FOREST CITY — Work on the first phase of a shared sports facilities project in Forest City is scheduled for completion in September.

This first phase includes turning the Waldorf College football complex into a soccer field with artificial turf.

The Waldorf football team will continue to play on that field this fall, but will share the Forest City High School football field beginning with the fall of 2012.  

The additional two phases of the project are expected to be completed in 2013.

The completed $2.8 million project will include updated football, baseball and softball facilities that can be used by Waldorf, Forest City Community Schools, Forest City Parks and Recreation and the Forest City YMCA.   

All those facilities will have synthetic turf surfaces, among other improvements.

Plans began four years ago when Darwin Lehmann, superintendent of Forest City Community Schools, expressed his idea of a shared facility to Richard Hanson, who was Waldorf’s president at the time.

The idea was that instead of having separate sports facilities for both the public school district and the college, existing facilities could be upgraded and shared.

“We had wonderful partners at the table,” said Lehmann. “We were able to maximize facilities. Not one entity could have done this alone.”

Rick Cooper, vice president for operations at Waldorf, said artificial turf will allow students more practice time, eliminating restrictions arising from wear and tear to grass fields. Field recovery time from rainy and snowy weather should also be much shorter.

The second phase of the project will include artificial turf installations in the high school football field, resurfacing of the six-lane track and adding lights to the soccer field. This will be followed by installations of artificial turf on the softball and baseball complexes, and an eight-lane track around the soccer field in the third phase.

In addition to benefiting the community, Waldorf College President Joe Manjone thinks the new facility will also help Waldorf strengthen its enrollment.

“I think athletes look at a whole lot of things,” he said. “They look at the coach, past records, competition and they look at facilities and compare them with other schools.”

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