WELLPINIT – Wellpinit High School football coach and athletic director Clark Pauls inspected the new artificial turf field behind the school and had to stop for a moment.
“A bit surreal,” he said. “I still don’t understand how we got it. I’m grateful for that. But it’s just crazy experience and how fast we did it and how we actually play all our home games here this year. It’s just an amazing thing for our kids in our community.
Wellpinit High School’s permanent green football field is courtesy of a grant from the National Football League, presented Friday, September 9, 2022. The artificial turf makes Wellpinit the envy of small schools dotting eastern Washington, where virtually all land is brown and dead by September. Wellpinit hosted the first match at the ground on Friday. (Jesse Tinsley/SPOKESPERSON REVIEW)
Pauls was involved every step of the way, from finding the potential grant to getting school board approval to groundbreaking in May to Friday’s home opener.
If he was surprised by the final product, the rest of the community was equally delighted.
“It’s really an accomplishment,” said Spokane Tribe of Indians adviser Greg Abrahamson. “When I was in school in the 70s, we used to play on the powwow grounds. We had teepee poles for the goal posts. There were gopher holes everywhere. It’s quite an accomplishment for young people who arrive to be able to play on something like that. »
“It’s amazing,” said Wellpinit School District Board Member Bobbi Williams. “We have never had a sports facility like this in our community.
“I am delighted that this will bring more teams who wish to use the ground, but it will also encourage our community to organize sports teams, whether it is football, soccer or any other type of recreational activity on this ground. It’s exciting to see this happening at Wellpinit.
Less than four months ago, the space was brown grass, dirt and gravel, with potholes in football and baseball fields, dug by cleats running and stopping in often muddy terrain.
On Friday, the school launched its state-of-the-art artificial surface for its first home football game of the season, which now rivals any in the Greater Spokane League.
Williams lives just down the street from the school and was able to get a first-hand look at the construction and installation.
“Every time I drove by I was amazed at the progress and how quickly it happened. He really just came to life.
The grass pitch was made possible by a grant from the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program, a partnership between the NFL Foundation, which provides the funding, and LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), which provides technical assistance and manages the program.
The school district received $250,000 from the program, with matching funds from the district.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Williams said. “It’s a bit unbelievable that a school of our size has such an opportunity. It was really a team effort between us and the NFL, LISC and the Tribal Council to make this happen. We appreciate all the support we were able to receive throughout the process.
It was almost by accident that Pauls even found out about the possible grant.
“I was just looking for (grants) for new equipment – USA Football has plenty of that,” he said. “I saw this and immediately went to my business office manager and said, ‘Hey, that’s a grant I think we should get,’ and she said, ‘Yeah , we can make it work. ”
Construction on the project wrapped so recently that maintenance crews were still moving aluminum bleachers along the sidelines less than an hour before the noon kickoff between Wellpinit and Springdale.
The contrasting shades of green in the turf stand in stark contrast to the dry, brown grass that surrounds it, the faded scoreboard on the north side of the pitch and the sideline markers, which were bent and required athletic tape to be held together.
A grandstand and other upgrades are still in the works, according to Pauls, who stressed that getting the pitch set up was more important in order to be able to play games this fall.
“It’s one of the best facilities in the area,” Pauls said. “Then, in a year or two, we’ll probably have the best establishment, in my opinion.
“I think everyone should come and see a game here because it’s going to be awesome.”
Pauls said the players reacted with as much joy as nervousness when they were allowed onto the pitch. It was the first time most had seen, let alone played on such a surface.
“I think it took them a while to get used to the grass and stuff,” he said. “They all smile about it and look at it. So it’s a great experience.
The Wellpinit-Springdale match was part of a double-court match on Friday – Selkirk was the ‘home’ team for Game 2 against Waterville-Mansfield.
“I hope in the years to come we will continue to do this and share our great facility with everyone in the surrounding communities,” Pauls said.
Wellpinit already has one of the finest Class B basketball gymnasiums in the area. The addition of the new football surface adds to the prestige of the community.
“It’s a pretty big sense of pride just that we’ve always been known as a basketball community – which is great and our kids really appreciate that,” Pauls said. “But I just think now that we have this facility like this, we’re going to get more and more kids involved in football, and it’s going to be a great experience for them.”
“The gymnasium has always been the pride of our school,” Williams said. “Having a pitch worthy of this is a feeling of pride.
“It’s exciting to see that other schools want to come here. We are an open people. We encourage people to come together, so it’s exciting to be proud of our facilities and for our children to have something to be proud of.