WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla High School may be just months from addressing a need felt at the school for decades.
A group of Walla Wallans has spearheaded a campaign to raise $850,000 to build a new all-weather track to replace the school’s cinder track, and they’re on the home stretch.
A group consisting of Scott Krivoshein, Mark Klicker, Eric Hisaw, Craig Nelson, Steve Gerling, Doug Rietz and Scott Magnaghi is $179,000 short of the goal, having tapped a number of sources for $671,000. The group hopes to raise the difference in time to begin construction this summer. It is now looking to families and individuals for donations.
This isn’t the first time the district has attempted to build a new track at Wa-Hi, which currently sends its track and field athletes across town to aging Martin Field. A new track was included in one form or another in the 2006 and 2013 capital bond proposals, but both of those bond elections failed.
The cinder track on campus, built in 1964, is prone to ruts and puddles. It’s the wrong size — modern tracks are measured in meters, not yards — and poses such a safety hazard that the district’s previous insurer condemned it for a time.
“It’s a shame, and honestly, to me, it’s embarrassing to be a school this size and have a track like this,” said Hisaw, who coaches the track and football programs at Wa-Hi. “There is so much in our school that needs to get done, and this is one of those facilities.”
And the facilities at Martin Field near Borleske Stadium, while usable, are not ideal.
“They are adequate at best,” Hisaw said. “They are fulfilling the needs our program has, but only to a bare minimum.”
Martin Field’s track, a nine-lane all-weather track, is a quiltwork of patches and cracks. The surface is uneven in some points and the track is harder than most modern tracks.
“There are some patches that rise up and fall down, and the track itself is not a good track,” Hisaw said. “It’s hard and I know there’s a reason we battle shin splints and stress fractures right now.
“There are coaches from other schools that say they don’t want to bring their athletes because the track is so bad.”
In addition to those problems, there isn’t adequate storage at the site for all of the track team’s equipment, or adequate seating to host a meet of any significant size.
Transporting the almost 200-athlete track team across town takes up valuable practice time and money. Also, Wa-Hi shares the Martin Field track with nearby DeSales Catholic High School, meaning that several weekends out of the season the Blue Devils aren’t able to practice.
Ultimately the group raising money for the project would like to see lights installed at the new track on campus, grandstands and an artificial turf system.
However, the first phase would be putting in just the track, infrastructure for later improvements, storage facilities and track equipment.
“I have a little bit of blue running through my veins, and we want to leave a legacy for the students at Wa-Hi,” said Krivoshein, a financial adviser who has helped drive the project. “This is something that, to me, will last a long, long time.”
He said the track, fittingly blue and white, and its inner field will have multiple uses. The track will be wide enough to hold a soccer field inside it, physical education classes will have a safe, proper place to run, and the track will be available for public use as well.
The donor list so far includes the Stubblefield Trust, the Big Blue Boosters, Columbia REA and more. The School District also has $150,000 in reserve that was donated specifically to build a track.
If the School Board votes to allocate that money to this project, it would likely be recouped over time by transportation savings. The district currently spends between $7,000 and $8,000 annually to bus students to Martin Field.
“Our board knows that we will need to contribute some money to help finish this off, we just don’t know how much,” said Walla Walla Public School Superintendent Mick Miller. “We also know that some of that money will be paid back, we just don’t know how long.”
Ben Wentz can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8315.