Big Walnut High School Athletic Director Brian Shelton has a year under his belt at the helm of athletics programs and facilities, and during that year Shelton has been keeping statistics, taking notes, and estimating program and facilities needs.
During last Thursday evening’s Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education meeting Shelton presented an overview of athletic program participation, anticipated growth in those programs and facilities upgrades — both immediate and wish-list.
Shelton noted that Big Walnut has over 600-plus student athletes in grades seven through 12; that 45 percent of enrolled students participate in athletics. The school district owns 73 district titles, 29 regional titles, and has had seven state qualifiers and/or titles. Big Walnut High School has produced 95 All-Ohio athletes, 40 elected members of the Athletic Wall of Fame, and 80 percent of all 2014-15 teams had winning records.
“Our 2014 volleyball team was district champions, and our 2015 baseball team was regional champions and went to the Final Four,” Shelton said during his presentation. “Football, track, cross-country, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball — the numbers are increasing. Football will have 120-plus athletes this coming year, cross-country 50, we’ll have 140 track athletes, last year we had 38 swimmers, and swimming will be a 100 percent school sport for the first time this school year.”
Shelton also noted feeder programs like Big Walnut Youth Athletic Association Football and the Big Walnut Youth Basketball Association with over 400 young athletes participating on an annual basis.
“When you drive through our schools, how often do you not see our athletic facilities and other facilities being used?” Shelton asked. “Our kids are getting more and more involved; our kids work.”
Shelton said the high school is starting an Athlete Leadership Training Program featuring speakers to train student-athletes to become leaders.
A new football scoreboard will be installed later this month using athletic account funds (see related story). He said the scoreboard has the potential of earning $28,000 per year in advertising revenue, paying for itself in a little over four years.
Basketball, softball and soccer scoreboards are on the radar, each with earning potential from advertising, paying for the units and bringing additional advertising dollars into the athletic fund. When all new scoreboards are finally installed they would generate an additional $50,000 per year.
New goal posts are being installed on the football field, there are new LED lights in the gymnasium, improvements to the track and field facilities, and the high school is creating a program where core lifts in the weight room are the same for all sports.
The down side, Shelton said, is the high school’s athletic facilities are aging and outdated. That’s where wish-list items come into the equation.
“We need to expand and remodel the athletic wing of the high school,” Shelton said. “The ultimate goal is to add gym space. Our gym is the worst gymnasium in the Ohio Capitol Conference (OCC). We’re the only high school in the OCC without a usable auxiliary gym. Most high schools have multiple auxiliary gyms.”
Shelton said Big Walnut High School needs to expand the weight room into the existing (and unusable) auxiliary gym, and possibly add a new gymnasium or build a stand-alone field house.
Shelton listed athletic facilities immediate needs in order of importance, with estimated cost: new gym floor, $70,000 to $100,000; replace and relocate tennis courts, $250,000 to $300,000; repair or replace the football field’s visiting team press box (the existing visitor’s press box has been condemned), $40,000 to 90,000; new or repaired track, $100,000 to $200,000; new gym bleachers, $60,000 to $100,000; air-conditioning in the gymnasium, $80,000 to 100,000; and artificial turf on the football field, $600,000 to $800,000.
“We need gym space more than we need turf on the football field,” Shelton said. “The current high school gym floor is over 30 years old. The gym floor needs replaced even if a new gym is built because of several dead spots. We have nail pops and warped boards that need serviced every year, and the lack of AC in the gym puts stress on the gym floor from condensation moisture.”
Shelton did not offer an estimate of what a Big Walnut Athletics Field House would cost, but he did say it would be a year-round indoor training facility with four indoor basketball courts to maximize court time, and a 200-meter indoor track for training athletes during winter months and while hosting meets.
“The indoor track would allow students to run during cold months, and provide access for all our teams to train year-round,” Shelton said. “There would be open time for recreation and community play, and practice space for basketball leagues that do not play on the high school teams.”
Shelton said basketball controls the current gym’s space during the winter months, with limited access time for other sports. A field house would allow other winter sports teams to practice immediately after school and be home earlier to study; and fall and spring sport athletes could train during off-season.
“Big Walnut could host basketball, volleyball, and track and field tournaments with the potential of $15,000 to 20,000 per tournament profit,” Shelton said. “The community would have access to the field house seven days per week for exercise classes and use of the walking track during winter months. Best of all, the cost to maintain the building would be offset through hosting tournaments and track meets.”
District Superintendent Angie Pollock said a recent 10-year facility assessment has been completed that includes athletic facilities.
“Obviously we have more needs than funds, but we are looking at more facilities as we grow,” Pollock said. “We know we are going to need bonds in the future as the community grows. Brian has done a great job of assessing our facilities and getting prices. Now we just need to pull it all together and see what we can afford.”