Unusually-high construction labor and materials costs aren’t going to stop Northwest Public Schools’ Viking Field (Athletic Complex) renovation and addition. Construction equipment and trucks rumbling southwest of the high school in recent days are proof.
The field is virtually unrecognizable, save for the perimeter of asphalt track and worn metal bleachers. Not as clear are the effects labor and material costs are having on the school’s athletic complex.
The original plan had the Viking Field upgrades’ cost totaling just over $7.5 million — $2.84 million in phase one (synthetic turf, field lighting, grandstand and press box, scoreboard, ticket booth and parking), and nearly $5 million in phase two (field house and plaza concrete).
Edwards said some could “still come to fruition, but time will tell.”
There was never a solid timeline, said NWPS Superintendent Jeff Edwards, but the idea of the project being finished within two phases has likely gone to dust.
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“Now we might be in three, four or five, six… who knows how many phases.”
It’s just a bump in the road, said NW High School Superintendent P.J. Smith.
“You go back to the drawing board and say, ‘What can we do to make this happen?’”
The need to go back to the drawing board for fine tuning became apparent at a special Northwest Board of Education meeting May 3. When all was said and decided late Tuesday night, two bids were accepted: the athletic field and the field lights.
“We took out the ticket booth, some concrete, some fencing and the digital video board,” Edwards said.
Currently, Edwards said, about $16-$17 million of the projected $2.8 million phase one cost are spoken for. A grant to help foot the bill for the turf is projected to kick in $125,000.
The turf and lighting have been deemed essential parts of the Viking Field project.
“It became a safety factor. The field itself was getting to a place where, when kids would make a cut, parts of the turf would come up,” Edwards said.
New turf would be widely-used, he added. “For me, it’s being able to have all the kids use that field —band, soccer, football, you name it.”
Smith echoed that sentiment.
“It’s exciting for our students to have a new playing field, something they can be proud of. We have so many activities besides sports that are going to use it… we’re going to impact a lot of our students,” Smith said. “It’s going to be great for them to be on something they can be proud of, and take good care of.”
Edwards said the school board understood the importance of having a fresh, safer field.
“In their research, they identified that we’re going have to invest some money into it, even if we don’t do a turf field. They were very forward thinking.”
Then, there are the field lights.
Edwards said, “We’ll be able to play at night, which we currently can’t in the spring. That will make opportunities available for different types of scheduling.”
Matt Fritsche, NWHS Athletic Director recalled: “We had a shoot-out in our district or sub district game and the students from Kearney Catholic, weren’t the only ones praying that that got over,” he joked. “I was worried we were going to have to come back the next day.”
The slowdown hasn’t deterred Edwards.
“Right now we can control this amount of funding and we will do everything we can to serve our students with what we have.”
Fritsche said, “Dr. Edwards and our board have done a good job of just making the best out of the things that we can control.”
Smith’s history with Viking Field goes back long before his Northwest days, he said.
“I was at Fairbury and actually coached on this field. It’s been something that’s been needed for quite some time.”
Needed, and important enough to not become discouraged, Smith said.
“With anything in life, you’re going to run into obstacles. That’s every day in life, and it’s not something that you get discouraged about,” he said. “Our goal is we’re going to make it happen. It may take a little longer than what we anticipated, and we may have to work a little harder, but that’s not going to stop us.”
For more information about Northwest Public Schools Viking Field Renovation and Addition project, including how to contribute, go to https://ginorthwest.infocampaign.org/
Jessica Votipka is the education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.