Parent Wants To Build Decatur Field House

BERLIN – Builder and parent Michael Stortini plans to give athletes at Stephen Decatur High School (SDHS) a generous gift this year – a field house built at his own expense.

The school system will pay Stortini all of $1, a formality that validates the construction contract he will sign with the school.

SDHS Principal Lou Taylor said he had wanted to add a field house to provide team locker rooms when the school was renovated several years ago, but realized he would have to work with the private sector to get one built.

“I knew I’d have to do this [by] getting support in the community,” Taylor said.

Stortini, who could not be reached for an interview, told Taylor that as a builder he could do better cost-wise constructing the building himself than writing the school a donation check.

The school will work on raising funds to fit out the building with lockers and other goods, but, Taylor said, Stortini assured him that he would not let the building sit empty and unused.

“Mr. Stortini did share with me, if you run into any difficulties, that building will be finished,” Taylor said.

Architect Ellis Hammond of Becker Morgan said Stortini’s, “goal is, the intent is, they’d provide just as much toward the completed building as possible.”

Of Stortini, Taylor said, “From day one he was very positive about it. In fact, I had to slow him down.”   

Ed Barber, assistant superintendent of schools for administration, reported he met with Stortini.

“The gentleman seems to be very committed to this,” he said.

If the weather holds and permitting goes smoothly, Hammond said that construction could begin in a month or two.

“The drawings are basically complete,” said Hammond.     

The original plan was to have the building finished for the beginning of football season, but that proved too ambitious. If work begins in the next 30 days, the field house could be completed midway through the football season.

“Mr. Stortini has a son who plays football and baseball at Stephen Decatur High School. He would like to see it started as soon as possible,” Taylor said.

Paul Stortini plays quarterback for the SDHS football team and pitches and plays center field for the baseball team.

“Does Mr. Stortini have any younger children interested in theater?” Board member Jonathan Cook joked.

His daughter recently graduated from SDHS, Taylor said, and Stortini told him he’d like to do something for the school in her honor as well.  

The field house will be built at the south end of the SDHS football field and offer locker rooms for home and visiting teams, a coaches’ office, laundry, showers and toilets and a referees’ room.

The building will also offer a ticket office to serve game-goers who park at Stephen Decatur Middle School. This will alleviate the ticket-buying crush often found at the current ticket office close to the high school. Friday night football games average 2,000 attendees.

The building will also keep athletes out of the crowds that collect in the school parking lot at half time, as the players will not have to go back to the locker rooms in the high school building.

Taylor said that this is the best part of the new building, referring to some situations with frustrated athletes and the crowd.

“What I like about it is that it’s free,” said Board of Education member Donnie Shockley.

Taylor said this facility would be utilized a lot by the school

“It’s going to be used everyday,” said Taylor. “It’ll be used the entire fall and the entire spring.”