When Dwayne and Karen Bowman put together the master plan for what would become Woodlawn School nearly 15 years ago, part of it was having top-notch athletic facilities for the private school’s students.
That plan finally took a big step toward completion, with the official dedication of the school’s Alumni Track and Field complex on Sept. 6.
“It’s been a part of the master plan since 2002, but we really didn’t get serious about doing it until recently,” Dwayne Bowman said. “We had other priorities to take care of first, but it’s been planned since the beginning.”
Once the other priorities were taken care of, however, Bowman said the planning and fundraising for the Alumni Track and Field complex – located near the main entrance of Woodlawn School’s 61-acre facility in Mooresville – began in early 2015.
“We actually had several alumni families – families of students who had already graduated from Woodlawn – stepped up and said they wanted to help out in a major way,” Bowman said. “They donated the bulk of the funds for the project.”
The $1 million complex features a 400-meter regulation running track, and competition areas for high jump, pole vault, long and triple jump, shot put and discus. It also has a regulation-size soccer field, and parking areas for cars and buses.
Yet there were several challenges that had to be overcome during construction, which began August 2015 but wasn’t completed until May 2016 because of weather delays, Bowman said.
However, the biggest challenge wasn’t the weather, he added.
“The piece of land we were trying to build it on wasn’t a flat piece of land,” he said. “Our property here is sort of hilly and has some gullies, and we were building it on a place that had a pretty major hill on it with a gully right beside it.
“The good news was that we actually didn’t take any dirt off the property or bring any dirt on the property – we just moved the dirt around a little bit to make it flat. We had to move 6,000 dump-truck loads of dirt to get the site flat and get the drainage right. That was the biggest piece of the project as far as cost, all the dirt moving and drainage.
“But it turned out well in terms of fitting in with the campus. We took a lot of care to fit it in with the current campus, and preserve as many trees as we could around the outside of it.”
Before the complex was built, Woodlawn School’s track and field teams were holding practices on the school’s grass athletic field. That was also where the school’s soccer teams would practice, even though the field wasn’t regulation size.
Even with that handicap, Woodlawn School’s girls soccer team won the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) 1A state championship in 2015, and junior Quinn Schneider won the boys 3,200-meter run at the NCISAA 1A/2A state track championships. He also finished second in the boys 1,600-meter run.
“We just sort of improvised, even setting up hurdles on the upper field,” Woodlawn School head of school Adam Schapiro said. “We would just use any space we could get our hands on, but all of our meets would be away.
“Now we can hold meets here, and our soccer teams have a full-size field to play on as well.”
The dedication ceremony – attended by the 225-member student body, covering kindergarten through 12th grade, faculty and parents – was highlighted by a keynote speech from four-time Boston Marathon winner and U.S.A. Track and Field Hall of Fame inductee Bill Rodgers, who has a great-nephew attending Woodlawn School.
Schapiro said the new track/soccer complex can also serve as a selling point for potential students to attend Woodlawn Academy, which is looking to expand its student body.
“One, anytime we can get more people to the campus, the better,” Schapiro said. “That’s one of our biggest assets is our campus. It certainly helps separate us from Davidson (Day) and Cannon (School in Concord), having this open space. It’s going to drive more people to this campus, and get people talking about Woodlawn.
“Then second, when we do get people here who are just coming for admission, it’s so impressive to see that. When people are assessing the value of this school, you look at that state-of-the-art track and field (complex), it definitely helps our cause in recruiting students to come to this campus. It’s definitely a huge selling point for us.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: BKiserCLTObs@gmail.com.