The Whitefish High School track can only seat 40 fans in a single set of bleachers and offers no bathrooms. That will soon be a thing of the past, as plans for a new sports complex continue to move forward.
At the Whitefish School Board meeting on Aug. 11, Fran Quiram presented new design renderings for the Whitefish High School sports complex. Quiram, the project manager from the Cushing Terrell architecture firm, said the design represented the desires of coaches, administrators and the community for a single venue to house a variety of sports.
The state-of-the-art facility was first approved in 2019, launching a $6 million fundraiser by the Whitefish High School Booster Club, a significant endeavor without the use of public funds.
The proposed sports complex will bring all those sports back to the high school property. Currently, the Bulldogs play football and soccer at Memorial field, just north of the high school, renting the facility from the Glacier Twins American Legion baseball team. The locker rooms are a block away from the field, at the high school, and seating is not considered sufficient.
“One thing that we’ve developed over the last few months here is highlighting the different sports,” Quiram told the board. “It’s really important to recognize this is not a one-sport effort — this complex will be supporting wrestling, track and field, cheerleading, soccer and football.”
The new facility will be located at the current site of the WHS track. The final design includes multiple competition areas spread out over 15 acres. The plan calls for a 10-lane track encircling a turf field on the north side of the property and a soccer stadium and practice field to the south. Two shot put rings, a discus ring and a javelin runway will be built outside of the track stadium.
Flanking the stadium entrance will be the cheerleading center and locker rooms and a multipurpose fieldhouse that will serve as a practice location for the wrestling team, which currently trains in a converted maintenance garage.
The track stadium will be able to seat approximately 3,000 fans plus allow for additional portable bleachers around the field, and the soccer stadium will seat 1,500, in addition to a grass berm that will allow for informal seating.
The new multi-stadium complex comes with an increased price tag of close to $10 million, but Whitefish Activities Director Aric Harris believes it will be worth every dollar.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fundraising efforts by the booster club have slowed down.
“We didn’t feel it was the number one priority right now,” Harris said. “We want families and potential donors to feel safe and secure in their livelihoods.”
Booster club president Joe Akey told the board that the new renderings will be on display to potential donors soon and that he expects positive feedback when fundraising resumes.
According to the timeline presented to the board, fundraising for the facility will continue into next year and the school district will solicit bids for the project in January. Construction is intended to take place primarily next summer, between the spring and fall competition seasons.
“This facility is phenomenal, and it will address all the needs we’re seeking to fill,” Harris said. “It’s the final piece to our campus, so we’re just excited to get this project moving forward and see the final product.