EAST HELENA — The East Helena school district will borrow $29.5 million from community-based bond issues to prepare its high school athletic facilities for teams to compete as a Montana High School Association Class A program.
The money will be allocated toward constructing an on-campus outdoor football, track and soccer facility, as well as indoor basketball, volleyball and weight room facilities for the first-year school.
Construction is expected to be completed for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, but classes begin this fall. The district needed to find temporary venues for its teams until completion of its on-campus facilities.
The district suffered a temporary setback when it had to halt work on a section of Dartman Field after a soil sample tested higher for lead than allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
With recommendations that the district wait until the fall to seed the athletic fields, Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer told the Helena Independent Record and 406mtsports.com recently that he does not anticipate any major delays.
East Helena will provide all of the MHSA-sanctioned sports to first-year students, including speech and debate and also lacrosse, which will be a club-designated sport as it is at Helena Capital.
The East Helena teams will be known as the Vigilantes and only play a freshman schedule during 2019-2020. Higher level teams will be added as enrollment grows.
They will play their football games at R.H. Radley Elementary School the first year. Whitmoyer said he projects the new stadium will be ready by August 2020.
East Helena will use area gyms such as Radley Elementary, Prickly Pear Elementary and East Valley Middle School to host middle school and high school events such as basketball and volleyball.
The softball team will play at East Valley Middle School.
To fund some of the weight-room equipment, East Helena is seeking sponsorships, Whitmoyer said.
"We are looking for sponsors to assist with the costs associated, and we are continually looking for help from businesses looking to get their names out there," he said. "We are looking for businesses to get their name on the building for the next 10 years. That will help pay for the equipment that we have to buy, and will make sure to recognize those businesses."
To help fund equipment, bricks to be laid by the flagpole in front of the school will be sold. The bricks will have names of individuals inscribed on them, with 4x8 bricks selling for $125 and 8x8s going for $200.
"It's neat to memorialize the fact that they are part of the community, they can be part of a proud tradition, and showcase they are proud of the fact they went to East Helena schools," Whitmoyer said. "This community is extremely proud of who they are, and rightfully so. They are an amazing community, they are so tight, and they stick together so well."