Photograph by Michael DeFilippo
The teenage football players wore their 3XL red Pioneer jerseys with pride as they stood on the stoop and explained that they were collecting money for renovating Kirkwood High School’s Ernest L. Lyons Memorial Field.
The total tab for the turf field, eight-lane synthetic track, new lighting, Americans with Disabilities Act–compliant walkways, fencing, and storage: $1 million. SLM decided to look into the larger story behind the price tag—and why the players were asking for money to fund the field.
“This would not be our choice time due to the economic climate,” admits Marie Kelley, president of the Kirkwood School District Foundation, a public nonprofit helping to raise the funds. “The track was warrantied for 10 years, and they have had 17 years out of it. If we had to replace the track, then the time for the turf project was now.”
The “Kirkwood’s Winning Team: Academics & Athletics” campaign, launched by the district foundation earlier this year, had raised more than $600,000 at press time, with some help from students. (The foundation helps pay for costs not covered by taxes, explains Kelley, adding that taxpayers pay 94 percent of the total cost of a Kirkwood education.) It has three years to pull in the remaining funds. Until then, the school district is loaning it the money needed to get the job done.
KHS principal Dave Holley says the football field should be ready for action October 1, in time for the home opener against Parkway Central High School.