HOWLAND - After years of talking and bouncing around ideas, and watching other schools around the area upgrade their facilities, Howland now plans on taking the leap into the future.
On Tuesday night at Leo's Ristorante, the Howland Field Foundation announced its three-phase plan to upgrade the sports complex at Howland High School - which will include a turf football field.
"This is a vision from a lot of us," Howland Field Foundation president Kevin Wyndham said. "We talked about doing this about four years ago, and it never really gelled. Come last fall, we're like, 'we need to make this happen.'
Tribune Chronicle / Dana Sulonen
This is an artist’s rendering of the Howland Community Sports Facility, which is to be finished by 2016. However, the field turf on the football field is slated to be in by next season.
"We realized that Hubbard was getting turf, that Niles was getting turf. Then we realized that soon we were going to be the only team in our league that didn't have turf. And we knew then we needed to get on the ball."
The project, which Wyndham said is a three-phase venture, is estimated to cost $1.85 million dollars. All of the funds are being privately raised through the Howland Field Foundation, a non-profit, 5013C organization.
The first phase of the plan is to install the turf and the concrete band around the turf, which costs $650,000. Wyndham announced at the kickoff banquet that $400,000 has already been raised.
The second phase of the project is to improve the electrical system at the stadium and to upgrade the bleacher quality and capacity. The plan calls to move the home stands to the visitors' side of the field, while getting new stands on the home side. The press box, which was newly installed just a few years ago, will be detached from the current stands and put on the new stands. With the new seating, the stadium will hold an estimated 5,000 people.
Also included in phase two is to extend the parking availability and to get new perimeter fencing.
Phase three, which Wyndham hopes will be completed by 2016, will be the improvement of concession stands and to improve the handicap accessible restrooms.
The final addition, which Wyndham admits to be in the long-range plans, is a new varsity house, which could also be used as a community health facility.
While the addition of the turf obviously benefits the football team first and foremost, athletic director Ron McCleary is quick to point out how many other athletes will benefit from the new field.
"Anybody that has the artificial surface and has updated their facilities well tell you that it's unbelievable," McCleary said. "From an athletic director's standpoint, your job goes from trying to keep your field nice to trying to manage it and trying to get as many people on it as possible because it's so functional."
McCleary also added that the two grass fields at Howland Middle School - the junior high football field as well as Jennings Francis Soccer Stadium - will still be used on a regular basis. In terms of the soccer field, the team will primarily play at their soccer-only stadium, but during heavy rains and inclement weather, the team will use the new turf.
"It is unbelievable what it could mean to us and to our athletes," McCleary said. "From our athletes, from seventh grade to the varsity level, for the bands, for all the different area that it could help us."