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Thursday 30, Dec 2004RSS Feed
Herald-Mail Article mentioning DH WEB, Inc donating website to NHHS stadium project.
Private group moves ahead with NHHS stadium project
The Herald-Mail Online

John Williamson didn't attend North Hagerstown High School. He's not even a Hagerstown native. So why is he chairing the campaign to build a $2.3 million stadium at the school?

There are many reasons, but the one that hit home with me was Williamson's experience in seeing what his three children learned about life and teamwork by playing soccer for North High.

"In talking to my kids, particularly to Brian, he told me he learned that you may not like the person you're on a team with, but you have to work together to succeed," Williamson said.

Now, Williamson has a team of his own, a 14-member stadium committee whose members hope to get $1.5 million pledged toward the project by the first quarter of 2005.

That's important, he said, because many people aren't going to contribute if they don't believe the project will succeed, he said.

The effort is well on its way now, Williamson said, with $960,000 pledged and about $125,000 in cash on hand.

It has not been an easy sell for many of those Williamson has spoken to. Some question why private citizens are being asked to do what government has done for every other local high school and why the deal made 46 years ago with South Hagerstown High School isn't still valid.

Under that agreement, North got a large auditorium, while South got School Stadium.

Funds for a new stadium must be raised privately because any new money from state or local government is going to go to academics, he said.

And state and county governments and the Maryland Stadium Authority all have told the local group that it isn't possible to fully fund the project at this time.

"The only way this is going to happen is if it's done privately," Williamson said.

As for the shared-facilities arrangement with South High, Williamson said, "It was a great deal 50 years ago when you only had football and track."

The passage of the federal Title IX regulations have opened more team-sports opportunities to female strudents, Williamson said, increasing the demand for playing fields.

A fund-raising brochure for the project notes that in 1960, there were 129 males and 68 females participating in North High sports. In 2003, those totals had grown to 356 males and 212 females.

Williamson described the practical problems that increase creates.

"Soccer games have to begin at 5 p.m. and varsity and junior varsity programs have to play at the same time, so parents with children on each team have to choose. Sometimes, games are called on account of darkness," he said.

Armed with those arguments, the committee first will seek large gifts of $100,000 or more. So far they have two, from Conservit and Metropolitan Steel, but Williamson said there are also quite a number of $5,000 pledges.

Finally, Williamson said, the group will approach parents of students at North High, Northern Middle School and the "feeder" elementary schools.

"To me, it's important that the people who will benefit participate," he said.

Williamson said he expects the pledge process to pick up after architect Brent Feight of Bushey Feight Morin completes drawings for the project.

Then Harry Reynolds, president of Callas Contractors, will cost out the project and subcon tractors who worked with the late Mike Callas will be approached about making in-kind contributions.

Callas had co-chaired the project before his death and Williamson said that afterward, the group was approached by people who asked if it could be named after the man who had done so much for the county.

They agreed, Williamson said, because "he did more for his community after 80 than most people do in a lifetime."

Lots of labor has been donated to the fund-raising effort, Williamson said. Feight is donating much of his time, Hagerstown Bookbinding and Printing donated much of cost of printing a full-color, multipage brochure and DH WEB built and donated the Web site - www.MikeCallasStadium.com.

If you remember Mike Callas, you know that he participated in every major civic project done here in the last 40 years, donating his company's time for one cause or another.

If you'd like to honor his memory, please call 301-766-8238 or visit the Web site. Gray Line
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