If all goes to plan, Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) and Huntington North High School (HNHS) will be breaking ground on their new multi-purpose outdoor athletic facility in May.
This new facility, which is estimated to cost $7.5 million, will be located near the east end of the HNHS field house. Groundbreaking is slated for Monday, May 10.
HCCSC Superintendent Chad Daugherty stresses the fact that there are many advantages to the new facility being built, namely that students will have access to the facility during the school day.
“Now, P.E. classes can have access to it during the day . . . our band classes can have access to it during the day. . . our Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JRTOC) classes can have access to it during the day . . . so, you’re talking about a lot of students that will be able to have access to it. And those students aren’t even participating in extracurricular activities,” Daugherty said. “You’re going to see more access and more use out of that facility than you ever would across the street.”
HNHS Principal Rief Gilg echoes Daugherty’s thoughts on how much use the facility will get.
“Just as our fieldhouse is used constantly, so will this facility,” Gilg said. “Not only with athletics and arts, but daily P.E. classes.”
Gilg says that there is a “different pride” that takes place with first class facilities.
“In my experience, the students, faculty and community take ownership of such places and it only enhances the pride they have in the school,” Gilg added.
Another aspect that Daugherty notes is that accessing the facility will be safer than trying to access Kriegbaum Field, which sits across the street from HNHS. Daugherty explained that, because Huntington North’s current football field and track is across the street from the school itself, there are issues of safety for people trying to cross the street to attend a game and that classes are unable to utilize the current facility during the day.
“Our thought is, why put money into a facility when it’s going to sit empty and unoccupied most of the day?” Daugherty said.
Outside of school hours, students participating in extracurricular activities will also be able to take advantage of the artificial turf field that is being installed, as well as the wide-angle track. According to a HCCSC press release, the turf surface will give “flexibility for usage and require less man hours for maintenance and upkeep.” The stadium will also feature LED lighting, which will specifically benefit the junior varsity girls and boys soccer teams.
“Before, our JV teams could not finish any of their contest because it was too dark and they didn’t have lights. Now, our JV can finish games,” Daugherty said.
The original plan for the multi-purpose field was to have it situated to the east of the existing softball field. Unfortunately, due to an underground gas line in that area, the multi-purpose field will have to go on top of the current softball field.
“That’s one thing we didn’t want to do,” Daugherty said. “We didn’t want to be invasive to our other facilities. We thought we could fit it in there without moving another facility . . . it was unfortunate.”
According to the HCCSC, a new softball field will be built, featuring bleachers for 400 fans, a press box, 60-foot dugouts with storage, a batting cage and 8-foot fencing. This new softball field will be located near the intersection of Viking Lane and Ind.-5. A new regulation-sized grass practice football field will be added between the stadium and new softball facility.
The current construction schedule would mean that the HNHS softball team could not finish their 2021 spring season on their home field, but Gilg says that the athletic administration has “set up alternative sites such as Huntington University to play if needed.”
According to HCCSC, funding for the project comes from a bond received in 2018. Daugherty emphasizes that this project was not a “want” but a “need”, and is the last of a list of five major projects that the corporation has been working towards for some time now.
Those projects included building the new Roanoke Elementary School, fixing the roof at HNHS, updating the HVAC systems at HNHS and adding on to the Learning Center.
“Insurance money has taken care of a brand new roof and now the roof does not leak,” Daugherty said. “We have brand new boilers and chillers in and air-handling units in the gym . . . we have now addressed the learning center and that expansion. The football field is the last thing we’re doing because those other things needed taken care of first.”
Daugherty also says that, because of the money from the 2018 bonds, taxes will not be raised to cover the cost of the multi-purpose facility, and that several community partners have voiced interest in sponsoring the project to show their support.
Gilg believes that the greatest benefit of this update coming to Huntington North is the message it will send to the students of the school.
“We get tremendous support from our community; this is additional, tangible evidence that what our young people do and how they develop is of the utmost importance to all of our stakeholders.”
The question of what will happen with Kriegbaum Field and the property it sits on has yet to be determined. According to Daugherty, Kriegbaum will be demolished and the parking lot and pole building will be left.
“There has been no decision on what to do with that property,” Daugherty said. He emphasized that, while there have been no decisions made, the corporation will not be selling the property.