JOHNSON CREEK — The capital campaign for athletic fields at the new Johnson Creek Middle/High School kicked off with a bang on Wednesday evening, as Pine Cone Restaurant/Travel Plaza owners James and Jordan Glover and their family gave $500,000 toward the new football field.
“We have been a sponsor of local baseball teams and we just wanted to do something to help the community,” James Glover said.
“The whole point of this campaign is to help the community and young people,” Jordan Grover agreed. “We have five grandchildren ourselves and we want to give young people from this community every opportunity possible to grow, learn and mature.
“Johnson Creek is such a great community,” she added. “This will be another great step.”
Electors in the School District of Johnson Creek passed a referendum last spring and construction has begun on the new middle high school building on the west side of the village along County Highway B. However, in order to reduce the cost to taxpayers, athletic fields were excluded from the referendum.
The “One Team, One Dream” campaign, which kicked off Wednesday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Johnson Creek Community Center, aims to raise $2.5 million to construct a new football field and track, a game field for baseball, a game field for softball, and practice fields.
Also planned on the site of the new school are a concession stand and storage facility.
After a reception with food and beverages at which people could look at designs for the new athletic facilities and talk with “ambassadors” for the project, Tim La Sage took the microphone to introduce the “One Team, One Dream” effort.
La Sage, a Marine, bought his house online while serving in the Middle East, having settled on Johnson Creek as the perfect growth area.
During the three years he has lived here, he said, he has already witnessed a lot of growth in terms of business, new households and momentum toward a better community. The passage of the school referendum was a big part in that momentum — and the next step will be the outdoor athletic facilities to go with that new school, he said.
Cale Vogel, high school principal and athletic director, took the podium next, outlining the ways in which the Johnson Creek district has excelled. He said that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction nominated the local elementary as a “School of Distinction” for its Response-to-Intervention and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports efforts. All of the buildings in the district received an “Exceeds Expectations” rating from the state and the DPI listed Johnson Creek among the top 15 percent of small schools in the state.
“I’ve been in education 10 years and this is the most innovative district I have been involved in,” Vogel said.
He said the Johnson Creek staff and community do great things every day, noting that at the high school’s recent senior scholarship ceremony, the small class of 29 graduates received $90,510 in scholarships.
The school’s sports teams also have excelled, with a state champion, a runner-up and a third-place wrestler, five sectional qualifiers in track (despite the district not having a home track on which to run), and regional titles in baseball and softball, the principal pointed out.
He said that in this economic climate, some argue that the school is doing fine with the facilities it already has. However, Vogel noted that the district is growing by leaps and bounds, and, along with the academic facilities, new athletic facilities are needed to help local students achieve their dreams.
Around the state, many districts are paying for such projects through community fundraising rather than approving them as part of a taxpayer-funded school building project.
Referencing Wisconsin’s policy of open enrollment, Vogel said that in Waukesha County, competition between school districts for students has become a “war,” and that trend is spreading into Jefferson County.
Vogel called for leadership on and off the field. In the middle and high school, 75 percent of students are involved in extracurriculars, and 92 percent of this year’s graduates are headed to two or four-year colleges or the military, he said.
The new academic facilities will help serve students better in a changing world, Vogel stated. New athletic facilities are another part of that equation.
He called for community members to become involved, for their own children, for their neighbors’ children, and for the future of the community.
Johnson Creek Superintendent Mike Garvey then introduced the key members of the “One Team, One Dream” campaign, including Paula Constable, community chair, and Lyle Wuestenberg of J&L Tire, honorary chair.
Wuestenberg, pronouncing the name of the community like a native, said he came to “Johnson’s Crick” 37 years ago and never left.
He first worked at the Red Eagle Truck stop, under the spot where the Pine Cone Restaurant and Travel Plaza now sits. It was a full-service truck stop, where employees pumped gas, washed semi truck windows and thumped all the tires of 18-wheelers, fixing any with a leak.
Twenty-five years ago, he and his brother joined with another local family to start J&L Tire across the road, which has expanded tenfold.
Meanwhile, the community has expanded as well, with an explosion in business, residents and opportunity, he pointed out.
“Today, we’re a little over a year away from the opening of the new school. In the fall of 2016, we are going to have a very cool school.”
Between now and then, though, the community has a lot of work to do to support that school with the fields and athletic facilities local students deserve.
Rick Wrensch, a volunteer for “One Team One Dream,” said that he had good news and bad news. First, the district already had all the money it needs to build these fields. The bad news was that most of it still was in people’s pockets.
However, he had one major contribution to announce to kick off the campaign: $500,000 toward the football stadium from James and Jordan Glover of the Pine Cone Restaurant and Travel Plaza and Hi-Way Harry’s Steakhouse.
The Glovers, their daughters Crystalyn and Cathryn Glover, and Josh Bartz, general manager of the Pine Cone Restaurant were present to officially announce the donation.
Finishing off with official presentation, La Sage returned to cheer on the project, noting the different ways people could volunteer or contribute toward the campaign.
Upcoming fundraising events include the Run for the Fields Oct. 17, a gala in February of 2016, and a golf outing in summer of 2016.
The district will be recognizing all donations of $25 and up.
The “One Team, One Dream” website, located at http://jconeteamonedream.com, outlines all of the different levels of support and also includes diagrams and renderings of the project and different ways people can help the capital campaign. Additional information is available on the campaign’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.