Some high school construction projects continue, others are on hold
Downers Grove South principal Ed Schwartz wore his hard hat well during a virtual tour of a classroom addition currently under construction.
Late in the video as Schwartz pans along the site one can see vertical beams in the distance. They're the guts of the new home bleachers at Mustang Stadium, where work is being done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as part of its Master Facility Plan.
"Construction work was deemed essential and for the most part has continued," Schwartz noted later.
It's the worst of times but the best of times for construction crews that can work free from the buzz of campus activity while remaining socially distant.
Work on the bleachers began after the Mustangs' last 2019 home football game on Oct. 25, and the basic structure is targeted for May completion. A main component won't be finished until August.
"What we're really gaining is this is going to be a structure that now houses squad rooms underneath stands, a training room, an officials room and storage, storage, storage. It's going to be fantastic," said Downers South athletic director Randy Konstans.
Sean Carney, assistant superintendent of business for Stevenson High School District 125 in Lincolnshire, delivers a key point about construction during the pandemic.
"I don't want anybody thinking that we don't care about our construction guys. They have guidelines that they have to follow in terms of social distancing and protective equipment beyond what they normally have to wear," he said.
Carney said workers are happy to avoid school traffic as they prepare to replace Stevenson's 13-year-old stadium surface with new FieldTurf, plus a new track.
At first the project was set to run from May to August. Starting in the second week of April will hopefully allow people to use the field "when the (stay-at-home) order is over," Carney said. He said many of his peers also are trying to get ahead on summer projects.
"A lot of times you can save time and money," he said.
On April 7 St. Francis High School in Wheaton was ready to debut its new, two-toned blue athletic field. Installation began in mid-March, St. Francis President Dr. Betsy Ackerson said.
She said construction was allowed to continue as a "prescheduled project."
The prior field was just five years old when it was deemed unplayable in late 2018. The chief culprit was accumulated silt deposited when adjacent Winfield Creek flooded.
Seated between the creek, a residential development, St. Francis' tennis courts and the Belleau Woods Forest Preserve, it was a tricky fix.
The board worked with city, county and state agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers and a consulting engineering firm to clear and rebuild a clogged culvert, install "silt socks" along the creek banks and establish its flood mitigation and maintenance plan.
"We have taken as many steps as possible to mitigate the effects of flooding," Ackerson said.
Finally, hopefully, smooth sailing.
But at Lake Park work was halted on an upgrade to its varsity baseball field due to the "essential business" decree.
Lake Park was in the midst of installing FieldTurf on the infield, from dugout to dugout and to the outfield cutout. The job included a level bed of crushed limestone to enhance drainage; for years rain and snowmelt coursed toward right field, which also received a drainage treatment.
"Our field always seems to be one of the last fields in the area to dry out after the winter. It would hold onto moisture after the rain," said Lake Park baseball coach Dan Colucci, who's shoveled enough Turface to last a lifetime.
Most of the preparation had been done by December, when it stopped for the winter. Colucci said FieldTurf only needed to do a final grading, build the pitcher's mound, and lay the turf. The targeted completion date was April 1.
Then the pandemic hit.
"Really, we're in wait mode," Colucci said.
Hold on: On April 6, Lake Park athletic director Pete Schauer said it was confirmed work could resume that week.
Good news was on the way.
Work hums along, as it does at Larkin High School in Elgin. Its classroom renovation and updating presents an interesting case in regard to athletics.
Royals boys track coach Nate Williams and athletic director Ethan Karolczak, a former track coach, are excited with a new track, various field event improvements and the widened soccer field.
That all was completed last summer. Larkin applied to host a Class 3A boys track sectional, but the lack of parking due to current construction and mobile classrooms ruled that out. If there is an outdoor track season St. Charles North will host the sectional.
"When we do finally get to use it, I think it's going to be the best track and field facility in the (Upstate Eight) conference," Karolczak said.