Lake Schools Superintendent Jim Witt compares the newly constructed high school building to a “Chevy or Buick.”
Witt explains that he would rather have a functional building designed to serve a purpose over an “over-the-top Mercedes-Benz.”
However, in many ways the new athletic facilities at Lake are cream of the crop, especially when compared to other Northwest Ohio schools.
From artificial turf at Flyer Stadium and an arena-style gymnasium with a college-length floor to an expanded wrestling room, auxiliary gymnasium, and new weight room, everything is in place for Lake athletes during the upcoming school year.
The $25.5 million dollar, 145,000 square foot high school includes Flyer Field House, which will seat 2,000 — the same as the old field house, destroyed June 5, 2010 by a tornado.
However, the floor goes from 84 feet to 94 feet, the same length as the Owens Community College floor, which seats 1,400, used by Owens basketball players the past two years.
“To have our own gym again is just going to be phenomenal,” boys’ basketball coach Ryan Bowen said. “We practiced at East Broadway Middle School, but we watched film at home. It’s a headache. It’s going to be nice to have everything on-site. I like to interact with our junior high program, and when you’re at two sites it’s impossible to do. It sounds like our gym is going to be phenomenal.”
The seating is rearranged so that fans can view the game from all four sides of the court.
“We wanted this to be a place where our kids and visiting schools would sit separately from adults, so that’s why you see this type of seating,” Witt said.
Dave Shaffer, director of athletics and maintenance, added, “We were looking for something that made it, very honestly, easily accessible. We wanted to have designated student sections. We wanted to do something unique. The arena style was a little cheaper. It’s going to be awesome. It will be very similar to Perrysburg’s gym, but with fewer seats.”
Shaffer said the backboards can be electronically lowered to seven feet, making it convenient for youth basketball games. The field house also includes locker rooms and a training room for coaches.
Nearly everything is donated, including banners, gymnasium equipment, the scoreboard, and a motorized flag. The American flag was donated by Cando Credit Union of Walbridge in April 2010, but was never installed before the tornado hit, so fans will get their first view of it during volleyball games this fall.
The field house was designed by The Collaborative of Toledo and built by Rudolph/Libbe, Inc.
The auxiliary gym, which is located directly across the “runway” (main hall) from the field house, has batting cages that can be lowered from the ceiling, curtains at either end to protect the walls, and a multi-purpose durable floor that can handle baseballs without damage. The gym will double as the middle school and high school cafeteria, serving about 900 students.
In the “runway” is the Hall of Fame display, which is a work in progress. Shaffer is still seeking photos of hall of fame members as they restore plaques along with some athletic records that were damaged or lost during the tornado.
The wrestling room and football stadium can be viewed from the new media center, and as media was given a tour Wednesday morning, new football coach Bob Olwin was leading his team in conditioning drills.
A temporary multi-purpose room and cafeteria building, constructed immediately after the tornado hit, is being converted into concessions for the football stadium and a wrestling room. Wrestlers will have a practice facility that is bigger and improved over the space they occupied at the old high school, Shaffer said.
Shaffer said construction is continuing on that building’s renovation, but should be finished by the time football begins. The building was originally constructed with the aid of a $50,000 grant, awarded through the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation.
The football field suffered heavy damage from the tornado, but immediately afterwards artificial turf was installed at a cost of $750,000, covered by insurance. The new turf can also be used for soccer and gym classes, and the football team practices on it.
“If we went back to natural turf it would be very expensive because there would have to be excavation,” board member Tim Krugh told The Press. “It would have to be hauled away and then topsoil brought back in. If we went with new sod or seed the field just wouldn’t be ready for the season. The key for us is you can practice as well as play on the Field Turf because we don’t have practice areas right now because of the debris.”
Oregon-based Maumee Bay Turf Center, owned by former Clay athlete and Clay and Northwood coach Brad Morrison and partner P.J. Kapfhammer, installed the artificial turf. The old sod from the football stadium was used to re-sod some of the other fields that were damaged.
Also installed after the tornado were new lights, a sound system, scoreboard, bleachers, and electrical service to the stadium.
“Of all the outdoor facilities, the football program took the biggest hit,” Shaffer said. “We lost two practice fields and our game field. We've lost an irrigation building, concession stand, a storage garage. We had windows blown out of the press boxes and we have minor repairs to do in the grandstand bleachers.