Investing in Athletics: Lincoln High getting $3.9M sports complex

A referendum passed this month has the potential to fundamentally change Lincoln Hornet sports for the Alma Center-Humbird-Merrillan district.

They’re putting in a nearly $4 million athletic complex that will overhaul the current setup for track and football. It’s something both students and administrators agree has been sorely needed for years.

To understand why they feel that way, let’s look first at the track surface.

“It’s been over a decade since we’ve actually hosted a track meet,” district superintendent Paul Fischer said.

All thanks to cracks all over the surface.

“There’s a lot of cracks on it, and then if it rains it gets really slippery and we can’t practice on it,” sophomore Ruby Paul said.

“It’s pretty bad,” fellow track sophomore Sada Stanley said. “We run on this constantly and kids are always getting shin splints from the concrete.”

It’s definitely not rubber, which is what everyone else in their conference runs on. No one’s running with track spikes here.

“I think last year we were supposed to hold sectionals, and everyone was really excited for that, and then they realized, we can’t do that here,” Stanley said.

Football, meanwhile, has been using the grass that serves as baseball’s outfield for years, and while the program has hosted football games in the last decade–

“We’re talking four or five decades’ worth of football here,” activities director and head football coach Jeremy Hanson said.

–The risks are just as high.

“Right now with the football field, the biggest thing is just injuries,” middle school football player Jace Paul said. “When you’re running, you’re worrying about rolling an ankle.”

Mole problems also make the uneven field even more bumpy to walk on, let alone make football moves.

“If we were 11-man with a traditional field, [these mole hill damages] would’ve all been in play and I don’t know that we would’ve been able to play,” Hanson said.

So from concept designs, the district will move football to the field inside the track, with work starting in summer.

Said Fischer, “It’s a lot of money to be putting into a project, but we felt it was a great investment for our school district, more importantly our kids.

“By the fall of 2022 is our goal to host our first football game on the new stadium, and the first track meet in the spring of 2023.”

The problem for years has been justifying the amount of money. Hanson says it’s been tough to even field an 8-man football team for more than four years in a row, but the outgoing senior class that helped build football the past few years made a big difference.

“And I said this is all thanks to you guys,” Hanson said of those athletes, “because without us stabilizing, without you guys getting the kids out, we wouldn’t be able to have this discussion, and I don’t know if the track discussion would’ve happened without it.”

And then it came to getting the votes for the referendum to pass. Fischer and Hanson say it was the area kids that got out in the community and put up signs that really made this idea a reality, and bring even more pride to a community on the rise.

“I think everyone’s excited that we can host meets now,” Stanley said. “Kids [currently] stand on the sidelines for football games. They’d rather sit in the bleachers and have a big student section. I think everyone’s really happy to get back to that.”

Said Hanson, “It’s something that somebody from the outside can look at and say there’s a small town that does it right.”