509-J bond includes $1.4 million for soccer upgrades
As ballots hit mailboxes today, Jefferson County voters will be deciding on whether to approve a $24 million school bond for the 509-J district. Among the proposed projects are much-needed renovations to the soccer fields at Madras High School.
"This has been a long time coming," said MHS boys varsity soccer coach Clark Jones.
"It's exciting that it's seen as a need in the community," Jones added.
According to school superintendent Jay Mathisen, $1.4 million of the proposed bond funds would be allocated to updating the soccer complex. Those updates include new lighting for the fields, as well as a new facility near the entrance.
"As for where exactly on the field the building will go," said 509-J communications coordinator Joey Prechtl, "we are thinking closer to the front where you walk in by the fence. That's the area where it makes the most sense, similar to the football stadium."
The building would include some much-needed amenities, according to varsity boys soccer head coach Clark Jones.
"The facilities we have are inadequate for the number of kids we have," said Jones, who noted that there are over 100 students registered for boys and girls soccer teams at the high school.
"We need a place where kids can change," Jones added. "We need restrooms we aren't embarrassed about."
As laid out in the bond package, the proposed facility would include those things and more.
In addition to changing areas and restrooms, the proposed facility will include space for a concessions stand.
The bond will also fund the installation of new lighting for the soccer fields. According to Prechtl, there will be one set of lights capable of illuminating both fields, so that evening games can be played concurrently. As it stands, soccer teams must use the MHS football field once the sun goes down.
That problem is made worse during the current shortage of game officials, as JV and varsity contests are often being played on the same day in order to reuse the same officiating crew. During the fall, that means the second game is being played after dusk, meaning a move to the football field is required.
While it may seem like playing in the stadium would be fun for the athletes, the field dimensions are not right, said Jones.
"We need to be playing on a full-sized field," he said, noting the football field is both shorter and narrower than the soccer field.
"That's what we're going to be seeing in playoffs," continued Jones, regarding regulation-sized fields. "It will also help our kids better show off their abilities, when they are not constrained by the size of the field."
It is worth noting that the proposed bond would not allocate any money toward improvements to the playing fields themselves. While the school district may revisit that topic in the future, for now it is focused on shedding light on a program that has gone without upgrades for a long time.
The current facilities at the MHS soccer fields were constructed in the early 1990s, predating the arrival of Jones, who has been at the school since 1995.
"When this facility was made," said Jones, "it was completely adequate."
That was when the Madras soccer program had roughly 30 participants. With the number now in the triple digits, it's time for an upgrade, says Jones.
"If it's done well," Jones said of the proposed bond project, "it will be something that attracts people."
"When the field is maintained," the longtime coach continued, "it's awesome. When people come through, they say, 'Wow, this is spectacular.'"
These updgrades are not just about wowing visitors, though. The prime beneficiary of the project is the Madras soccer community.
"We are trying to represent Madras the best we can," said Jones.
"If you give kids the facilities and the chance they need," he added, "they will respond."
The bond measure will be voted upon in the upcoming special election on Nov. 2.
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