The Chesty Lions of Lawrence High School — supporters, students and members of both the marching band and players themselves — once again will be walking under an arch on their way to Friday night football games.
Only this time, they’ll be on their home turf.
Monday night, members of the Lawrence school board signed off on plans to accept an estimated $300,000 in upgrades to outdoor athletic venues at the high school, 1901 La.
Topping the list: a brick-ensconsed scoreboard at the north end of the football field, and a new combination ticket booth and arched entryway at the southeast corner.
“This is a statement,” said Doug Gaston, co-chairman of LHS Building on Traditions, the booster effort behind the upgrades.
He described the arch as an architectural “tip of the hat” to the Lions’ decades of gridiron dominance at Haskell Stadium in southeast Lawrence, where the Lions walked through the iconic Haskell arch for home games on their way to league and state titles.
Now, two years after opening their own on-campus stadium, a new arch is set to take shape. The booster group has contracted with B.A. Green Construction, of Lawrence, to build the arch, include a ticket booth and enhance the scoreboard — complete with a full-color Chesty Lion carved into stone and facing 19th Street — at the stadium used for football and track. B.A. Green also will add ticket booths and stone signs at soccer, baseball and softball fields, all as the company is busy installing district-financed spectator seating.
Work is set to begin soon after Lawrence High’s graduation May 29 and be completed by the time school starts again in the fall.
“We’re touching all of the outdoor facilities — all of the venues,” Gaston told board members.
Scott Morgan, whose children have attended Lawrence High, described the effort to bring LHS Building on Traditions to fruition as “a struggle,” but a worthwhile one. That’s because the fields aren’t about “glorifying the star” of athletics.
Instead, he said, the fields and the overall context they represent indicate a community commitment to students of all abilities.
“It’s showing respect for our kids,” Morgan said.
On-campus football stadiums were opened in the fall of 2009 at both Lawrence and Free State high schools, using money left over from a bond issue. A planned $400,000 concessions/locker rooms/restrooms building at Free State ultimately was augmented by donations totaling $600,000, paying for expansion, landscaping and upgraded materials.
Lawrence High donors soon went to work, and in September 2009 formed LHS Building on Traditions. Since then they have raised nearly $300,000, including at least $1,000 from each of 48 donors whose names will grace a plaque to be affixed to the new arch.
The list could expand up until and including June 30, the deadline for $1,000 donations, said Judy Keller, a lead fundraiser for the organization.
Gaston said that the donors’ efforts would help “put a great face on Lawrence High,” both by using materials that fit with the stadium’s new press box and by drawing a cohesive link to the school itself.
Past decades of Lions’ pride — whether it came at Haskell Stadium, or inside 1901 La. — promise to endure anew, thanks to donors using tradition as their foundation.
“These aren’t inexpensive structures,” Gaston said. “They are going to be built to last.”