The Lancaster School District is dreaming big.
Even though the district is at the start of a $19.5 million capital project approved by voters, school officials say much more is needed beyond these improvements.
Enter the latest idea trumpeted with the help of the nonprofit Lancaster Educational and Alumni Foundation: Preliminary talk focuses on big projects, including a turf field for soccer, lacrosse and marching band practice and enhancing the fieldhouse.
These ideas were first mentioned publicly during a recent School Board meeting. “It’s big-ticket items,” like the fieldhouse and turf field, Superintendent Michael J. Vallely said in an interview Tuesday.
Vallely pitched the ideas as part of the plan supported by the foundation, which would seek financial support privately and from alumni, to make them a reality in a few years.
“We’re trying to do it the right way, and not just go out and hit both sides,” said Vallely, who noted the district would look for about 80 percent in state aid, with the remainder raised by the foundation.
“It’s just the beginning stages, and it could die a quick death,” he cautioned. “It really depends on the alumni … and if it can move forward.”
Young & Wright Architects has prepared six renderings depicting a Lancaster Fields master plan. A five-year facilities plan being developed by the board and district in coming months could include the turf field, improvements to athletic areas and the fieldhouse.
The district’s capital project that just began and stretches until the end of 2014 focuses on safety, security and technology improvements at all buildings. But because some the turf field and fieldhouse improvements could be “too Taj Mahal” for the district, Vallely said, the district is turning to the foundation.
“It is our hope to have our dreams come true … to renovate our athletic fields and our music department suite, so Lancaster will always be a stellar school district in Western New York,” said Edward J. Myszka, foundation president and recently retired Lancaster school superintendent.
The foundation, which was formed in 2010, so far has focused on awarding mini-grants to teachers and funding Nooks for school libraries.
“None of this will happen overnight,” said Patrick Farruggio, foundation treasurer. “It’s all in the talking stages.”
While no formal cost estimates have been made public, some cost figures range between $5 million and $6 million. Vallely said the foundation would need to come up with $800,000 for the fieldhouse improvements and turf field.
Initial ideas for the five-year improvement plan for Len Jankiewicz Athletic Complex call for a turf field with lights, bleachers and expanded parking, as well as an enlarged fieldhouse with storage, bleachers and concessions. New team locker rooms and entry points to the athletic fields were identified in preliminary drawings.
“I would think expanding the fieldhouse would be the priority,” said Farruggio, who added that the district and the foundation expect to meet on the idea sometime this month.