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Killdeer is seeking a new home-field advantage

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Killdeer Public School superintendent Gary Wilz and Cowboy Sports Complex Committee chair Suzi Tuhy on Thursday discuss the need for major improvements to the school’s track and football field.1 / 2
Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Killdeer head football coach Lou Dobitz discusses the problems with the school’s current field on Thursday.2 / 2

KILLDEER — Grass grows through cracks in the track. The concessions stand doesn’t have running water. The bathrooms use fixtures reused from a grade school demolished years ago.

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The Killdeer Public School’s sports complex is in rough shape, and a fundraising committee is turning to the community, including oil companies, to help pay for a face-lift.

The Cowboy Sports Complex Committee hopes to raise $630,000 more for the first phase of improvements by the end of January so construction can begin. Then, major improvements to lighting, the track and the field could be done by the 2014 football season.

The school has committed to contributing $500,000, and the committee has raised more than $40,000 privately, including $10,000 each from Cenex and Benz Oil.

The committee has ramped up fundraising, which began in the spring, with a Facebook page and letters to the community and oil companies. Members plan to send another round of letters to oil companies soon.

The total cost of the project, including a second phase of bleachers, concessions and restrooms improvements, will be at least $1.5 million.

Fundraising committee chair Suzi Tuhy and Killdeer Public School superintendent Gary Wilz went to the Dunn County Commission meeting in mid-October to ask for funding help from the county, but won’t hear back until the Dec. 4 meeting.

Fundraisers are planning a phone campaign to talk to commissioners about the benefit the updated complex would have for the whole community, Tuhy said.

The field improvements wouldn’t just benefit the school, she said. The entire community would be able to use it.

A couple years ago, for example, local oilfield workers wanted to play soccer on the field but the school couldn’t allow it because of the wear and tear it would add to existing problems.

The track is the only level place to walk in Killdeer, so a higher quality one could be used for exercise by the elderly and others, Tuhy said. Not to mention it is safe and away from traffic in the bustling oil community.

Local businesses would benefit from the crowd that football games and track meets bring to town, Tuhy said.

The poor quality of the track and field has caused multiple injuries, Dunn County Deputy Auditor Lori Tabor said.

In the mid-2000s, a runner tripped on the track and was injured. The school no longer hosts track meets.

“The track is a big wreck,” Tabor said.

Others have tripped on rocks in the football field, she said.

Fundraisers hope for an influx in giving from oil companies in January with the new budget year.

Wilz said the school has explored other options for a new field, but the cheapest option is working with what the school already has because of the high land costs in the area now.

It’d also be tough logistically to have games and practice away from the school, he said.

Officials want artificial turf because it can withstand heavy use and doesn’t require the expensive maintenance natural grass would continue to require. Keeping up maintenance on the current field, which has poor drainage, is draining the school of $25,000 a year, Tabor said.

The school’s football team lost its practice space behind the Killdeer Cenex to truck parking and an office building, and then lost its replacement space to a hotel.

Both the junior high and varsity teams now practice in a 40-by-50-yard grassy area adjacent to the school, head football coach Lou Dobitz said.

The team struggles with practicing kickoffs and punts because of the confined space.

“You can’t actually do it,” Dobitz said.

The football team played its opening playoff game at the Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson last Saturday — the second straight season the Cowboys have done so. Despite having home-field advantage, they had to play elsewhere because the current field wasn’t safe after a barrage of precipitation during the week.

“We get home-field advantage,” Tabor said, “and can’t use our home field.”