DeKALB – When the new DeKalb High School opens on Dresser Road in the fall of 2011, every athletic team at the school will get to enjoy a significant upgrade.
DeKalb athletic director Dan Jones was like a kid on Christmas morning as he described the blue prints for a new multi-purpose football and soccer stadium, performance gymnasium and – perhaps most importantly – a field house.
“The facilities bring us even with other schools in the area,” Jones said. “Our athletes can train year-round. They will have the opportunity to participate in a facility that accommodates their schedules and not have to go back-and-forth from school to home for practices.
“Rather than having the last practice wrapping up after 9 p.m., we think with the new space we should be done practicing by 7:30, which will allow our students-athletes to do homework, study and get ready for the next day of school.”
Playing football games at Northern Illinois University would cost DHS $375,000 over a 10-year period.
Starting in 2011, the Barbs will eliminate that expenditure because they have home football games. But they don’t know if they will have lights and enough seating.
Neither was budgeted and Jones said a private group has banded together to try and secure financing for both.
“Residents around the school that might be concerned with the light created from night games need to visit the new lighting systems used at Sycamore or Genoa-Kingston,” Jones said. “They cause a minimal impact on the housing in the area because the technology provides direct lighting where the field of play is lit, but the surrounding area stays dark.”
THE WISH LIST
After the referendum passed for construction of a new DHS, Jones asked girls basketball coach Debbie Whitman to meet with the building committee and architects. She assembled a wish list that could meet the needs of all coaches.
“I was excited when the referendum passed,” Whitman said. “But when I saw the plan it really kicked up my excitement to another level.”
When the Barbs move into their new facilities, Whitman envisions an athletic scene operating in ample space, even though the new DHS is 80 acres compared to its current 90 acres.
Whitman said the current facilities “are pretty cramped,” and that a field house and a new performance gymnasium will allow for athletes to receive quality instruction from coaches and still be home at a reasonable time every night.
“As a basketball coach, I am pleased with what we are going to get,” Whitman said. “We get 25 contact days in the summer and I think we could house tournaments here that could save us money. Rather than paying to play in other tournaments we could take advantage of the performance gymnasium and the big field house to act as a fundraiser for the basketball program.”
Also receiving an upgrade because of fields and a field house is the softball program.
The softball team will have two fields on site at the new high school. Even though the new softball fields will be a bit bittersweet for Barbs’ coach Jeff Davis, who was instrumental in transforming the current DeKalb softball field into an outstanding facility, he will gladly take housing the softball program in a centralized location.
“I think the new fields are absolutely a good thing,” Davis said. “Two teams playing at once at the same site will allow parents to really soak in a lot of softball. I would build up one new field every five years if it meant that the program received two fields in return.”
The Barbs softball team could still use the field at the old school for the first season depending on the progress of the new field construction. But when baseball and softball are forced indoors, as frequently happens due to the unpredictable weather that occurs during the spring, Davis is thrilled to have a field house that can accommodate multiple practices.
“The field house alone will have a tremendous impact on all of our programs,” Davis said. “Not just softball or baseball. It is a dream come true. We always went to other schools and wished we could have the indoor facilities they have; we now have those.”
Davis said he believes the upgraded facilities could help sway a larger chunk of the student population to get involved and participate in athletics. If a larger percentage of students participate the chances of uncovering talented athletes increases exponentially.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The main gym will be slightly larger than the Barbs current home. There will be 2,500 seats, with bleachers running on all four sides of the gym. When the current DHS was built, girls athletics was not a priority, therefore the locker room situation is currently a mess.
The girls locker room is upstairs and the boys locker room is downstairs. The new DHS will have a set of locker rooms just outside the gym and two full locker rooms for physical education.
The outdoor stadium will be a multi-purpose facility for football and soccer because it will be made of FieldTurf. The track will be widened so the soccer team can play on a regulation-sized field rather than on a narrow football field.
The tennis team, badminton team and track teams stand to see significant upgrades as well. Rather than traveling to NIU for its matches, the tennis team will have 10 home courts.
The badminton team will move from eight courts to 16.
But the track team might experience the largest upgrade with a full-sized field house, and eight-lane track with a separate staging area for field events.
“It is a great eight-lane track with a great surface,” Jones said. “The field events are all grouped outside the track so all the events can be watched together.”
The DeKalb swim team will still use the pool it calls home, as Jones said the new DHS will not have a pool. The current pool will be upgraded, however – as a new boiler, pipes and an up-to-code drain system will be installed. The pool locker room also will be upgraded in the future.
The wrestling program will move into a bigger practice room and P.E. classes will benefit from a dance room that the cheer leaders and the pom team will be able to use for practice. The volleyball and basketball teams will go from two practice courts to at least five, depending on how coaches configure practices.