Home field turf debut delayed for Waukesha South, Waukesha North

Scott Ash
Employees of ProGrass LLC work on the synthetic turf at Waukesha West on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. The field is scheduled to be ready for Friday's opening game.
Published on: 8/19/2014

The new artificial turf fields at all three Waukesha public high schools were set to be unveiled to the public and used by the players for the first time in home games this week.

But for two of the schools, Waukesha North and South, those Friday night plans have changed — one because of the field, the other because of the opponent.

Nothing to the North

Waukesha North's field isn't ready — in fact, it still appears to be weeks away from seeing any type of action. Construction crews were still tearing up the ground last weekend, and the turf has yet to be put down.

Waukesha North principal Jody Landish said the Northstars' first game on Friday, Aug. 22, a non-conference contest against Port Washington, has been moved to Kettle Moraine, a school that has had artificial turf since 2009.

North Athletic Director Brian Schlei said he hopes to have the field ready for the team's Week 3 game on Sept. 5. Other teams who use the stadium, including soccer, have also been rescheduled.

Schlei said the delay occurred because North needed backfill from the field at West. As a result, North had to wait until construction began at West. When inclement weather slowed down West's project, North was impacted as well.

Plans go South

For South, where the turf installation finished first this summer, head coach Dave Rusch's squad had been practicing on the field as it prepared for its Week 1 matchup against Nicolet. The problem is that Nicolet won't be coming.

Nicolet announced last week that it was canceling its varsity football season, leaving the Blackshirts without a home opponent until Friday, Sept. 5, to play on its new field.

South Athletic Director Dan Domach said the mood of excitement changed when South's players got the word that they were suddenly without an opponent a week before the much-anticipated opener on that new field.

"I have a lot of disappointed people right now," said Domach, who had no luck in finding an opponent at the last minute.

While there won't be any game, there will still be a night of festivities on the field beginning at 6:15 p.m., including brief scrimmages with the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity squads. The dance team will also perform. Fans will be able to come onto the field during a closing ceremony at 8:20 p.m.

Head West for action

The only school that will host its regularly scheduled home game on its new field is West, which opens the season against Watertown at 7 p.m.

The turf was installed last week and crews were out earlier this week gluing all the field markings in place.

"It's really an amazing process," Waukesha West Athletic Director Kyle LeMieux said.

While he, the coaches and players would have liked to have had the field finished a few weeks earlier so the team could practice on it in advance of the opener, LeMieux has no complaints about the project.

"If that's the worst problem we have, we'll take it," LeMieux said.

Done deals

The project, called the Fields of Many Dreams, started slow four years ago as it was trying to raise about $1.5 million for multipurpose turf fields at the three public high schools.

District officials said early on that no public tax dollars were going to be used. But the schools struggled to raise the money on their own. The project, however, received a major boost earlier this year when SC Waukesha, a local soccer club, agreed to partner with the school district.

SC Waukesha is paying an annual fee of $50,000 over 10 years with a $100,000 upfront payment. The district, meanwhile, is contributing $501,000 through its property sales fund.

After those funds were approved, the schools only needed to raise $232,700 within two months.

LeMieux said donations skyrocketed after that and the schools met the fundraising goal.

"Once people could see that this was attainable, everyone bought in and said 'this could and will happen,'" LeMieux said. "It made a big difference. It absolutely took a village."

West will also be playing with new scoreboards at its complex, LeMieux said. The old scoreboard was the original from the early 1990s. The new scoreboard is part of a separate school project that was made possible in part through a donor, LeMieux said. New goal posts and a remodeled press box are also part of the project. The soccer complex also got new soccer goals.

"We looked at it and said if we just do the field, the other needs would be glaring," LeMieux said. "We wanted to take advantage of the timing. It all looks pretty sharp."

The same can be said about South's makeover.

Domach said Waukesha State Bank is sponsoring the new scoreboard. Its old one had been giving the school fits over the last couple of years, Domach said. The football stadium's bleachers were also repainted and the soccer field also received a new scoreboard.

"You wouldn't believe the smiles on the coaches and players faces," Domach said of when the players saw the new complex. "It was pretty special."