MOUNT VERNON — Excitement is building on the Mount Vernon High School campus as the final stage of the stadium renovations is in full swing and anticipation for the long-awaited field house is in the air.
The entrance building for the stadium was recently demolished and will be replaced with an updated design that will make Yellow Jacket Stadium and Energy Field a leading high school sports venue.
“The front end of the stadium/concessions will cost $500,000,” said Bob Tiell, treasurer of Jacket Boosters Inc. “We will have ADA-compliant restrooms and an enlarged concession area. The area inside (the stadium) will provide a lot more room for people to get where they are going and to enjoy the event.”
The first two phases of the stadium included the collegiate-level track and the artificial turf for the football and soccer programs — all with dollars raised by the booster club. According to Tiell, the funds for Phase 3 have been secured and the facility is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019-20 school year.
The stadium entrance is just a small step in the field house project, with the field house itself set for construction in the coming months. Driven by the enthusiasm of the athletic boosters, the field house project has taken several shapes over the course of the development and design processes, but the final result is a facility that will bring Yellow Jacket Athletics on par with other schools in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, as well as central Ohio.
The $8 million facility, part of the Education Gateway Project, will feature three multi-purpose courts, a 200-meter six-lane track, a wrestling room, athletic training room, locker rooms, weight room, two classrooms and office space. Taking into consideration the needs of Mount Vernon Nazarene University, the project has evolved into one that will serve students from both educational institutions as well as residents of the district.
“We went from no track, to a two-lane walking track, to a 200-meter six-lane track, and a gym area that will allow for field events,” said Tiell. “I don’t know of another high school that has that. This will allow MVNU to host track events outdoors and indoors; a requirement to hosting. In exchange, our students will get the opportunity to use MVNU’s new soccer/lacrosse stadium which will be located just east of our athletic facility.”
The multi-purpose courts will be used by volleyball, basketball and tennis programs as well as the community with the ability to play pickleball indoors.
Bringing the wrestling program back to the high school campus from Pleasant Street Elementary School will be a huge boost for the program and a stronger connection to the student population.
“The whole project will provide our children with the same opportunities that so many other communities offer their children,” said Tiell. “Athletics and band provide our children with so many intangibles beyond the actual activity, including discipline, team work and the skills to deal with adversity.”
“It goes beyond the athletes,” said William Seder, district superintendent. “I have physical education teachers who are excited about using it. The music department is excited about opportunities to use it; the band can practice in bad weather. We could have graduation here.”
What makes the field house even more impressive is the fact that it will be funded entirely by donations.
“This will be privately funded; no tax dollars will be used,” Tiell said. “The Knox County Foundation has awarded a $150,000 grant and we are allowed to dream bigger because of the generosity of Ariel Corporation’s matching dollar for dollar in our fundraising campaign. Our community is so fortunate.”
While the field house becomes a reality with $6.5 million for construction and $1.5 million to furnish the building, Seder keeps his eye on the big picture realizing the costs a new facility will bring to the district.
“While building the field house is wonderful, we need to be mindful of the ongoing cost of the facility. From staffing, utilities, and general maintenance, we need to plan for these ongoing expenses,” said Seder. “We have had some very specific conversations about that as we move forward. One way is through endowments which would help offset ongoing maintenance costs. For some of the donors, it is important to know it’s not going to cost taxpayers in the future.”
Partnerships in the community are making this dream a reality and even expanding the offerings to student-athletes. With both the school district and MVNU at the table, shared facilities will provide accessibility to both institutions for indoor track at the field house and soccer at MVNU’s Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium complex.
“Our two institutions discussed multiple ideas throughout the years of existing side by side,” said James Smith, MVNU’s Vice President for University Relations. “I think what moved us into action was a combination of timing, needs and the right people at the table. During conversations in the fall of 2018, we quickly realized that there were excellent opportunities for us to help enhance each other’s athletic and student wellness offerings. We also caught the larger vision of what this could mean for the community of Mount Vernon. Once we approached the city and the Knox County Foundation, we realized that there were several partners thrilled to help invest in our community through these projects.”
Funds continue to stream in to bring the facility to fruition, but Tiell stresses that every dollar donated is important to the project, the future of the district and the city. Those interested in donating can do so by contacting Tiell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-679-6509; Justin Sanford, Athletic Director, Mount Vernon City Schools at email@example.com or 614-580-09000; or mail donations to Jacket Boosters Inc., P.O. Box 776, Mount Vernon, OH 43050. Online donations are accepted by visiting www.mvkcfoundation.org and clicking “Donate Now.”
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