Facility upgrades: Community steps up to fund football, baseball projects at Grove City

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Grove City's Tyler Biddle beats the throw home, sliding safely past Hilliard Davidson's Blake Pettit during a home game March 30. The installation of turf, including on the basepaths, means you won't see a quintessential baseball scene of dirt getting kicked up during a play at the plate.

Grove City athletics director Kris Sander and her coaches always have cherished the community pride associated with their programs. 

To them, it’s only fitting that community members went to bat for the high school and made the difference in it receiving the funding necessary for a pair of long-awaited facelifts. 

Work continues on installing artificial turf in the stadium, and the baseball field also received a renovation with artificial turf being installed, including on the customary dirt infield, pitcher’s mound and basepaths. 

Monies for both projects were raised through a community-wide effort in conjunction with the Greyhound Booster Club and numerous team booster groups. Neither project received money from South-Western City Schools, Sander said. 

“Both projects are truly the result of all of the work by booster groups and parents and supporters, and have very little to do with the athletic department,” Sander said. “We have a really strong booster group. In every sport (and band) we have parents who are active. All of those groups work closely together and they coordinate with one another and support one another, which is huge.” 

Longtime Grove City resident Mark Mayers, who is helping to oversee both projects, said the final cost for the stadium project will be about $940,000. 

“We live right behind the high school, and we have some coaches who have been really good to my kids,” Mayers said. “It didn’t even enter my mind that I should be moving on. I just tell them I’m the old guy who never leaves. I’m involved in this because it’s huge for our community. It’s huge for our kids.” 

Mayers’ son, Mike, is a 2010 Grove City graduate who is a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels. 

“None of this would be happening without Mark’s leadership,” Sander said. 

Work continues at Grove City as a turf field is being installed in the stadium. The project, which is estimated to cost about $940,000, doesn't include any funds from the school district, according to athletics director Kris Sander.

A major contributor for the stadium project is Gary Leasure, a Grove City resident who donated $700,000. 

“Gary and his family have supported South-Western City Schools,” Mark Mayers said. “He was a board member at one time. He’s been a huge part of the school system for a long time. Gary has always been giving. He’s always been supportive. He donated the lion’s share of this project. ... There are no taxpayer dollars in this. There’s no school money in it.” 

Mayers said Shayne Yokum, who owns Yokum Contracting, has been another contributor to both projects. 

The stadium turf will benefit the football team, soccer programs, cheerleading team and marching band. 

Sander, who also serves as an assistant principal, hopes the stadium project will be completed in time for the graduation ceremony June 5. She also hopes the stadium and baseball field projects allow the school to host district, regional and state events. 

Georgia-based AstroTurf is handling both projects.

Football coach Matt Shaul said the Grove City Gridiron Club also played a key role in the stadium project. 

“We’re really fortunate and lucky to have great boosters and community members that support our student-athletes and the high school and all the programs that we offer for the kids at Grove City,” said Shaul, who is a 2001 graduate. “It brings a certain level of excitement to not just the football program, but for everybody that is going to benefit from this.” 

A new video scoreboard will be installed in the stadium, according to Sander. 

The final cost of the baseball field project will be about $460,000, according to Mayers. 

Baseball coach Ryan Alexander credited the Greyhound Booster Club along with the Diamond Baseball Club and community members for making it happen. 

“This has been five years in the making, trying to figure out what big project we wanted to do,” he said. “Going to the turf surface for baseball has been absolutely amazing for us just from a practice standpoint. Every single day we can take groundballs even it’s raining for 10 minutes. It’s been awesome to get to see our guys enjoy it.” 

Alexander said the Diamond Baseball Club raised about $100,000, with another $200,000 coming though sponsorships and donations. 

Bleachers still are being added, along with a short brick wall along the left-field line. Mayers expects those additions to be completed by the end of the season. 

“The seating area is going to be state of the art for a high school field,” Alexander said. “It is truly amazing what our guys came up with.” 

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank