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Whitnall's new stadium reins in the rain

Falcon Field already proves its worth on opening night

Perhaps as an omen, a rainbow forms over the new Falcon Field during the first quarter of Whitnall’s game against Greenfield on Sept. 7. The field demonstrated its ability to fend off problems that the old stadium couldn’t in the rain.

Perhaps as an omen, a rainbow forms over the new Falcon Field during the first quarter of Whitnall’s game against Greenfield on Sept. 7. The field demonstrated its ability to fend off problems that the old stadium couldn’t in the rain. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Sept. 11, 2012

Greenfield - Rain poured down on Whitnall High School's new stadium on its inaugural night, putting a bit of a damper on the opening festivities, but Falcon Field itself stood high and dry.

Even as the old stadium grounds and athletic fields showed signs of the soaking - the very reason why the $6.5 million upgrade that included the new stadium was completed - the new high school field, with its artificial turf and elevated surface, passed its first test.

"It was fantastic. We had no standing water anywhere," said Matt Karshna, buildings and ground supervisor and project manager, noting that there were no backups, the stormwater control ponds worked perfectly, and "everything got an A-plus in performance."

With the old stadium, that kind of deluge would have bought a whole different scenario. The game would have turned into a "mud bowl," Karshna said.

And between the damage from the varsity game and the youth football activities held the day after at the old stadium, the natural grass would have had virtually no chance of coming back, he added.

"The field would be destroyed for the season - it would be ripped up," Karshna said.

Clearer skies ahead

During the Friday evening celebration, rain poured down in torrents and washed out the planned tailgate party. Even during the 6:15 p.m. opening ceremony, a light nuisance rain grumpily drizzled at the festivities. But by the 7 p.m. game time, the skies were clearing and a rainbow appeared above the stadium.

Whitnall officials hope that's a sign of things to come for the school's newly renovated outdoor athletic facilities.

The football and soccer teams will share the stadium, and varsity track events will return to Whitnall now that the running surface has been replaced and the field amenities brought up to par.

Varsity track meets that haven't been held at the school since 2000.

"Track has been affected more than any other sport," said Michael Thompson, head girls track coach. "Two years ago, our track was condemned and we weren't allowed to practice on it. … We've been bused to other facilities to practice and also had to make use of what was around."

That included practice runs on concrete and asphalt, which wasn't good for the young athletes. "We've had numerous injuries over the past two years which haven't been typical of the program," Thompson said.

Crowd pleaser, too

The new stadium will accommodate bigger crowds to watch sporting events, given that the new bleachers more than double seating, accommodating 2,000 fans, Karshna said.

Those fans will be treated to a building with restrooms, instead of the old stadium's chemical toilets. The restroom building also will have new team rooms, Karshna said. The concession stand also is bigger.

The high-tech scoreboard can show animation and graphics - even live video, just like Miller Park, Karshna said.

At the opening ceremonies Friday, it was used to show a slide show of construction over the months and a clip of Badgers head football coach Barry Alvarez congratulating the community on its new facility.

"It is awesome," said Superintendent Lowell Holtz, who lauded the partnerships between the school, parents and businesses that enabled the project came out even better than anyone expected.

Taming the swamplands

The lack of rain this summer made it possible to do grading, a huge part of the project, Karshna said.

"It dried out the site, which is typically a swamp," he said.

To keep the athletic facilities dry, an underdrain system was installed not only for the stadium, but for the softball and baseball fields.

A second stormwater management pond also was created to safely channel runoff, and curbs were added to keep water away from the gym, which has occasionally flooded. The junior varsity soccer field also was raised almost five feet to keep it from being sopped every time it rains, Karshna said.

The project also included a multi-purpose field for gym classes, school activities and practices, a girls varsity softball field and two new tennis courts (bringing the total number of courts to eight), and the baseball field was freshened up and filled to level it out.

Work started Aug. 14, 2011, and demolition of the old stadium began less than two months later, Karshna said. The entire project was paid for out of fund balance.

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