Think of it as a community asset, he told the school board Jan. 17.
Sure, the football team would have a new home. But, the varsity soccer program, which will have its first games this year, also will have a home. And, there’s no reason the baseball and softball teams couldn’t use it. The community would be allowed on it when a school activity is not there, the same as with the track now, Benner said.
“It’s not just sport-related,” Benner said. “You can have your phys ed outside as soon as the weather breaks, not having to worry about the mud, not having to worry about tracking in grass.”
The field would have an artificial surface.
“Do we get really creative and try to find ways to have volleyball tournaments out there?” Benner said. “In my mind, the possibilities are endless.”
Benner believes money can be raised for the stadium to the tune of $1.5 to 3 million through donations from individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations, and grants obtained.
“It’s a gigantic effort,” he said, but size is not an obstacle.
“When you look at some of the other communities around us, I don’t think they’re any different than us, they’ve been able to do it with private money,” Benner said. “I’ve had conversations with a handful of the people that’ve done it for different communities. I have a list of activities that they did, fundraisers that they held, priorities that they listed.”
The stadium could attract clinics, camps and tournaments, and might even entice a few students to attend Brookfield, Benner said.
“In my picture, it’s another piece of the puzzle to complete what you guys have built for K to 12,” he said of the seven-year-old campus.
School officials will be in on decisions; they just won’t put forth any public money, he said.
Benner expects it will take three to five years to build the stadium, done in phases, with the field, seats and lights coming first, followed by restrooms and concessions stand, and then whatever else they decide to build.
School officials have expressed some reluctance about endorsing the effort at a time when they might be asking for a property tax levy.
“I would just want us to be cautious,” said school board member Tim Filipovich. “You’re going to be asking the same folks that we’re going to be asking if we go for a permanent improvement levy.”
What’s to say the stadium project wouldn’t help pass a levy? Benner said. Plus, “We’re going to have to expand way outside of Brookfield as well,” in terms of fundraising, he said.
“To get to what we want to get to, it’s going to take more than just here,” Benner said.
Filipovich also asked Benner, should the fundraising effort be approved, to be cognizant of the school booster groups that also raise money and how his effort might impact their efforts.
Board member George Economides said he has seen an effort similar to what Benner is proposing, at South Range.
“They just completed a $2.2 million complex over there,” Economides said. “Beautiful. Not one cent of taxpayer dollar was used.”
But, Economides added, he has seen efforts fizzle out after an initial burst of donations.
“I guess we need to have a backup plan for what happens to the monies that come in should we not be able to reach the ultimate goal,” Benner said.
Economides asked that Benner get together with school administrators and create a plan for rolling out the effort and keeping officials in the loop throughout the process.
“All I’m saying is, plan it out, let us know who you are approaching so we can defend ourselves on different fronts,” Economides said.