Joliet Township High School District 204
By Chris Olson, Joliet Township High School, Joliet, Ill.
In 2007, the Joliet Township High School (JTHS) community passed a $24 million referendum to construct state-of-the-art field houses at the Joliet Central and West high schools. This was accomplished without increasing the tax rate. The referendum allowed the district to reinstate two separate athletic programsthe Joliet Central Steelmen and the Joliet West Tigerswhich were combined in 1993 due to budget constraints.The day the doors opened to the field houses was one of the greatest moments of my career. Our students deserve top-notch facilities, and this is what our district provides. While designing and constructing the field houses, JTHS addressed the varying needs of each campus, which resulted in facilities unique in design and functionality while maintaining common elements.
Athletic directors, school board members, administrators, booster parents and architects worked together to include common elements such as lockers, portable bleachers, storage, indoor six-lane Mondo tracks and three multi-purpose basketball courts, which double as 12 learning stations that can be used for volleyball and badminton.
As an athletic director, multi-use capabilities were importantthe facilities were designed so that curtains can be drawn, separating the stations and creating individualized space for physical education classes and athletic practices. The versatility of the space has resulted in much use. On any given day, students are pole vaulting, hitting the batting cages, playing basketball, volleyball, soccer and badminton, all while students run the track on the perimeter. The facilities are open to the community, and the number of people participating in the Morning Walker Program has increased significantly.
The unique nature of each school’s facility was examined during the planning phases of each field house. While each building is not identical, the facilities were designed with the needs of the school in mind.
The field house at Central Campus is more than 46,000 square feet and includes seating for 400. This differs from the near 50,000-square-foot field house at West Campus, which was designed to include seating for 2,500 people during basketball games or large events. Central’s field house was also designed to seat 700 people during track meets. The difference in square footage and seating capacity was due to the facilities that were in existence at each campus prior to the additions. The existing Central Campus gym seats more than 3,600 people and is historic in nature. At the West Campus, the existing gym seats about 1,600 people, which is significantly less than the Central Campus.
At Central Campus, an atrium was constructed to connect the field house to the school campus. The versatile space houses a concession stand, restrooms and a spirit store. The facility is utilized by the students, staff and community for a variety of purposes, including special events and class reunions. The West Campus facility also includes a smaller atrium space that houses a ticket booth and additional space for crowds to gather as they enter or exit the building.
New Athletic Turf
With the creation of two sports teams, JTHS took the opportunity to improve existing facilities and installed artificial turf at both campuses. Previously, JTHS students played football games offsite at the Park District or utilized the field at Joliet West, which both teams shared. Students from Joliet Central had to travel off campus for games and practices.
As the programs worked to establish their identities, JTHS felt it was important to incorporate the schools’ logos into the turf design. Instead of spray painting the logos, the mascot and the name of each school was designed out of colored turf, which resulted in a bold image that instills pride in our students, staff and community.
In addition to the turf, an eight-lane running track was installed around the field. The combination of the turf and the track has resulted in a multi-use facility that is utilized for football, soccer, physical education, ROTC, band and more. The turf and track have maximized playing time because there are no longer cancellations of games due to rainfall. It also has proven to be cost effective, due to the low maintenance and upkeep.
Community Support And Results
With the support of our community, board of education, administration, parents and students, JTHS has state-of-the-art athletic facilities that are comparable to nearby schools. We have hosted several regional, sectional, supersectional and state tournaments. It gives me great pride to have been part of a project that has more than doubled the opportunities for students.
>>>>>>Two high schools in Joliet, Ill., have new fieldhouses thanks to the approval of a $24 million referendum.>>