West High to break ground on new soccer field

BY IAN MARTIN | APRIL 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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The soccer field at Northwest Junior High is in bad shape.

West High’s soccer team’s “home” pitch — a term used loosely since the field at the junior high is more than two miles from West High — has dirt patches in front of both goals, and loose rocks that alter the path of the ball if it’s not properly passed around the pebbles.

Players say it’s not a fitting home for a men’s team that has five state titles since 2000 or the Women of Troy, which has made the state playoffs in nine of the last 13 years.

“At one time, it was a pretty good field,” West Athletics Director Marv Reiland said. “But the wear and tear that it gets, the fact that it’s not confined, there are people on that field 24 hours a day … It hasn’t stayed in tip-top shape.”

This unkempt patch will likely be a thing of the past in 2012 — West High will hold a groundbreaking ceremony this afternoon for a new on-campus field set to be completed by next soccer season.

Jackie Kaeding is chairing the “Go for the Goal” campaign to fund the new field. The former West High and University of Iowa soccer player helped the Women of Troy win its only women’s state title in 2004.

Though Kaeding didn’t initiate the campaign, she was asked to be the face of the project by its creator Peggy Hausler — an experienced fundraiser for the UI Foundation and parent of a player on the West High team.

Kaeding accepted the position immediately because of what she says is a vital need for an on-campus place to play footy.

“To compete, you need to have a quality playing field,” she said. “You don’t need the bell and whistles. You don’t need the great scoreboard or the fancy entranceway. But you need a playing surface that is up to par.”

In the beginning, Kaeding, along with Hausler and a host of other fundraisers, were tasked with raising $250,000 completely from private gifts.

The crew has raised $170,000 of what is now a $300,000 goal — thanks in large part to separate $25,000 gifts from West High booster club Club West and Scheels.

If the goal is reached, the new field will be placed next to the baseball field on the school’s campus, a much easier commute for players than the usual slew of carpooling to Northwest Junior High.

Aside from the ease for current players, the new field is also anticipated to elevate awareness of two programs already considered to be among the region’s best.

“It will raise interest among the student body,” said West High junior forward Mary Hausler — the daughter of Peggy Hausler. “It’s just exciting to have something to call your own.”

Kaeding echoed that idea but said she is thinking on an even grander scale.

The Hawkeye State isn’t known nationally or even regionally for producing top-tier soccer players. But with a potentially great facility, all of that could change soon enough.

“Especially in Iowa, it’s so tough, because out west in California and Oregon and places such as that, soccer is huge,” Kaeding said. “But we don’t have that in the Midwest. There a lot of high schools that don’t even play soccer. So I think [the new field would be] big for the state because now we have something we can take some pride in.”

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