As the West Park community anticipates a new John Marshall High School to be complete this summer, many people are commenting on how good the school looks and are excited about the progress of construction. It is set to be completed in time for school to begin in August. The community looks forward to the school reclaiming its place as an anchor in the neighborhood once again on W. 140th St.
In addition to the many positive comments about the school, there are also questions raised about the status of the stadium. There is a stark contrast with a $45 million investment of a brand new school adjacent to a stadium that was first built in 1936 as a WPA project, followed by a 1964 addition that is in rusted disrepair.
BPDC staff person Ian Heisey spoke at the April CMSD school board meeting asking the board to strongly consider the importance of completing the job on the JMH project and either renovating or replacing the grandstands, and putting in a quality field and an official-sized track. Councilman Brian Kazy also addressed the school board at that meeting emphasizing the importance of a stadium to the community and Councilman Kazy also met with Eric Gordon personally about the stadium and other school-related issues in Ward 16.
Athletics affect school pride and identity but quality athletic facilities also speak to the importance of health and wellness in the lives of young people. In fact, JMH was named this year as a Nationally Recognized Healthy School from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for meeting criteria for physical activity, nutrition, and health education.
BPDC knows from talking with neighbors and alumni that the stadium and adjacent greenspace has in the past been a center of activity, not just for football games but also positive community activity such as neighbors walking or jogging on the track, using the stadium steps for exercise, or enjoying the greenspace around the track.
BPDC understands the school board has many priorities and tough funding decisions, and we stand ready to work with the district to seek out partnerships with corporations and foundations to discover all the possible options for a multi-use athletic field that can complement to a state of art school being built right next door, This space could serve the common good to promote community pride, fitness, wellness and connections between the generations, and connect the community to the school which is a strong focus of the Wrap Around strategy promoted by the district and United Way.
St. Joseph Academy on Rocky River Drive currently pays rent to Fairview Park school district for use of their regulation track and field. The question emerges about whether there could there be some arrangement to have them stay in the neighborhood and use the JMH facility in the future.
Looking around the region, partnerships and sponsorships abound when it comes to athletic facilities. Pat Catan’s support for the stadium in Strongsville, and First Federal Bank in Lakewood, are just two examples.
Bellaire-Puritas looks forward to working together in any way possible with the district and all stakeholders to complete the full return of John Marshall High School and its legacy in West Park.