High School Sports

High School Sports

Hints reveal donor

October 20, 2009


If you’ve been to a Free State High football game, you certainly noticed the stately stone structure in the south end zone.

Contained within are a locker room for the Firebirds and one for visitors, a concession area, rest rooms, a training room and an equipment room.

And that’s just on the first floor.

Upstairs are offices, coaches locker rooms and a film room, plus a couple of outdoor patios on the east and west side that may or may not be used for future expansion.

Those who have toured the structure are justifiably awed by its assimilation of form and function, its added touches such as polished granite seating in front of the Firebirds’ lockers and its aura of permanence.

Then there is the landscaping. All of the 20 or more surrounding trees appear to be at least 10 years old, and they make you feel the complex has been there for decades even though you know it’s brand-new.

I asked Free State High football coach Bob Lisher what the price tag was for this Taj Mahal of high school athletic facilities.

“I have no idea what this building cost,” Lisher replied, “but with the landscaping and everything I’m sure it’s over a million dollars.”

Let’s backtrack a bit. When the school district came up with the money to build identical sports facilities for both Free State and Lawrence High, a bare-bones total of $400,000 was allotted to each school for the purpose of erecting rest rooms and concession stands at their football fields.

However, in mid-July, the school board announced that Free State High would have a larger, multi-use complex because a donor was willing to cover the added construction costs over the 400 grand.

On one condition. The donor had to remain anonymous.

So if you ask school personnel — and that includes Lisher — who gave all that money, you’ll receive a smile and a no comment, or words to that effect.

Nevertheless, there is a clue on the outside of the structure. It’s a small plaque that reads: “In memory of John Valentine Fritzel. 1913-1977.”

Another clue is inside, also next to the door. It’s an 8 x 11 black-and-white photo of John Fritzel when he was captain of the Lawrence High football team in 1931.

I knew John Fritzel. I knew him because he was married to Dorothy Fritzel who for many years was secretary to Dolph Simons and Dolph Simons Jr., longtime editors and publishers of the Journal-World.

I also knew that John and Dorothy — by the way, she’s still spry at age 94 — had no children, but that he was the uncle of Gene and Joel Fritzel, contractors known for their high-end homes and buildings in and around Lawrence.

So that narrowed the probe.

It is also widely known that Gene Fritzel Construction is now run by Gene’s sons and that two of those sons — Thomas and Andy — have sons of their own who are juniors on the Free State High football team.

So it’s pretty clear the Fritzels are the primary benefactors, but I do know they didn’t provide all the funding. The building’s wiring, for instance, was done gratis by Mel Lisher and Mel Lisher Jr.

Yes, they’re Bob Lisher’s dad and older brother, respectively.


Amy Heeter 8 years, 7 months ago

Do remember that next time people start spewing crap about the Fritzels.

Miles Garrett 8 years, 7 months ago

If the donors wanted to remain anonymous, Mr. Woodling, then why did you just publish their names? Granted, you were within your legal rights to do so. But ethically, this is a type of reporting that gives journalism a bad name. I would recommend that you examine your conscience.

think_about_it 8 years, 7 months ago

Maybe a small hint was all of the DFC co. (Thomas Fitzel) trucks parked at the construction site for the home opener. Thank you for your generous donations Gene and Thomas Fritzel.

Matt Warman 8 years, 7 months ago

Way to go Sherlock, you really nailed that one.

Clickker 8 years, 7 months ago

"If the donors wanted to remain anonymous, Mr. Woodling, then why did you just publish their names? Granted, you were within your legal rights to do so. But ethically, this is a type of reporting that gives journalism a bad name. I would recommend that you examine your conscience."

Well......he wanted to be anonymous, and he didnt want to be anonymous....makes a bigger splash to add a little mystery to the situation. And, I must say it is pretty brilliant for a developer on the west side of town to donate time and materials to enhance his "neighborhood".....what better way to steer the Tornedens of the world to his developments then to show them the sleek new facilities their son will play at IF they move to THIS neighborhood. The district should have accepted his offer, but forced him to build similar facilities at the other HS.

Linda and Bill Houghton 8 years, 7 months ago

I would have expected more help from them for Lawrence High School. Gene was a member of the last graduating class of Liberty Memorial High School (1953). This was the direct predecessor of Lawrence High School. Joel and the next generation undoubtedly all went to Lawrence High School.

Yes, they do live in the Free State attendance area.

Linda Aikins 8 years, 7 months ago

That quiets all of you who thought it was Doug Compton...

Nikki Kessler Pickens 8 years, 7 months ago

As if Compton would do something so selfless...pshaw

rtwngr 8 years, 7 months ago

How nice for the benefactors to forget their roots and see to it that LHS, (formerly Liberty Memorial High School) their alma mater, got nothing in the way of a concession stand, press box, or bathrooms. Thank you for your generosity.

gert891 8 years, 7 months ago

so i assume all of you will be donating to LHS- people in this town cant even donate money with out crap from this website

LTownBaby 8 years, 7 months ago

I heard Fritzel was going to build the same thing at LHS, so you all better quiet your mouths before he decides against it. The FSHS stadium looks awesome. Good work! Friday night will be special, I hope the East stands are completed.

dirtyboss01 8 years, 7 months ago

austin neidow donated the money. it says so in his own auto biography.

Clickker 8 years, 7 months ago

"I heard Fritzel was going to build the same thing at LHS...."

"heard"....he ..."was" ??

or "hear he is"?

which is it? Two different meanings.

flyin_squirrel 8 years, 7 months ago

And if you needed another clue to figure out who the donor was, have you noticed the similiarity in the stone used on the Freestate build and the stone used on the Oread Inn hotel? Weird....

puddleglum 8 years, 7 months ago

I wonder if this structure was put together any better than all of those apartments out there in nw lawrence?

BigAl 8 years, 7 months ago

rtwngr seems to think he should be able to tell Fritzel where to donate his money. Like it or not, Liberty Memorial High School is also an "ancestor" to Free State.

Thanks go to the Fritzel's for this amazing donation.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 7 months ago

I hear Marion and his architect buddy are going to build the one at LHS.

So magnanimous they are.

Amy Heeter 8 years, 7 months ago

I tell you some people can never win with this crowd. If your taxes were raised to build this you people would throw a fit. Here Fritzel has given to the community and you are still throwing fits.

brujablanco 8 years, 7 months ago

Be careful Mr. Corbett or you will be accused of stalking. BWAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

Kash_Encarri 8 years, 7 months ago

"LTownBaby (Anonymous) says… I heard Fritzel was going to build the same thing at LHS, so you all better quiet your mouths before he decides against it."

I've heard the same thing, but my question to everyone I hear that from is "why should they?" I'm sure if some of the LHS folks want to come up with the money for materials, the Fritzels might be willing to come up with the labor to do the job. They have no obligation to do so though.

And rtwngr, the field at LHS wil have concessions and restrooms they just couldn't get them constructed in time due to the delays caused on the front end of this job. They were able to get them completed on time at FSHS because of this generous donation instead of having to wait on First Management to build them. They would still be walking up the hill to the school if FM was doing that work, just look at how long it's taken to finish the East stands. The press box, who knows for sure when that will get completed, but that isn't one of the items that the Fritzels built at Free State.

roggy 8 years, 7 months ago

I know firsthand that a $100,000 check was delivered to the schools foundation for this project. Another donor gave a substantial amount of money but I am unsure of the amount. Obviously, the Fritzels did the work and probably added more of their own money as well as labor. I have not seen the facility but hear it is awesome. LHS is trying to raise money and I believe some of the same people are going to help make LHS really nice as well. It would be wonderful if someone were to give a big check to LHS. We'll see! There will be many more restrictions (unfortunately) at LHS due to the agreement reached with the neighbors.

hail2oldku 8 years, 7 months ago

Your thinking is way screwed up Jack. If the state didn't have the funding formula it has in place, those small and consolidating schools would have disappeared long ago. Lawrence isn't the only school district that gets to have special taxes, ever taxing district can have their own local option budget taxes. If the district funding was based the same way it was back in the day, Lawrence and the Johnson County schools would really be Taj Mahalsm there wouldn't be a pay to play (any extracurricular activity) and there wouldn't be a need to cut programs.

The fact that Lawrence has some benefactors willing to step up and provide additional funding when needed also is not Lawrence's fault. There is nothing stopping people from doing that elsewhere in the state and there is plenty of money out there to get it done. You just have to know how to go about asking.

Clickker 8 years, 7 months ago

Oil is $78/bbl.......Some of those "small districts" have some folks that own alot of mineral rights...they just choose not to donate to the schools for whatever reason.

Take_a_letter_Maria 8 years, 7 months ago

Nope, Jack's right. It's the lack of funding that is the reason for schools consolidating. Lack of students has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Freestater456 8 years, 7 months ago

For anyone complaining about this donation going only to free state you need to be quiet. LHS has plenty of rich alumni and student's parents that could right a check to LHS but they are choosing not to. It's not Free State's or the Fritzel family's fault that they won't do that. If you don't like it write a check yourself or shut up.

roggy 8 years, 7 months ago

Freestater, Would you care if someone wrote a $200,000 check for a computer lab at LHS? Equity has always been a big concern - just curious how foks would feel if money starts pouring into LHS. The door has been opened and the school board would have a hard time saying no to an LHS donor now. Wouldn't that be a wonderful problem for them to have to deal with!

Freestater456 8 years, 7 months ago

Roggy i really couldn't care less if someone donated that money for a computer lab. I am perfectly fine with the facilities that we have. Good luck finding that donor though. The big money is in sports. Always has been, and always will be. But yeah i will keep our computer lab and our new athletic facitities and you go ahead and try to get that $200,000 donation.

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