Between the five comprehensive high schools in Des Moines – East, Hoover, Lincoln, North and Roosevelt – more than 4,000 students participate in athletics each year. That’s a larger number of students than the total enrollment at over 300 Iowa school districts!
Of course, with five high schools it also means five times the number of locker rooms and swimming pools and basketball courts and other athletic facilities to maintain and improve.
Since a sales tax for school infrastructure went into effect several years ago, DMPS has made improving school buildings a top priority, with a focus on classrooms and other academic needs. It has benefitted every public school in the city. Now other needs are being met, including upgrades and improvements to high school athletic facilities. And while the proposed stadium partnership between DMPS and Drake University has gotten a lot of the attention, millions of dollars have and will be spent on upgrades at each high school campus.
“The work that is underway in various facilities across the district definitely indicates the level of commitment DMPS has to its students, families and our community. It is exciting to see that the work and recommendations of the Athletic Facilities Committee are being utilized to enhance the athletic experience of our students for years to come,” said Maria Alonzo-Diaz, a member of the Des Moines School Board who co-chaired the Athletic Facilities Committee.
Financial support for the improvements is being provided by the school district as well as the efforts of alumni organizations and school foundations.
“Investments in the district’s athletic facilities are generational investments. Improvements made today have the potential to provide positive outcomes for countless DMPS students for years to come,” noted Dave Berger, executive director of operations at DMPS. “Just as the district provides educational opportunities on par with those of surrounding communities, DMPS students who participate in athletics and activities deserve to have the opportunity to train and complete in facilities that are of the same caliber as their peers in neighboring school districts.”
Among the projects completed over the past couple of years or are currently in the planning stages include:
- EAST: A new scoreboard and synthetic turf was installed at Williams Stadium along with the construction of a new concession building at the baseball field. Larger projects coming soon for the Scarlets include new new light at Williams Stadium and the softball complex along with new dugouts and press boxes for the baseball and softball fields.
- HOOVER: New locker rooms for the Huskies were recently completed along with new batting cages, renovated stadium bleachers, a revitalized basketball court, and upgrades to the tennis courts. Planned district-funded projects at Hoover include a new running track and lighting for both the baseball and softball complexes.
- LINCOLN: The wrestling team now has a new practice facility at the Kurtz building, and improvements to the bleachers at the Rails’ baseball and softball fields were recently finished. Planned district-funded projects include updated lighting for the softball complex and a new running track.
- NORTH: A dedicated practice space for wrestling, a renovated new weightlifting room, and new baseball and softball bleachers have been completed along with upgrades to the main gym to benefit basketball and volleyball teams. Plans for a multi-sport fitness space and indoor batting area are in the works.
- ROOSEVELT: The Roughriders have a new floor in their main gymnasium while two major upcoming projects include improvements to their practice field and track as well as the natatorium.
“As a district activities department our focus every day is on creating safe, positive, enjoyable and unforgettable student experiences. In large part that happens by hiring amazing coaches and sponsors who strongly believe in the mission,” added Jason Allen, director of district activities at DMPS. ” The other part is in providing facilities that allows students the opportunity to train and compete at a high level. Having facilities that brings them a sense of pride, ownership and care not only demonstrates our commitment to them, but to the community we serve. We require that level of excellence in the classroom, and should have the same expectations on the field, in the gym or wherever we play.”
“Facilities are indispensable to competitive and recreational sports and important in the promotion of sports in educational institutions,” said Charles Zanders, activities director at Roosevelt High School. “Improved facilities promote positive school spirit and a sense of pride in the community.”
More than $4.5 million in athletic facility upgrades have been made over the past couple of years with plans actively underway for another $5 million. Funding for this work comes from several sources. DMPS provides support from both sales tax and PPEL revenue. Alumni groups and school foundations provide financial assistance. And higher education partners, such as Grandview University and Drake University, help fund efforts such as Williams Stadium and the community stadium, respectively.