Whitehall teams will be road 'pioneers'
Many of the athletic teams for Whitehall-Yearling High School will be road warriors during the 2012-13 school year.
Because of a district-wide renovation project, including a restoration project at the high school, several teams will play their home games at neutral sites.
The high school project began in March and, according to athletics director Mike Ferguson, is expected to be completed by August 2013.
"It's exciting," Ferguson said. "It's a tough situation, but the kids are going to find out that they're going to have a lot of fun this year. It's something new. Nobody else has ever gone through it in Whitehall, so these kids are the pioneers. I think they will adjust well and they will have fun."
Once the project is complete, the boys and girls basketball programs will have a new, state-of-the-art gymnasium. That will give Whitehall an opportunity to play host to postseason events in basketball, volleyball and wrestling, Ferguson said.
"We're going to wind up with three gyms," boys basketball coach Mike Barcus said. "A brand new gym, and we'll have the old gym and the auxiliary gym."
In preparation for the project, the basketball teams played all of their home games during the first half of the 2011-12 season.
The boys basketball team is scheduled to play two home games during the 2012-13 season at Bexley, Ferguson said.
Other possible sites for home games for the boys and girls basketball teams include Reynoldsburg and St. Charles and four colleges in Capital, Denison, Ohio Dominican and Ohio Wesleyan, according to Ferguson.
"The kids will hopefully get to play in three or four college gyms, which will be exciting for them," Ferguson said.
The football team will not have any home games this fall because of the project.
"I don't think this is a challenge," first-year football coach Jake Kuhner said. "Obviously, you want to play on your home field and have your fans come out and support you in your own city, but I think the kids will be able to adjust pretty easily. They will do a good job with it. We'll hit the field. We're playing football, so everything else has to happen as it is anyway."
Some programs will be able to have their home events within the school district, as the girls volleyball and wrestling teams will hold their home contests at renovated Rosemore Middle School.
The boys and girls soccer teams both will play three or four home games at Whitehall Community Park, Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the softball team will play all of its home games on its field at the high school but home sites for the baseball, boys tennis and girls tennis teams have yet to be determined.
Ferguson said many schools throughout central Ohio are willing to share their facilities in order to give Whitehall's programs practice venues.
"The help we have been getting from other schools is just absolutely phenomenal," he said. "Everybody has just really wanted to help and pitch in, and we greatly appreciate what they've done for us. From college to high school, everybody has just been amazing."
Ferguson also credited strong community support from school district personnel, City of Whitehall officials and Whitehall's Parks and Recreation department as a key to helping the transition go smoothly.
The total cost for the school district to replace its five buildings is $79,943,921, according to superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy.
Dobbert-Meloy said the Ohio School Facilities Commission is paying 62 percent of the cost and the school district is paying the remaining 38 percent.
The school district's portion of the cost is covered by a bond issue passed by the city in the fall of 2008, Dobbert-Meloy said.
"We have to do this one year," Ferguson said. "We've already gotten used to it. We moved our things over Christmas so our coaches had to do everything on the fly. They know what's coming up and they're working hard on getting us practice areas and trying to find neutral sites for our home league games. It's been a definite challenge, but everybody has been positive."