It's been an arduous process.
But almost four years after beginning the Fields of Many Dreams project, an effort to install synthetic field turf at the three Waukesha public high schools, the fundraising is now complete.
"I'm excited to reach the finish line," said Waukesha West Athletic Director Kyle LeMieux. "I'm most excited for our students. It will be such a change and will transform the student experience. I feel like the possibilities are endless, and I don't think we've even tapped into those possibilities."
Besides lower maintenance costs, fewer injuries and less vulnerability to weather, field turf will allow the schools to host more tournament and playoff games, including Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association events, to bring in extra revenue to the district.
LeMieux added that this money could translate into a new "revenue booster" for other non-stadium sports, making it "an incredible return on investment."
LeMieux said for him and others who have watched money come in slowly over the last couple of years, "it's a bit of a sigh of relief."
The effort got a major push about two months ago.
The Waukesha School Board on March 12 approved a contract with SC Waukesha, a local soccer club, and the district.
The district agreed to contribute half a million dollars through a property sales fund, while SC Waukesha would pay an annual fee of $50,000 over 10 years with a $100,000 upfront payment.
That left the schools to raise just $232,700 by May 1, a time line and goal which the athletic directors were confident they could meet now that the end was in sight.
"The large monetary donation given by SC Waukesha made a huge impact on our fundraising efforts," said Glen Norder, the district's director of facilities. "With 85 percent of the fundraising goal already met, it now appeared to community members that this was attainable and individuals were more apt to donate."
Contributions over the last month came in through advertising sales, memorial bricks and individual/business donations.
The schools not only met the deadline, but Lauri Clifton, the district's chief financial officer/director of business services, expects more pledges and donations to continue coming in.
"I think we all have such a passion for the project," said Waukesha North Athletic Director Brian Schlei. "We sought every avenue through partnerships, and one of the things I'm most proud of are the students who helped put on different events to raise the money."
Fielding the result
In fact, it's not only the three high schools that will get new turf in Waukesha, but Catholic Memorial High School and Carroll University, as well, as part of a joint partnership on the project with the school district.
"We're like-minded, and Carroll and CMH came to the table partway through the winter to make it more cost efficient," LeMieux said. "It's been a really good process and we all had the motivation to pull off the project."
Construction will start first on Waukesha South's football field. (South has a designated soccer field and a separate track that won't be impacted by the construction.) The district is currently working on obtaining the necessary permits and hopes to break ground by May 16 at South.
The other public schools play soccer on their football fields and will begin construction after their respective girls' seasons end in June. The fields are expected to be completed by late August.
Carroll's Schneider Stadium will be resurfaced with synthetic turf. Also, as part of an extensive renovation, synthetic turf will be installed at Haertel Field, off West and Newhall avenues, which will serve as a practice facility for the university and will continue as the home field of Waukesha Youth Football.
CMH's turf installation at its InPro Field is also part of an extensive facelift at the school that is being paid for through the Crusading through Excellence $10 million campaign.
ProGrass Synthetic Turf Systems, headquartered in Pittsburgh, is the vendor installing all of the fields.
Latest in facility upgrades
Field turf at the schools is the latest major facility expansion within the district. Last summer, with district funding, Waukesha West and North high schools replaced their 20-year-old rubber synthetic field house floors for new wood surfaces.
"We wanted this place to look different by impacting the greatest amount of students and we feel we're reaching a lot of different groups," LeMieux said on the expansions. "It's not only benefiting current students but future students. So I'm very proud of how the facilities are coming together and not only are they a great investment but they're showing that Waukesha schools are an attractive place."