Take a quick tour of the football stadium at Williamsport Area High School and you will see why the Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation has titled its fundraising campaign "Return to Glory." A track pitted with holes, a football field riddled with bare patches of ground and a metal fence that suffered many years of weather have inspired the foundation to restore and improve the athletic facility.
"The high school used to be known as a powerhouse of athletics, and, at one time, a state-of-the-art facility when this building opened" in January 1972, said Greg Hayes, the foundation's executive director. "The whole idea behind this campaign is to gain the community support through development to bring the high school back to its glory."
The project's goal is to build a new track and stadium and to expand the football field and convert the grass surface to a turf field, he said.
The new track facility will be down the hill from the football field. It will feature an eight-lane track, space for field and jumping events, plus a 250-space parking lot, said Sean McCann, athletic director, noting it will seat 400 to 600 spectators.
The project will allow the school district to provide a venue for community events, Hayes said.
"We're looking to host community events from youth sports organizations to fundraiser initiatives to individual leisure use of the track complex," Hayes said. "We've been host to Relay for Life for a while now, and we've also hosted a fundraiser benefit for Nolan's Heart of Steel. Once the campaign is done and the project complete, we hope to become a central point for those types of activities."
The goal is to have the new facility ready to use by the 2015-16 school year. Bids are being collected for the construction of the track facility and will be presented to the school board for consideration. The district hopes to start construction this fall.
The project will require the removal of the old track, which Hayes and McCann estimate was laid down in 2000, before turf is removed from the football field and replaced with an artificial variety.
"We looked at a number of different facilities that had artificial turfs and compared as much as we could," McCann said. "We decided the blended surface was the most feasible choice."
A blended surface has fibers that are of varying length - some short, some long. The blended length is more accommodating to fields that are used for multiple sports, McCann said.
McCann said improvements to the football field also will benefit the soccer teams.
"With this new facility and by expanding the football field, we'll be able to bring soccer practice and games on campus for the first time," McCann said. The high school team previously practiced and played its games at the former Sheridan Elementary School, which closed in June 2013. "Now we can bring them here," he said.
Since the fundraising campaign kicked off in October, the foundation has raised $1.88 million toward its $3.5 million goal.
"A number of sponsors have come on board," Hayes said. Kicking off the campaign, the naming rights to the football field were sold to Student Transportation of America Inc. for $500,000, he said.
"It's our hope that funds raised through the campaign will fund the entire project. About 72 percent, or $2.5 million, of the project will be privately funded," Hayes said. "(Another) $1 million is coming from the district, as it agreed to put the funds from the sale of Woodward, Sheridan and Round Hills elementary schools toward this effort ... The money received from those sales is one-time money and only would be used for capital projects."
District staff also are pitching in financially, he said.
"Members of the staff - 146 of them exactly - have elected to make donations out of their salaries toward the campaign," he said. "We have about 15 to 20 percent of the faculty making monetary donations. We feel really great moving forward with all the support we have received," Hayes said.
To learn more about the Return to Glory campaign, visit www.wasd.org/returntoglory.