WESKAN, Kan. (KSNW) — Way out on the western edge of Kansas, in the Mountain Time Zone, is Weskan. A tornado tore through the community last May and turned parts of the tiny town upside down.
It ripped part of the roof off the high school building and did significant damage to others. It also twisted and toppled the brand-new bleachers at the Coyotes’ football field.
It’s taken a while, but the six-man football team has new bleachers again.
About 12 miles south of the highest point in the state of Kansas, Mt. Sunflower, in Wallace County, is Weskan. The tiny town three miles from the Colorado state line was heavily damaged by a tornado last spring.
“Like all other small towns and all other small schools, we’re fighting challenges every year,” said Brett Clow.
Long before the tornado, the Weskan Coyotes’ football had a tiny press box sandwiched between two small stands of bleachers and a scoreboard. It’s surrounded by a dirt track, and it has no lights.
Clow, Weskan’s football coach and athletic director, says the community recently raised $110,000 for a three-phase stadium improvement plan. The first phase was to buy new, expanded bleachers.
“It blew me away as the athletic director. I would’ve never dreamed we’d raise this much money in this campaign to do it,” he said.
A larger set of bleachers was purchased from Wathena, Kansas, for $25,000. A group of five men assembled them over a three-month period last spring.
“We completed them in early April. We took a big school picture. We celebrated. Kind of a monumental event, and within 10 days, the tornado came through, and they were flipped over in the football field,” said Clow. “It was a gut punch just because of everything that had gone into building those bleachers that we had.”
“I think most people see those bleachers and are like, ‘Big deal, you know, we got bleachers.’ But you saw the picture of what we had and the community investment, the fundraising, and then again all the work that went into it to make this little bit of a dream for us. To kind of have some camaraderie, community in the bleachers. It was just exciting,” he explained.
Weskan was knocked down, but Clow and the community got back up again. Insurance paid for new bleachers and a professional team of assemblers to build them. Clow’s wife, Danica, captured it all in an Instagram video.
The new bleachers and scoreboard were finally in place just in time for the Coyotes’ homecoming game on Sept. 29.
“It was for sure special. Had a great crowd. Just kind of excitement around everything being finished,” said Clow. “It represents more than football and bleachers. I think the school and our programs, our extracurricular activities, are the lifeblood of the town. There’s nothing else in Weskan. There’s no grocery store. There’s no gas station. We have the school.”
So many small towns and high schools in Kansas can relate.
Weskan is planning to install new lights at some point. The field has never had lights. The Coyotes’ home games always kick off at 2 p.m. Mountain Time.
With another victory on Friday afternoon, Weskan improves to 6-1 as the six-man state playoffs draw near.