The Ithaca School Board has approved a donor-funded project that will benefit not only the district but the other five schools in Gratiot County.
The board is moving forward with a proposal from the donor family, who wish to remain anonymous, and a local citizens’ committee calling for the installation of a new drainage system and a surface artificial play at the Ithaca community stadium, as well as the creation of a veterans’ center. Memorial scholarship fund for students in the region.
The donor is covering the entire cost, estimated at $ 1 million for the stadium project alone, according to Ithaca Public Schools Superintendent Steve Netzley.
On top of that, the family will also provide the district with $ 200,000 to open an interest-bearing account to help fund the replacement of the artificial turf, likely in about 15 years.
In addition, the donor is forming a non-profit group that will include representatives from schools in Alma, Ashley, Breckenridge, Ithaca, Fulton and St. Louis, to administer the new Veterans Memorial Bursary Fund.
“It’s awesome,” Netzley said. “This is a great project. We are very grateful to the donor family and the committee. This is going to be a win-win for the school and the community.
“We were at the point where we were going to have to invest a lot of money in the facility to fix the (drainage) problems. It was going to cost between $ 300,000 and $ 400,000 to completely redo everything and install a new grass field.
Water flowed over the football field from the service aisle, parking lot, a nearby farm barn and the berm surrounding the stadium, making the pitch unsafe and at times unplayable.
The project will include dismantling the old infrastructure, installing tiles and a new drainage system under the artificial playing surface, Netzley said.
It will also reduce future mowing and maintenance costs, he added.
The new facility will allow the district to host other Michigan High School Athletic Association events and will be available to any other school in the county.
“It will be the top of the line and it’s in a great location,” Netzley said.
The goal is to start work as soon as the high school spring sports season is over in early June and end it in August before the start of fall sports.
The work will also include the construction of a Patriots Wall of Honor at the stadium to honor local veterans and those who gave their lives fighting for their country.
The committee and donor will present their plan for the Veterans Memorial Bursary Fund to the superintendents of the other five districts in the county on January 5.
“They’re making a pretty big donation to start this,” Netzley said. “It will be up to each community to raise additional funds and to select their scholarship holders each year. “
The amount and number of scholarships awarded annually will depend on each district.