St. Francis High hopes to keep athletes close with new stadium

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 9:00 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Ackerman – backerman@shawmedia.com)
Lead investors in the Kuhn Memorial Stadium to be build at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, break ground on Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

WHEATON – The chorus of “bring it back, all back home” went along with the St. Francis High School choir during the school’s groundbreaking ceremony for its new athletic stadium and track.

The new Kuhn Memorial Stadium and Scott Nelson Track – named for current track coach Nelson – will provide athletes and fans from the school an on-campus home site for the first time in five years. The teams had been practicing and playing at various Wheaton Park District lands and the College of DuPage since 2009 due to constant flooding of the area, making scheduling games difficult.

“It’s really exciting,” said rising senior Savanna Roe, a player on the state champion soccer team and dancer at St. Francis. “[It means] games at our school. We’ve never had that.”

Now, football, soccer, lacrosse and physical education classes will have a permanent home on campus. No small matter: Assistant to the President Michelle Kalfas said the school had nearly a 100-percent athletic participation rate among its students.

More than 340 families donated toward the project, eventually raising the required $3 million in only 90 days – though $2 million of the contribution came from Ron and Terry Kuhn, alumni of the school, as well as a handfull of other alumni.

“I’ve got a motto, and the motto is ‘from whence I came,’” Ron Kuhn said. “As you’re going through school now, it’s going to mean a lot to you in the future.”

The Kuhns were large contributors to other recent projects, including a new parking lot, theater and academic wings during what Terry Kuhn called a “metamorphosis” for St. Francis.

Pat Rosmonowski, alumni parent and sophomore football coach, said he had been trying to garner support for a new stadium for years.

“I look forward to [the new stadium] for our kids,” he said. “They’ll have a place to use continuously for all their extracurriculars and their P.E. classes.”

Other than the fundraising, Rosmonowski listed zoning and flood plain problems as well as disagreements with government agencies as some of the main obstacles in the push. But those who cared “didn’t take no for an answer,” he said.

Phil Kerr, the acting chairman for the school’s board, said the construction was important for St. Francis’ holistic approach to education.

“[The school tries] to develop not just the academic skills but the physical and social aspects as well. I think that’s why people come to this school,” he said.

Captains of the various teams who would be using the field in the future were in attendance during the May 14 groundbreaking, shaking the hands of visitors. Student-athletes said they were excited when they first heard about the project earlier this year.

“I think we’re going to have higher turnouts for kids at the games,” said James Butler, a rising senior running back on the football team.

School officials had planned to dedicate the new stadium on Aug. 30, but Rosmonowski said that would be delayed. St. Francis and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County have been at odds over the school’s request to expand their parking lot into preserve lands in exchange for giving up other property the school owns.

“That’s the next battle,” Rosmonowski said.

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