Manistee Community Track groundbreaking set for Monday

MANISTEE — School officials from the Manistee Area Public Schools will be opening a new chapter in the district’s history Monday morning when they break ground on the new Manistee Community Track.

This aerial depiction shows where the new Manistee Community Track will be located at Manistee High School.

This aerial depiction shows where the new Manistee Community Track will be located at Manistee High School.

The official groundbreaking will take place at 11 a.m. at the track site located behind the Paine Aquatic Center adjacent to the softball fields. School administrators, teachers, students, board of education members representatives from the construction and architectural firms will be in attendance.

Manistee Area Public Schools superintendent Ron Stoneman said it is a good day for the entire community. Stoneman said he came into the school system long after the fundraising for the track had began, and he praised the dedicated efforts of many who stuck by the project to see it through to this point.

“I am really glad that we are here and able to push this across the finish line,” said Stoneman.

Manistee High School track coach Eric Thuemmel has been an ardent supporter of building a new track  for years, and he said everyone is excited about breaking ground.

“This is huge for Manistee, and not just for the track teams,” said Thuemmel. “It’s huge for the community too. I expect to see community people out there all the time using the new track for fitness walking and jogging.”

For years he has helped raise funds through a variety of methods and said all the hard work was worth it to reach this point.

“I’m thankful for all of the support from the parents and community members over the years, for coming out to run 5Ks and supporting pancake breakfasts and chicken dinners,” said Thuemmel. “I’m thankful that our school board has gotten behind this too. It’s a great investment in kids and in the community.”

Thuemmel added that the boys and girls track teams have been using some creative methods to train due to a lack of track. Now they will be able to train like most school teams.

“As far as the track program goes, I really expect this will get more kids out playing sports and being active,” said Thuemmel. “Just knowing you have a safe place to practice will be big for our kids.”

Thuemmel said the absence of a track has made it difficult to prepare for certain events.

“Our kids just haven’t had a regular place to practice high jumping, long jumping and pole vaulting, and it cost our team,” said Thuemmel. “To practice field events we have to arrange to get a bus to take us to a neighboring school, which is time-consuming. Our kids have over a dozen road trips for meets already this year, so spending even more time on a bus is really tiring for all of us.”

With construction taking place over the upcoming months, the Chippewas are not expected to host an actual meet until the spring of 2018.

“I’m looking forward to our first home meet next year,” said Thuemmel. “It might be the first time some of our parents get to see their kids in action.”

Stoneman said Team Elmer’s will be doing the work in preparing the site. Due to the heavy rainfall this past week they were unable to get staged properly, but he expects things will be ready to go next week.

“We plan to have the formal groundbreaking with shovels, and we expect to have the track team there in their warmups,” said Stoneman. “There will be some board members and local governmental dignitaries, and we plan to put some shovels in the ground.”

Stoneman said the addition of the track will help many in this area.

“I think it is a going to be a big impact to the community, to our campus and we still feel this is a community track,” said Stoneman. “I hope the whole community can leverage the purpose of the track for a long, long time.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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