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Published: Tuesday, 7/22/2008

Drive started for Woodward track

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

At most high schools, spring track is an outdoor sport, but not always at Woodward High School in North Toledo.

The 80-year-old school's old cinder-covered running track was never upgraded, and it has long since decayed into little more than a dirt path. The track team has taken its practices indoors, where lockers line an imaginary homestretch.

"It's hard to hold practice on [the outdoor track] because of the potholes, so we normally practice in the building, running the hallways," said Ivan Dye, the boys' track coach.

Now a new alumni group is launching a fund-raising campaign so the new Woodward High School, scheduled to open in fall 2010, can have an up-to-date running track inside its planned football stadium.

Ed Johnson, a member of the Building a New Legacy booster group, said its goal is to raise the roughly $650,000 needed to install stadium rest rooms and an eight-lane, all-weather running track.

The track would give Woodward facilities comparable to other Toledo high schools and allow it to host track meets for the first time in decades.

"We just want the kids coming up to have an equal playing field," said Mr. Johnson, a 1971 graduate. "Woodward has been kind of pushed into the shadows for a long, long time."

The track would circle inside the new stadium, which is to be built on the site of the existing high school that will be razed once the new building opens next to it. The new $25 million building will extend along Stickney Avenue between East Streicher Street and East Central Avenue.

Funding for the stadium will come from $1.1 million in local funded initiatives money, generated through the 2.5-mill levy for Toledo Public Schools' infrastructure and equipment, school officials said.

The booster group is working closely with Woodward Principal Emilio Ramirez and the neighborhood's district city council representative, Lindsay Webb. There will be an informational and organizational meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Sanger Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, 3030 West Central Ave.

Mr. Ramirez said the group plans to appeal for direct donations from alumni and area corporations, and do fund-raisers like bake sales and bingo nights. It may sell naming rights to "memorial bricks" in the stadium.

Mr. Johnson likened the track fund-raising to that of the successful effort by Woodward students and supporters in the late 1960s to raise money for a football grandstand, which until recently stood along the East Central Avenue side of the school. Receipts from a student candy sale covered a significant chunk of construction costs.

The Woodward football team this fall will play its home games on Waite High's field as the school construction project continues. An earlier fund-raising drive in 1950 to construct a stadium at Woodward foundered because of rising costs at the time.

Mr. Dye, the track coach, said the school's cinder track was already unfit for competition when he started in 1992 as an assistant coach. He said that his team, in addition to hallways, will hold practice in the school parking lot, where sprinters line up starting blocks against concrete parking strips.

Toledo Public Schools officials yesterday did not return phone messages for this story.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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