Chip Davenport
Chip Davenport
I describe Warsaw to Indiana high school sports fans as “Carmel in the cornfield.”

I could laundry list numerical facts about Carmel making them head and shoulders above its surrounding schools, let alone Warsaw, but most folks get it, and still knowingly nod in agreement with my statement.

My reason for the analogy? Am I back on football again amidst winter sports activity? Am I about to extoll the virtues of the beautiful, massive Tiger Den? Neither of these things brought my “Carmel in the cornfield” analogy from thought to press today.

It was wrestling!

Warsaw’s wrestling team hosted four other schools for their annual Super Duals two Saturdays ago. There were no fans due to current wrestling pandemic safeguards and protocols. I had the privilege of being there in the role of a public address announcer. The quality of wrestling was engaging. However, the belle of the ball was the newest athletic addition to an already great collection of Warsaw Community High School (WCHS) sports facilities:

The Tiger Recreation and Athletic Center – the TRAC.

The TRAC boasts a sanctioned indoor track including space for a pole vault pit, multiple basketball/volleyball courts, a variety of classrooms for small group and large group instruction, and a 1,000-seat set of bleachers on the East side of the facility. Additionally, the TRAC features natural lighting from large fieldhouse.

The availability of this facility for multifunctional evens has changed the complexion of indoor elementary scholastic sports. Parents around town now enjoy “Super Saturdays” with multiple games on the slate instead of facing the challenge of rushing from 8-to-5 jobs on the traditional Monday night slate. These days, these folks’ workdays don’t typically end at 5:00 p.m.

But I digress.

I recall more than a dozen unsolicited comments among impressed wrestlers, team managers, and video streamers (for the locked-out fans) as I moved from mat to mat.

“Where do you get the money for this? This is beautiful!”

“Did you get donations and sponsors for this?”

“You guys (Warsaw) always do things top-notch! Think of the things you can do with this place!”

I told a Concord video streamer, “I grew up in Ohio, but I’ve been here long enough (24 years) to realize we’re the Carmel of the cornfield.” “In fact” I continued, “it’s like someone air-dropped a suburb amidst soybean and corn fields!”

She (the streamer) was taken back at first blush. Then it’s like something you eat that tasted better after you chewed it for a little bit. I mean, hey, we are, at the base, conference rivals.

Warsaw high school students and their families have several groups to thank for having suburban amenities around town, and a school with great facilities to match.

The tax base (not all-inclusive) from the orthopedic industry, a large printing facility, two medical groups, and two notable orthopedic medical centers are a big part of the town’s amenities, unusual as they are to a typical Midwestern town of Warsaw’s and Winona Lake’s combined population.

These corporate funding sources are fortified with a willing individual taxpayer base (thank you very, very much), and a resourceful athletic department whose focus on branding add to the TRAC’s draw.

WCHS Athletic Director Matt Binkerd and I have a similar frame of reference. Each of us spent time in states whose funding works differently from funding in Indiana: Binkerd an athlete, educator, and school administrator in Oregon, and yours truly, an athlete, choirboy, local basketball beat reporter, and drama jock in Ohio.

The funding source is called millage, and neither of us miss it!

Millage is a direct hit on your property taxes to fund schools and other public operations. Any funds a district needs are at the mercy of all voters with the outcomes mostly affecting landowners.

Beyond the macro explanation I provided to you, please… just… look it up! This is how some things in this column are going to work between us. I’ll allude to something you might have to familiarize yourself with by… looking it up! A push toward lifelong learning courtesy of the Weekender edition!

One of my first encounters with Matt began with a polite introduction, then it moved to a crescendo of our mutual marvel of the Warsaw campus punctuated with a “praise God” because Indiana does not rely heavily on millage for academic, operational, and athletic funding.

My high school alma mater, Cloverleaf, has been on pay-to-play funding (by sport, by participants) for almost two decades. An Ohio school district in a town this size with monied large landowners on its district’s perimeters would not have facilities like we have in Warsaw. These folks in Ohio tend to vote “no”, especially when their nests become empty.

You kids growing up here, dying to get out of Warsaw or Winona Lake? Good luck finding a Midwestern town this size with at least three good sushi restaurants, three Starbucks, and a great ice cream joint in a pedestrian-safe, shop-filled village. This is NOT a typical Midwestern town!

Parents and property owners? Mr. Binkerd and I can tell you from first-hand experiences, if you dislike the method of funding our schools in Indiana, athletically and academically, be careful with your wishes!

Please don’t take for granted the facilities here in Warsaw, the “Carmel in the cornfield”!