Donations to fund work on athletic complex

Working to provide its high school with a safer and more modernized athletic complex for its students, the Williamsport Area School District’s Education Foundation recently kicked off its “Return to Glory” capital campaign with the goal of raising $3.5 million for upgrades.

The campaign, which had its public kickoff during the football team’s homecoming game Oct. 18, has a goal of raising $3.5 million to install all-weather turf on the current football field, create a new track-and-field complex, and take on other updates.

The upgrades to the current football field will allow the district’s soccer teams to play on the high school campus, which it hasn’t done in the past. Soccer teams have played at the former Sheridan Elementary School property and this year play their games at Balls Mills Soccer Complex.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for us,” said Sean McCann, district athletic director.

Having two fields instead of one for multiple sports will allow for less interruption for practices.

The campaign is being run by a volunteer task force of community members.

Those involved said the project is a true community effort, as all of the funds will be donations and not tax dollars.

Joanne Ludwikowski, chairwoman of the steering committee, said that the campaign is an “all-community effort.” She explained that the campaign will look at vendors, community members and alumni to donate to the fund. Students also will have an opportunity to contribute during an upcoming change collection in each of the district’s schools, according to Greg Hayes, foundation executive director.

Christine Kavanagh, foundation board member, explained that there has been an interest in an upgraded complex for about five years and that the plan has been in place for the past 18 months.

Naming opportunities and sponsorships also are a tool the campaign is using to generate funds.

The campaign received a boost in funding earlier this month as Student Transportation of America Inc. bought the naming rights to the football stadium for $500,000.

The district’s transportation company will pay $100,000 each of the next five years for the naming rights. The current Millionaire Stadium will be named STA Stadium effective July 1, 2014, and run for at least 15 years.

Superintendent Dr. Don Adams also noted that the district’s school board has pledged $1 million to the campaign, which will come from the upcoming sales of three former elementary schools that have been shut down in recent years.

And while many said that the new facilities could attract new residents to the area, Hayes added that the upgrades are needed for the safety of all participants.

Hayes explained that the turf will create a more consistent surface for athletes and a new track is needed, as it has had patchwork done to it.

Nick Caringi, a Williamsport alumnus and member of the steering committee, said the project will give a great sense of pride to the school community as a “diamond” of a facility. Carol Bresticker, foundation board member, agreed saying that the project would create excitement around the community.

“I was excited. I really wanted to be a part of an effort and a community project for our kids,” he said.

And in order to make the campaign a true community effort, much of the student body has chipped in to help. Students have created posters, videos and other materials to raise awareness of the campaign.

Hayes also announced that students in the high school’s career and technical education program will put their skills to use in upgrading the stadium’s press box.

The committee noted that the project truly showcases the talents of all students.

“We’re looking at this to have a number of uses for a number of people,” Adams said of the project.

Work on the athletic complex is to begin in 2014, with completion expected for the start of the 2015 football season.

Donations, which are tax deductible, are being accepted by contacting Hayes at the district service center or through the campaign’s website,