Growing the Culture: Wes-Del continues to update athletics program and facilities with four-phase plan

<p>Wes-Del junior Grayden Hensley chips the ball March 19 at the school's new practice green at Wes-Del Junior/ Senior High School. Zach Carter, DN</p>

Wes-Del junior Grayden Hensley chips the ball March 19 at the school's new practice green at Wes-Del Junior/ Senior High School. Zach Carter, DN

In 2018, Kyle Mealy became the superintendent at Wes-Del Community Schools. One of his first goals was to start looking into opportunities to update the school’s athletic facilities.

“We knew we had some areas outdoors that we really wanted to focus on improving,” Mealy said. “The worst condition we had was our track. We also knew we only had six lanes, and we wanted to expand someday so that we could host some more events.”

An architect was brought in to evaluate the outdoor athletic spaces. Like Mealy assumed, the Warriors did not receive positive feedback. 

“They gave us a whole report, and we were weak in a lot of areas,” he said. 

In 2021, a plan was made to give student-athletes the best opportunities possible. In 2023, a new football field and track were constructed. A golf green was also installed for the Warriors’ teams with multiple tee stations. 

There will be even more coming as the school announced new dugouts and other additions for the baseball and softball teams. While the moves seem big on the surface, they’re even bigger for a school that is one of the smallest in the area. So why now? Why does a school with less than 500 students put this type of money into athletics? 

With the school’s motto being “small school, big opportunities,” it’s to give the student-athletes everything they need to succeed.

“We want our kids to experience success and take memories away from this place,” Wes-Del athletic director Kye Denney said. “They'll be able to cherish those memories forever as well as leave this place as better people.”

When Mealy sat down with the school board, everything was laid on the table. After some discussion, four phases were created. 

Phase one featured the football field, the track and concrete around the walkways. Phase two is for the softball field and a new entrance, while phase three will be used for the baseball field. The final phase will be a new clubhouse which every team can use. 

“Right now, we don't have enough locker rooms for our outdoor sports, but we wanted a building that does,” Mealy said. “We're looking to phase out the old, small buildings and concession stands, and all that would go into one main building.”

Wes Del Athletics 5.JPG

A drone photo of the Wes Del athletics new football field Sept. 2023 at Wes-Del Junior/ Senior High School. Wes-Del Athletics, Photo Provided

While phase one has been completed, there is still plenty of work going forward. However, the timeframe helped with the cost. Mealy said the school has used its debt service fund and bonds to pay for the upgrades. Expiring bonds also played a big factor in the costs.

“If they expire, you lose those tax dollars unless you then re-up and go for another bond,” he said. “So as we were seeing some of that come off, we knew we got some money to free up in there.”

When it comes to bonds, they are paid by taxpayers. However, the school administration did not want to raise rates for the community. Before the outdoor facilities were looked at, the Warriors updated their gymnasium without having to change the tax rate. For the football field, there had to be some changes. According to Mealy, during a  20-year span, it would cost $0.06 for every $100. 

“We have bonds that will be phasing out and then we can renew or go after another bond and then we can do another phase of this,” he said. “That came into that whole strategic [plan] on how to fund this without having to use donor money.

“We're already thinking 15 years down the road with how this will phase into our debt service. So we're trying to make it as minimally impacted to this taxpayer as possible.” 

While there might be some community members upset with it, Mealy believes most of the Warrior faithful are behind the changes. 

“Our community, it's mixed as far as a lot of our I would say a lot of our younger community who have students involved in the school are excited,” he said. “Some of your older community is, I wouldn't say they're less excited. They're less likely to tell you how much they like it.”

However, changes are needed, as Mealy said facilities like the football field have not been touched for more than 25 years. Due to that, he has no problem putting this much money into the department and thinks change has already happened because of it.

Last season – the first year with the new turf field — the Wes-Del football team won four games, which was the program's best since the 2017-18 season. But change like that isn’t just happening after a new facility is added. Last fall, freshman girls’ golfer Jane Armington became the first Warrior to win the Delaware County Tournament. 

“I think the success is in the fact that our community supports what we're doing. You can't do anything without that support,” Mealy said. 

While school administration is excited to see the new additions, coaches and athletes are just as giddy. The golf team has already experienced its upgrade with a new practice green. 

“It speaks a lot that the school appreciates all of the programs,” senior Trey Adams said. “It’s nice for us. Even if we aren’t the biggest, it’s nice for them to include us too.”

Adams — who also played football — is happy to end his Wes-Del athletics career with the new facilities. 

“To me, it tells me that they are all in,” Wes-Del head boys’ and girls’ golf coach Nick Rocco said. “They’re wanting to be the best they can be, and they’re giving us the tools to do that. That's all we can ask for.”

Even though some athletes are seeing changes now, the key is for future generations to be impacted by the moves. 

“We're currently in the mindset of our current kids plus our younger kids coming out and making sure they have as many opportunities as they can get,” Mealy said. 

It’s no doubt that Wes-Del will continue to grow even after the four phases are complete. While Mealy is not certain about what’s next, there is one thing that will never change for the Warriors. 

“We do know who we are and what we like about the school: We have a small family atmosphere, and we will never lose sight of that,” he said. “No matter what our gains are, there will be a point where we do not want to outgrow ourselves.”

Contact Zach Carter with comments at or on X @ZachCarter85.


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