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Homestead football program to get turf field

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Homestead football program to get turf field

Surface will also serve other sports

By Steven L. Tietz

July 8, 2015

Everybody knows the structural, organizational and strategic foundations of the Homestead High School football empire are built on bedrock and have led to four WIAA state championships and a myriad number of other epic wins in the last 16 seasons.

The actual playing foundation, however, well, that is a different matter, especially after a good rain.

Let's just say that after a downpour, the Highlanders' playing field looks like it would be right at home in the Florida Everglades. In short, it's a swamp.

But that is all going to change because very soon, Homestead will soon have a championship field to match their championship accomplishments.

As of Monday, July 6, after one last set of donations came through, construction began on installing a new artificial turf field that should be ready by early September.

The multi-use turf field will be accompanied by a resurfacing of the track and the relocation of some of the field event venues as part of a vast facilities overhaul fronted by a $1.1 million donation from the Homestead Booster Club and backed by the Mequon-Thiensville School District.

The field may not be ready for at least one of the Highlanders' early-season home games. The Highlanders were originally scheduled to host their season opener against state powerhouse Arrowhead, but that game has already been moved back to Arrowhead.

But veteran football coach Dave Keel is not bothered in the least as he has been overwhelmed by the support from the community for this project, which will by the fall of 2016, also include a state-of-the-art concession stand/bathroom/team room complex strategically located within easy walking distance from not only the football field but also the soccer, tennis and softball complexes.

Sommer's Automotive has already earned naming rights for the estimated $500,000 pavilion by donating $250,000. The Highlander Strong fundraising campaign, an arm of the Booster Club, will continue to raise the remaining $250,000 of the pavilion cost with the current available funding going toward the turf/track project.

For now, the field is the priority.

"'Old Swampy' (the field) has been with us a long time," said Keel, "but this project has been a long time coming. I'm just so pleased we have the opportunity to do this. It's great for the kids and the program. We want to make it last, make it something we can all be proud of."

Keel said other attempts to do this have been started in the recent past, but the recession and other financial factors have held back its inception.

Zoeller said the time was right.

"We've been at this for about 18 months," she said. "There's been a lot of groundwork involved, and it all started really rolling last June (2014), and by October we were into serious fundraising, and we were surprised at how quickly the support came about this time.

"Because we have tried this at least two other times, but this time, we had the support of the school board, Dr. (Demond) Means (the superintendent) and the football program."

She said the donations from Sommer's and other area alums such as the Speaker family, which have put several children through the high school, have really helped get things rolling.

"We're grateful that they see the value in this," she said. "The value of turf over grass, because you really couldn't use the old field for anything else other than football. This field will be structured and lined so it can be used for soccer and lacrosse. Gym classes and intramural sports will also be able to use it."

Keel is staggered and impressed by the support.

"Jennifer (Zoeller) has been just a remarkable force, and we have to give special thanks to Jim Popp and Tom Price for their outstanding efforts to get this project started," Keel said, "and there have been a number of other families who have put in some large donations toward this."

In doing this, Homestead joins a whole host of schools who have bitten the financial bullet and added a turf field to their athletic complex.

On the North Shore, it will join Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, and of their state-contending, football-playing peers in the area, they will join Arrowhead, Franklin, Oak Creek, Greendale, Brookfield Central, Marquette (Hart Park), Kenosha Bradford, Kenosha Indian Trail, Wisconsin Lutheran and many others.

Like Homestead, Mukwonago and Wauwatosa West are just putting in their turf fields this year, and others such as Menomonee Falls are fundraising like mad to join the club. What these districts are seeing is that for a large, one-time outlay, they can get years of activity and action without the cost and hassle of constant watering, sodding and cutting of the grass that goes along with traditional grass fields.

After the field is done, the pavilion will be added, and that, Zoeller said, is long overdue for one primary reason: there are bathrooms located in the high school near the main gate of the football field, but they do not provide ready access to the softball or soccer fields.

"And that's a little embarrassing not to have running water (toilets and sinks) near those fields," she said. "All along, we wanted to make sure that this is just not about one sport, that services could be provided to other sports, too.

"We're very excited about this. It's a great addition."

— With additional reporting by Jeff Rumage


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