WINTER GARDEN — West Orange High School’s football team will have a new artificial turf playing surface on which to play next fall — paid for in cash — thanks in part to the Orlando Solar Bears hockey team.
The Solar Bears donated the final $20,000 needed to replace the turf field at WOHS. With the matched funds promised by The Bond Foundation, the school has reached its $327,000 goal and will not have to finance the field.
“It’s about the kids, the student body and the senior class, the student-athletes, cheer teams and marching band,” Solar Bears Chairman Joe Haleski said. “There is a need in our neighborhood, and we are pleased to contribute and help West Orange High achieve their goal. We are looking forward to coming out and watching their first football game of the season.”
The turf field was deemed unplayable in March. Since then, no further sporting events were allowed to take place on it, affecting scheduled home games for the boys and girls lacrosse teams and the girls flag-football team.
West Orange played its spring football game — originally scheduled as a home game — in Gainesville.
A grassroots effort through SaveTheTurf.net helped coordinate the fundraising effort. West Orange Athletic Director Adam Miller said the money raised came from a combination of local families, alumni, businesses, foundations, faculty and the fundraisers the school and its various teams put on, including a car show. Monies also came from the school’s internal and external sports accounts, earlier fundraisers and sponsorships.
According to Miller, the school plans to add a page on SaveTheTurf.net to document all the supporters that contributed.
That listing will leave off the name of at least one family that has chosen to remain anonymous, although Miller said it had gone far above and beyond.
“You know who you are — thank you,” he said.
Although the field is most readily associated with the football team, it is also used by the boys and girls soccer teams, boys and girls lacrosse teams and the girls flag football team. Also worth noting is that, as principal Doug Szcinski points out, the revenue from football helps to fund the entire athletic department for the Warriors.
“All sports programs, whether swimming or tennis, benefit from our football field,” Szcinski said. “People don’t understand that with the way that we fund our athletic programs … it’s from the gate (revenue) from the football games. It funds a majority of the athletic department. … It’s also a proud moment for West Orange and for Winter Garden.”