lights installed and operational for the 2018 high school football season.

The Booster Club has been a fundraising machine over the past few years. The group was instrumental in its efforts to relocate the high school football field from downtown Westby to school-owned property. From there the organization began working to improve the overall outdoor Westby Athletic Complex.

In the summer of 2016 the organization, working closely with the school district, coaches, alumni, parents, players, businesses and the community, broke the project into phases. They knew from the get-go that the dollar amounts needed to complete everything on the group’s extensive wish list would be costly, but it did not detour them from pushing forward.

Phase 1 of the project was the relocation of the football field to the school district sporting complex on the west side of the high school. The football field was relocated to the interior of the high school track and within just a few months the booster club and numerous volunteers teamed together and raised enough money to construct a new press box, and install a new scoreboard before the start of the 2016 football season.

Phase 2 of the project focused on returning football games to Friday nights, versus afternoon events, with the installation of lights and stadium seating. The lighting project would be the most costly part of the entire process with numbers ranging from $125,000 to $200,000 depending on the size, level and quality of lights and seating purchased.

With fundraising still underway, but funds filtering in slowly, the Booster Club reached out to the Westby Area School District Board of Education for financial assistance in July. The school board praised the independent work the booster club had accomplished on its own and despite an uncertain state budget, projected deficit and referendum discussions underway for 2018-19 school year, the School Board felt compelled to assist and voted to donate $5,000 towards the Phase 2.

The financial assistance was welcomed, but was only a drop in the bucket to the actual funding needed to move forward with Phase 2, to have lights installed before the 2017 football season. Instead, the Booster Club decided to combine the school money and organizational funds to have the light structure bases only installed in 2017 and to continue raising funds toward the overall lighting project.

With those plans set, Westby Area High School Principal Karl Stoker then received an unexpected email from the UW-L athletic department, who was in the process of upgrading its recreational fields and in doing so had 12 used lighting fixtures and poles for sale. Stoker contacted the booster club, who under the guidance of Westby alumni and Fowler and Hammer employees, Eric Lehmann and Ryan Burke, submitted a sealed bid of $10,000 to purchase the used lighting equipment.

Keith Olson, Booster Club president updated the school board at their August meeting and received permission to reallocate the $5,000 the booster club had received from the school district, toward the successful $10,000 bid submitted to UW-L. The lighting fixtures and poles are currently in storage until installation funding can be secured to install them at the Westby Athletic Complex. Electrical and installation work is estimated to cost $65,000.

Olson and the Booster Club said they are committed to seeing this project through and are anxious to get the lights in place so that football can be played once again under the lights in Westby.

“The sooner we can raise the money we need to get the lights installed, the sooner we can see the this project to completion,” Olson said.

Anyone wishing to donate to the light installation project or join the organization can do so by contacting the Norsemen Booster Club. Email norsemen.booster.club@gmail.com or norsemenboosters.org.

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Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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