WEST CHICAGO – After years of borrowing field time from other nearby schools, Wheaton Academy in West Chicago will have its own artificial turf field this fall for its football program and more, thanks to donations from supporters.
"It will enhance our sense of community by being able to have home games here," Head of School Gene Frost said.
The artificial turf will replace the school's current, grassy soccer field. The new field will be built for soccer, with the ability to paint lines for football and lacrosse when needed.
As part of what is expected to be a $1 million project, stands will be installed on the east side of the field to match the west, creating about 800 seats total.
Although the field the school now has is used for soccer practices and games, use is limited due to weather and concerns about wearing down the natural turf, Frost said.
The school's football and lacrosse programs do not use the current field at all. Instead, Wheaton Academy has used fields at Wheaton College, Community High School in West Chicago and College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
The football program was reinstated in 2007 at the school after a low student population caused it to be put on hiatus in 1989, Frost said. However, with a growth in enrollment and now a home field in the works, this fall will be a special time for football at Wheaton Academy, he said.
"It's a tremendous boost to the football program," Frost said.
Construction of the field is expected to begin this spring shortly after the final home soccer game. While school leaders hope to have the new space ready in July, it will be completed in time for the first home football game Aug. 29 at the latest.
The field will be wider than a typical soccer field because it will not be constrained by a running track along its outside. It will be about 67 to 68 yards wide and 120 yards long.
Wheaton Academy was expected to receive bids for the project this week.
The project will be funded entirely by donations, including a challenge grant from former Wheaton Academy parents, Rich and Carrie Berg, whose son graduated from the school in 2010.
The grant was given in the name of Performance Trust Capital Partners, of which Rich Berg is the CEO and co-founder. Other Performance Trust employees also supported the project.
At the time when the grant was offered to Wheaton Academy, its leaders were in the process of fundraising for a new science wing at the school. Rather than turning to supporters of the science project, the school found new donors to help make its field of dreams a reality.
In addition to the Bergs, 40 others supported the new turf field, which will be called Performance Trust Field.
Although the Bergs' son, Clayton, had a positive experience as a high schooler at Wheaton Academy, Rich Berg said his desire to support the project stemmed more from an appreciation for the school's overall mission to help other schools around the nation provide a strong Christian education.
"To me, the mission of the academy is bigger than a local high school," Berg said.