When I worked as a broadcaster in Muskegon, Mich., the team's brand new owner had just added three rooms to the age-old barn that is L.C. Walker Arena.
It cost a fortune (Don't worry. He comes from a fortune). While the workout facility was pragmatic, the NHL-caliber locker room and the players lounge seemed lavish and cosmetic. But players' eyes lit up when they visited on recruiting visits. And the coaching staff got plenty of mileage out of the workout facility.
At about the same time those rooms were being buillt, the Eastland Community Board was being given the green light to create what's become a huge piece of the Eastland Cougars' success. By 55.2 percent vote, they were issued bonds to the amount of $7 million to "alter, repair and equip" the athletics, fine arts, agricultural and vocational facilities.
It's been a couple of years since a gorgeous gym, slick crow's nest for media and state-of-the-art workout faclity were finished in good ol' Lanark. I can tell you we media-types love the press area. Tons of space. Great view. Good internet (when the IT guy convinces the network to get along with my Apple products).
Even if it wasn't at the forefront of the benefits, even boys coach Tony Dunlap admits a decision-making factor was making it easy for media and coaches to properly take in and cover a game. It makes Eastland H.S. a postseason destination. Sure, the IHSA gets the bulk of the admission about 1,500 people paid at the door last night. But the school made a mint on concessions, and got the chance to pump up its boosters. Not to mention the often-overlooked opportunity to its brand.
Add in the best hospitality room I've encountered, and my hand's in the air when Dan Woessner asks the rest of us, "Who'd like to cover Eastland?"
I kid. Sort of. Truth be told, this past week, what's lured me back to Lanark has been the team on the floor. In watching them three times in 8 days, I couldn't help but wonder if they realize how much physically stronger they look than their opponents. I wondered how grateful they were for the facility. So I asked them.
"It's easy," junior Devin Hartman said. "You get in, get out and get everything done. Everything's state of the art. It's great, and there's tons of room to do everything."
"You go in there twice a day, and now baseball's going in there more, and there's still room," fellow junior Skyler Barncord said. "It's pretty easy."
You get the idea. It's kind of like smothering broccoli with cheddar cheese. It's a lot easier to get young men to work out if you give them shiny, effective, clean and – perhaps most importantly – ample equipment.
Anyone who was on the fence about the referendum and decided to vote yes, give yourself a hearty pat on the back. And feel free to take some credit for the monster of a ballclub that's been created.