By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 08, 2022 at 8:04 AM

After years of fundraising, Washington High School will break ground Thursday on new athletic fields, funded by a mix of sources.

The project to be unveiled and kicked off at the 10:30 a.m. ceremony at 2525 N. Sherman Blvd. includes the installation of a new synthetic turf playfield for football and soccer practice; green infrastructure, including an underground stormwater retention system beneath the turf; a new 400-meter running and walking track with a rubberized surface; a new storage shed; two new basketball half-courts and a running long jump practice area.

(PHOTO: Rendering courtesy of MPS)

The first phase of the project will be the field and track replacement.

"It's impossible to look at the construction site and not appreciate how many individuals and organizations worked together to make this happen,” said Aaron Hendricks, Washington’s co-athletic director, in an MPS statement.

“I hope this facility serves as a source of pride for Washington students and alumni, our athletic program, and the Sherman Park neighborhood for years to come."   

The project is being funded with $830,000 raised by Common Gound over the past seven years and $2.5 million from MPS and the MPS Foundation, which includes money from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.

“I graduated from Washington High School in 1956, and I want to make sure that kids today have every opportunity just like I did,” said Common Ground’s Bonnie Lund. “I personally have raised funds from my own classmates, contacting as many as could be located.

“Common Ground experienced major challenges bringing this dream into reality, but we never gave up. It took thousands of hours, hundreds of people, numerous meetings and over seven years of persistence, but now WHS students and their Sherman Park neighbors will have a place to meet, compete, exercise and play.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars of ESSER funding are being used for a wide variety of projects at schools across the district, including everything from paint to new programming and academic and career facilities to building additions.

The Washington project is using money from $15 million that’s been tabbed for upgrading athletic facilities at a number of high schools, including South Division, North Division, Vincent and Riverside.

Among other planned sports-related ESSER-funded projects in the district are $4.75 million for the addition of two turf diamond ballfields – one softball/one baseball – and replacement of turf at Bradley Tech; $900,000 for the live streaming of all City Conference stadiums/gyms/outdoor facilities; installation of video scoreboards at all City Conference schools (except Contracted schools) and at all four turf stadiums; the provision of sports physicals by licensed physician or nurse practitioner; bleacher replacement at many schools ($2.5 million); the addition of bleachers, lights, storage and additional module restroom facility, as well as water line access to east side of Vincent Stadium ($3 million); and upgrading tennis courts at MPS City Conference schools and youth sports sites such as Hamilton, Vincent, Milwaukee School of Languages, King, North Division, Riverside, High School of the Arts ($3.4 million).

"A lot of talented young men and women have molded their talents at Washington,” said Marshall Brisco, Washington’s assistant football and baseball coach, in the statement. “This new and improved field will help even more young student athletes showcase their talents and become part of Washington's winning tradition."   

Because the site is in a landmarked district, the installation of artificial turf had to be approved by the City of Milwaukee's Historic Preservation Commission, and the HPC's May meeting drew a large crowd to discuss the matter.

Preservation guidelines for the The Sherman Boulevard Historic District require "traditional landscaping," and there was some opposition to the use of artificial turf. But the HPC ruled the turf was acceptable, with member Ald. Bob Bauman opining that the field is a sports facility rather than landscaping.

On Wednesday, MPS’ Reagan High School broke ground on the first phase of a building expansion and sports facilities upgrade that being’s funded with ESSER dollars and donations from sources including Ted and Mary Kellner and the Bucks’ Pat Connaughton, and Milwaukee Recreation money.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.