Spares & Strikes

August 7, 2017

This article first appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Athletic Management.

High school athletic administrators are sometimes called on to be clairvoyant—to see possibilities others do not. Brian Hammil, Activities Director at Milton (Wis.) High School, had that clear-sightedness this past winter when he spearheaded the conversion of a shuttered bowling alley into an indoor practice space for his baseball and softball teams.

Located within walking distance of the high school, the building was sitting unused when the owner asked if the district might be able to use it in some way. Hammil was there with an answer. He envisioned bats, balls, cages, and turf in the 13,000-foot structure, which had been almost entirely gutted from floor to ceiling.

“The layout pretty much came to me the first time I saw it with the lanes and other equipment removed,” Hammil says.

To transform the facility, Milton covered the 90-by-75-foot area where the lanes were located with synthetic turf, and players now field grounders there. The second level, where bowling patrons used to relax between frames, offers a place for athletes to store their belongings and sit at picnic tables. The top floor, which housed a restaurant/bar and shoe rental/cashier station, was turned into rows of batting cages and soft-toss stations and outfitted with bathrooms.

“It would be nice if everything was on the same level and we had a bit more vertical clearance,” Hammil says. “But we found a way to make things work.”

The cost for the make-over was about $20,000, which included installing a new heating and cooling system and additional lighting. Most of the work was done by district employees. Since the owner offered a zero-dollar lease, the district’s other expenses are limited to the property taxes and utilities.

“Our coaches use the word ‘awesome’ a lot when they talk about the facility,” Hammil says. “They don’t have to set up and take down the nets and cages for each practice like they had to in the gym. Plus, there’s more room, so it’s less crowded and safer for the players.”

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