WINTER GARDEN — There were times since the synthetic turf at West Orange High was deemed unplayable in March that school administrators were less than optimistic about the school’s ability to raise funds for a replacement.
The grassroots fundraising persevered, though, and now, the school is within $50,000 of the $327,000 it needs to purchase the replacement in cash.
The close proximity to the end goal has led to two important announcements. First, Orange County Public Schools now will allow West Orange to finance whatever remaining funds are necessary after previously preferring the school purchase the replacement in cash. Second, The Bond Foundation, a nonprofit that owns the Bond Building in downtown Winter Garden, has agreed to match all fundraising that takes place between now and July 4 up to $25,000 — an amount that would pair to make the sum of $50,000 and allow the school to buy the field in cash.
Accordingly, a once-dire situation is now looking brighter, and the bidding process to build and install the replacement synthetic turf field has begun.
“Two months ago, we didn’t see this coming through,” West Orange Principal Doug Szcinski said. “We were so far shy of (the total), it was like, ‘Well, what are we going to do?’ Now that we’re there, it has relieved stress, and it’s also a proud moment for West Orange and for Winter Garden.”
Beyond the obvious issue of whether the football team would be able to play its home games this fall, Szcinski said this development was crucial for all of the school’s athletic programs.
“All sports programs, whether it is 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.”
With the new bidding process have come minimum standards for any interested contractor — set by OCPS — that will allow the school to avoid a repeat of the situation. Athletic Director Adam Miller said the new minimum specifications are extremely detailed and above average. The turf testing to ensure the field is meeting ATSM Standards will be done annually by GMAX, Miller said, and is covered under the new warranty as a measure to prevent the element of surprise the school encountered this past year.
The deadline for completion is Aug. 23; the West Orange Warrior football team’s home opener is schedule for Aug. 28 against the Foundation Academy Lions.
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.
“The community has been phenomenal,” Szcinski said.
Fundraising is ongoing to raise the final $25,000 before July 4 to secure the maximum contribution from the Bond Foundation. Booster-pass renewal has begun, as well, with those monies going toward fundraising. Those interested in a booster pass can contact [email protected]. Donations can still be made at savetheturf.net.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].