The Kimberly High School Papermakers won their first state football championship in 2007, and quickly determined their football facilities needed an upgrade.
The Kimberly School Board approved a $675,000 fundraising project in the spring of 2008, the money going toward new artificial field turf, a drainage system and a retention pond. The district kicked in another $79,000 during the 2009-10 school year for additional seating.
Seven years and three more Papermaker state football championships later, neighboring public schools are trying to catch up.
The field upgrades in Kimberly kicked off a run of similar projects across the Fox Cities.
Neenah boosters started fundraising for upgrades to Rocket Stadium and their soccer fields in 2012.
Hortonville is the latest school district to propose a fundraiser for athletic facility improvements. Upgrades to Akin Field include artificial turf, more restrooms, increased seating, renovated locker rooms and a resurfaced track.
While Hortonville school leaders know what they want to change, they won’t say what their fundraising target is. The Waupaca County Post reported an estimate of $4.5 million after a recent school board meeting.
Educators say the catalyst to all the field projects is pride, for both students and the community.
“A few years ago we could not hold a level 3 football playoff here because our facilities were not good enough,” said Andy Kolosso, activities director in Hortonville. “Our kids earned that game to play here, but we had to go to Kimberly and play.”
Hortonville plans to apply for grants and seek sponsorship from national corporations. The Appleton Area School District did something similar through partnerships with AstroTurf, Nike and Scheels.
School leaders will also reach out to local donors, and hope they aren’t exhausted from other fundraising campaigns in the area.
“We have to look at which donors we hit, who we talk to, which grants we look at. There are different opportunities for donors that maybe other people haven’t gone to yet,” Kolosso said.
Not every school district is jumping on the bandwagon. The only Little Chute field expected to get a facelift in 2016 is the baseball diamond, said Superintendent David Botz.
The football field and track received improvements in 2007, the same year the district built a softball field.
“We’ll continue looking at ways we can improve that facility (the football field and track) so we don’t fall too far behind when it comes to maintenance improvements, but we are going to continue to use what we have here,” he said.
Jen Zettel: 920-993-1000, ext. 539, or email@example.com; on Twitter @jenzettel