Falcon Pride Project Edges $3.3M Phase I Goal; Falcons Football Season Begins

  |   Community

The Tomorrow River School District is very close to reaching its $3.3 million goal for phase I of their historic outdoor athletic facilities renovation, called the Amherst Falcon Pride Project, which includes having a new running track, a football and soccer stadium, practice fields and improved south lot parking at Amherst High School.

As of right now, the entire project is being drawn-up and bids will be going out this month but once that’s completed, the TRSD board will come together at the end of October to further assess progress on the project and determine whether they will be breaking ground in April 2019.

According to Mike Toelle, the TRSD superintendent, the volunteer fundraising committee has been working hard on searching for potential donors for phase I of the project ever since March 2018, and in October, they will be deciding how they want to budget any maintenance costs that accompany the new facilities.

“It’s going smoothly,” Toelle said. “It’s going to take some time yet, we know we have a lot of donors out there left to commit but we’re very optimistic that we’re going to make our goal.”

Currently, they’ve reached over $2.6 million in donations.

“People and businesses have been extremely generous in their support of the project,” Joseph Sbertoli, athletic director of Amherst High School said. “We are hopeful that the support will continue as we get closer to making this become a reality!”

Sbertoli said the biggest hurdle, however, is that it is a very expensive project, so the TRSD decided to break it up into phases.

A new baseball field is phase II, a new softball field in phase III and a new concessions building with bathrooms is phase IV. He said that breaking it down into four parts has helped reduce the budget of the phase I from around $5 million to $3.3 million.

As a part of phase I, the TRSD said it will be expanding the south parking lot next to the football/soccer stadium allowing for a large number of spectators who will come to events at the school, which will decrease the number of students who need to park on the street during school hours. Sbertoli said they will be updating the facilities with a rubberized eight-lane track, giving students a safe running surface, the ability to compete on campus and allow the school to host conference and regional track meets for the first time, giving the cross-country team a much greater competitive edge.

“Our district has consistently been growing for many years now,” Sbertoli said. “Amherst is a great community with caring people and exceptional businesses. Our school district has a reputation of nurturing and teaching our students skills and information that will help them lead a successful life beyond their years in school. And our athletic programs have achieved a lot of success over and above wins and losses. There are many things that attract people to our community and this new facility plan will be another. We will have one of the nicest athletic complexes in central Wisconsin.”

With the new stadium design, there will be 1000 bleacher seats on the home side and space for an additional 500 seats on the visitor’s sideline. There will also be a brand-new press box, allowing for more space for the coaches, visiting coaches and media, making the game day experience better as well.

Sbertoli said that the turf field will benefit football teams, soccer teams, physical education classes, pep band, color guard and more. All the sports teams will be able to use the turf field for conditioning or practicing, if they would like.

One of those coaches is football coach for the Amherst Falcons, Mark Lusic, who is eagerly anticipating the upgrade.

“To have a turf field is what every coach dreams of,” Lusic said. “As a fan and coach, I believe it’s the community investing in the future. This community has supported my program the moment I got here. I just can’t wait for them to be able to sit in the bleachers and be able to watch a game. The project will touch every sport and school program in a positive way.”

Coach Lusic, who started as the football coach in 2010, has led his team to the victory at the WIAA Division 5 State Championship the past three years in a row.

“I’ve always loved the game,” Lusic said. “I enjoy putting game plans together and trying to put my team in the right spot so they can be successful.”

Lusic said developing his team and building them into a championship winning team were his fondest memories of last season.

“We had more guys step up last year than many probably would have ever guessed,” Lusic said. “They put the time in and were rewarded with a gold ball. We were also peaking at the time!”

Lusic said the secret to the success of the team were setting realistic expectations and creating a culture of accountability.

“I don’t know if it’s the biggest life lesson but what you preach and stress every day is what you can expect out of your team,” Lusic said. “You can’t say something once or do something once and expect something to get done perfectly.”

Lusic said it’s repetition and doing the small things right all the time, which make for a successful program.

Lusic said in his first year, a conference title was a realistic goal for his team but he had doubts about a state title. However, after winning four games and changing the team’s culture, he was able to lay the ground work for the team’s future.

“Success to me is that individual player playing at their highest level at the end of the season, which means our team is doing the same,” Lusic said. “If we are doing that, I will take our chances. Sometimes the team across from you has more talent and they beat you. That does not mean the season was a failure.”

The Amherst Falcons Football team kicked-off their new season Aug. 17 versus Merrill High School and had their first home game Aug. 24 versus St. Mary Springs Academy.

Lusic said he plans to take this season one day at a time.

“Our goals are always the same,” Lusic said. “Qualify for the playoffs, compete for a conference championship and make a run in the playoffs.”