Common Ground, MPS Celebrate New Washington High School Athletic Complex
New playfield and track have been eight years in the making.
Students at Washington High School in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood have more to celebrate than the fact that school is out for summer. They have an entirely new outdoor athletic complex.
Milwaukee Public Schools officials, students and staff joined with members of Common Ground of Southeastern Wisconsin and several community organizations Friday morning to cut the ribbon on the new $2.5 million playfield at the corner of W. Center Street and N. Sherman Boulevard.
The new field, made from artificial grass, can be used for both football and soccer. A 400-meter rubberized track will be installed next week, allowing athletes to run in spikes. Two half-court basketball courts are located at the southern end, as is a storage shed.
“This project was a remarkable accomplishment that demanded a lot of dedication and collaboration,” said Alexander Hardy, a retired MPS social worker who has lived in the neighborhood for decades, serves as a deacon at the nearby Community Baptist Church and a board member with Common Ground. “It was enabled by the partnership between Milwaukee Public Schools and Common Ground.”
Common Ground has been lobbying for the project since 2016. It builds on the organization’s successful work to rehabilitate several dozen homes in the neighborhood following the foreclosure crisis in the Great Recession.
“Great things come to those who wait,” said MPS Superintendent Keith P. Posley, who said Common Ground made it clear they wouldn’t take no for an answer. “All they wanted to hear is ‘yes, we can do this.’ And I want to say, thank you for that pushing.”
At multiple points, the project almost didn’t happen. In 2019, Common Ground members contributed $20,000 via personal loans to reach a $75,000 fundraising goal necessary to advance architectural drawings.
Assistant principal Virgina Lynch said the new facility sends a message to all students. “The community cares about them,” she said.
“Whether it’s inside the classroom or outside the classroom, every child deserves a quality, equitable education,” said area school board member Aisha Carr. “This is a reminder that we can accomplish great things when we all come together for the common good.”
Common Ground raised $830,300 from 114 donors, a mix of individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. MPS covered the remaining funding.
Organizations backing the project include the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), Fund for Lake Michigan, LISC Milwaukee, Green Bay Packers, National Football League Foundation, Herb Kohl Philanthropies, Sherman Park Neighborhood Improvement District, Parallel Employment Group, Fox River Congregational Church, Community Baptist Church of Greater Milwaukee, Educators Credit Union, Center Street Marketplace: Business Improvement District 39, United Milwaukee Scrap and the school’s alumni association.
“It takes a village to raise and educate a child and this is an outpouring of that village,” said Posley, who took a moment to praise Herb Kohl as an alumnus of the school. He also said five NFL players have come from Washington and countless other athletes. He’s hoping for more.
The new field won’t be an amenity just for the students. It will also be open for neighbors to use.
After the ribbon cutting, members of the football team and its coaching staff walked onto the new field, reminiscing about where “potholes” and other depressions in the prior field were. A group of neighborhood residents, dubbed the “Five O’Clock Club,” led a walk around the field.
Synthetic fields are desirable for their lower cost of maintenance and higher capacity for use. Natural grass fields can be more easily worn down by overuse. The newer synthetic fields are also believed to reduce injuries.
The field is a newer version of ones already installed at other MPS facilities, including Bradley Tech High School, Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education and South Stadium.
The school building, 2525 N. Sherman Blvd., to the south was constructed in 1916 by the firm of Van Ryn & DeGelleke. Department of City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump said the athletic field dated back to 1918. “After more than a century, it was clearly time for a new track and athletic field,” said Crump.
A 266,500-gallon stormwater retention system is located underneath the new field, funded by MMSD’s contribution to the project.
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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Common Ground, MPS Celebrate New Washington High School Athletic Complex”
Congratulations, Common Ground, on your determination to get this done.
Thank you keep up the good work