Monday night, at a special meeting of the Lawrence school board, board members voted in favor of accepting an anonymous donation that will be put toward construction of a new locker room facility at the Free State High football stadium, complete with a concession stand and restrooms for the public.
The amount of the donation was not immediately known and may not be for some time. The donor, who gifted the money on the condition of remaining anonymous, said he or she was willing to cover any construction costs that exceeded the $400,000 given to both Free State and Lawrence High for such improvements.
Tuesday morning, when many of the Firebirds got the news that the new building would soon be theirs, the word that first came to mind was not “who” or “why” but “wow.”
“Our kids are looking forward to it, they’re excited about it and I’m excited about it,” FSHS football coach Bob Lisher said. “It’s awesome that someone was willing to donate money to add to our facility and what’s going to be a great environment.”
Lisher, who, in August, will begin his 12th season as the Firebirds’ head coach, said he’s been included in some of the preliminary planning for the new building, which will be located behind the south end zone. Although Lisher said he had no specific knowledge of what the exterior of the building would look like, he was aware of what its outer walls would encompass.
“On the first floor, there’ll be a couple of meeting rooms and locker rooms and a place for the referees,” Lisher said. “And it’ll have concessions and public bathrooms.”
Lisher said the building may also include coaches offices on the second floor, but he was unsure of whether that would be sooner or later.
“That might be Phase II,” he said. “We’ll just have to see.”
Also included in the building will be an equipment room, which will allow the FSHS program to store all of its football gear just a stone’s throw away from the field it will be used on.
“It’s more of a matter of convenience than anything,” Lisher said. “Halftime won’t be 20 minutes (which had been considered due to the distance between the field and the existing locker rooms) and we’ll be right there off of the field on game nights. To have all the equipment right there by the stadium is great, too.”
Although the practicalities of such a spiffy set-up might be the biggest advantage, the athletes who will call the building home can’t help but focus on the overall existence of such a spectacular venue.
“Honestly, words can’t describe how special it is to be a part of this,” FSHS senior quarterback Camren Torneden said. “It’s almost amazing that we can even have the chance to have something like this. I think it’s going to be something like KU’s building and I see it making us more prepared and getting us ready for the environment.”
Added senior wide receiver Bo Schneider: “It gives us one of the nicer fields in the state.”
D-Coordinator added to Shrine Bowl Staff: In other Free State football news this week, Lisher announced that Firebirds defensive coordinator Brett Oberzan has been added to the coaching staff for the East Squad in the Kansas Shrine Bowl, which will be played July 25 in Wichita. Oberzan, who replaces St. Thomas Aquinas’ Kevin Kopecky, who could not attend, joins former Firebirds Grahm Saunders and Chucky Hunter on the East roster.