When student athletes at Watterson High School return to school in August, they'll be greeted by a new $3 million athletics complex that allows them to play most sports within the school's Clintonville campus.

For most Watterson athletes, "home" games have been played away from school grounds.

The field space next to the school accommodated only Watterson baseball and softball, along with some practices for other sports and the school's marching band.

With that need in mind, the school launched a fundraising campaign last year with the goal of raising $3 million for renovations that would yield enough artificial-turf space for soccer, field hockey, marching band, junior varsity and freshman football, baseball, softball, lacrosse and track and field practice. New concessions and restroom facilities also are part of the plan.

"We can actually play games here," principal Chris Campbell said. "It's huge. Every day, our kids have to leave here and go practice or play somewhere else."

The fundraising effort -- dubbed "the hardest part" by Campbell -- was spearheaded by assistant football coach and former Ohio State University and NFL quarterback Bob Hoying, a principal investor and face of local developer Crawford Hoying who also has a son at Watterson.

Hoying set up several "information nights" during which he invited Watterson families to see the plans for the new facilities.

"It was a chance for the Watterson community to come and take a look," he said.

Thanks to a plethora of donations and assistance from "Watterson family" members who own or operate construction companies and other helpful resources for the renovations, the school hit its $3 million goal.

Hoying said it wouldn't have been possible without that generosity.

"The Watterson family has some key donors and some key alumni who came in and donated their time and effort," he said.

In an example of that community generosity, Campbell said, the process was finished off when, late in the process, an anonymous donor offered to match any remaining donations up to $250,000.

"He kind of sat back and waited to see how things were going to go," Campbell said. "Once we got a little over $2 million, he kind of threw that carrot out there, and it worked."

Since early spring, crews have been working on major renovations for the space, which sits just west of the high school, 99 E. Cooke Road.

Construction is expected to continue through the summer, and Campbell said he hopes to have the whole project done by Aug. 1, assuming the weather cooperates.

"The goal was to start right after baseball season and disrupt things as little as possible," he said.

When it's finished, the new space won't have a massive football stadium or a state-of-the-art facility, but Campbell said it would bring the school closer to the facilities offered at other programs.

"So many other schools have updated their facilities, especially (Ohio High School Athletic Association) schools," he said. "This is one that needed to be done."

For Hoying -- and other donors, he believes -- the project represents giving back to another generation of athletes.

"Athletics have played such a big role in my life, and this project is really important," Hoying said.

"It's about paying it forward."

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