Donors Withdraw $1.2M for HS Facilities Project

Andy Berg Headshot

A school district in Wisconsin is learning the hard way that anything can happen in the course of planning and executing a facilities upgrade.

A group of anonymous donors recently pulled a promised $1.2 million gift that was to go toward athletic facility updates at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wis.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for the district and a very generous gift, and we’re just very disappointed that it didn’t work out,” Eau Claire’s superintendent, Mary Ann Hardebeck, told the local ABC affiliate

At Monday’s Eau Claire School Board, the proposal for the updates was denied, and then later approved at the same meeting after some changes.

“The donors had a couple contingencies of their own,” Hardebeck said. “One was that the funding be used for Memorial and that it be used for the Memorial athletic fields, and the other was that the district would match the $1.2 million donation.”

One of the changes made to the proposal was that the district could only match $1.2 million through sponsorship agreements. District officials speculate that contingency is what prompted the donors to withdraw.

“When the district said that they would raise that money through private donations, it would have probably held up the project, and the donors had a timeline they wanted to follow,” Hardebeck added. “I wish we could have kept the conversation going.”

Hardebeck said the Memorial principal and athletic director will try to create a plan to address some of the facility needs. “We’ll be looking at other options, and some of that I think will have to come from district dollars,” Hardebeck said.

The updates are on hold for now but officials still see a way forward.

“I think in the long-term it would’ve set a precedent for other donors to step forward with other needs that the district might have,” Hardebeck said.  “I certainly hope that at some point the board can move forward with those kinds of partnerships.”

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