A look at the work behind the new LPHS outdoor athletic facility. PHOTO COURTESY BSSD

New season, big time upgrades

New LPHS outdoor athletic facility schedules to be finished for the football season home opener

It’s almost time for football. Which means LPHS and the community of Big Sky will be excited for the home football opener in mid-September. However, this year there will be an added level of excitement, a new turf football field.

The Jackson Contractor Group broke ground on the new outdoor athletic facility, including the new turf football, the first week of June.

The planning for this project began back in September of 2019. The Big Sky School District assembled a team of community members, school board members and staff members to come up with a master facility plan for the LPHS and Ophir campus.

The new outdoor athletic facility will feature some significant upgrades in the fall. Including an all weather turf field, permanent stadium lights, a new bleacher system, permanent fencing, a new integrated scoreboard, an in progress facility for camera work, as well as a new eight lane track surrounding the field.

The field will be incredibly beneficial to the LPHS football program. The team has played many harsh weather games throughout the years and the all weather turf field will be much more equipped to handle the harsh conditions than the old field. “Because of our local climate, the old field was pretty much unusable the majority of the year,” Shipman said.

The new field will also be ready for the potential move for LPHS to Class B in Montana High School Association athletics. The field will be equipped with removable goal posts, which can simply move back 10 yards when the inevitable move to Class B happens. This increased flexibility will also be very beneficial to the LPHS soccer teams. Formerly playing all of their games at the Big Sky Community Park, the new 100 yard field will allow the soccer teams to play on campus for the first time. The eight lane track is also very exciting for LPHS, as it will allow the school to host track events for the first time.

The construction on the new outdoor athletic facility is scheduled to be completed toward the middle to end of September. In preparation for this delay, the LPHS football team is scheduled to play their first three games on the road. The target date for the first home game is September 17, against the Park City Panthers. If the new field is not completed in time, that game would be moved to Park City and the home opener would be October 9, against the Ennis Mustangs. As of now, both the contractors and Shipman believe that they will hit their target date, “If everything unfolds as we think it’s going to, we should be able to play football on September 17th,”  BSSD Superintendent Dr. Dustin Shipman said.

The Big Sky School District made a concentrated effort to finish phase one of two of the “master plan” this year. The outdoor athletic facility was the only part of the proposed $23.5 million bond that came in at the estimated price. Therefore, the school district was eager to show some return on the project heavily supported by the community. “We wanted to show some return on that community support as soon as possible,” Shipman said.

The new outdoor athletic complex is part of a larger two phase plan that the school district plans to roll out in the coming years. Phase two of the project will include significant upgrades to both the athletic and educational infrastructures of the school’s campus. A new basketball/volleyball facility that will seat roughly 1,000 fans, as well as an overhanging indoor track in the facility are on the docket for phase two. These upgrades are also in preparation for the potential for LPHS to move to Class B athletics. Shipman considers the potential move to be inevitable and that the school will need to be ready for the larger visiting crowds coming to Big Sky, “We need these larger facilities because these Class B schools can bring 300 to 500 fans on the road with them,” Shipman said.

The other part of phase two includes both a new arts and music facility for the students, as well as new space for education in vocational and technical areas. The Big Sky School District has been pursuing this style of education for years and will be able to do so with the new facilities. “This is something we are really excited about,” Shipman said.

Phase two of the project was unfortunately overbid, which resulted in a delay in construction, however the Big Sky School District plans to rebid the project sometime in the future.

Shipman believes once the “master plan” is finished, it will truly bring everything our school district has to offer together. “The master facility planning process was really comprehensive and really impactful for our district because those are all things that are going to continue to push Big Sky School District to the forefront of education and extracurriculars,” Shipman said.

 

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