Ypsilanti Lincoln, Woodhaven showcase major athletic facilities improvements

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Lincoln players practice on their new gray turf field this week.

Ypsilanti – Big things are happening at Ypsilanti Lincoln.

Fresh off a Division 1 championship in boys basketball – the school’s first ever state title – the Lincoln athletic department is now beaming over a new all-purpose turf field.

It’s the first phase of some significant athletic improvements at Lincoln, and what’s special about this field is that it’s gray – similar to the turf at Eastern Michigan’s Rynearson Stadium. Lincoln’s field has blue end zones and the blue school logo at the 50-yard line.

Lincoln actually had to play on EMU’s field this season while the finishing touches were being put on its field.

Lincoln (2-0) will take its home field for the first time on Friday, hosting Farmington (2-0) – which advanced to the Division 3 regional finals last year – and Wisconsin-bound linebacker Jordan Turner.

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“We love it,” said Lincoln athletic director and head football coach Chris Westfall. “It’s different. I can’t tell you it’s an original idea. It was a little bit inspired by playing some games at EMU, so we were a big fan of that dark graphite grey look that EMU has, and then figured if we coupled it with the royal blue that we have in our school colors it would really pop, and it does. It’s beautiful.

“We’re going to play soccer and lacrosse and all that stuff on it too.”

There is an indoor facility in the works at Lincoln with plans to open it a year from now. Westfall said it will have an indoor track and be 90 yards long for football and other sports for practice.

“The district passed a $25 million bond a year ago and there’s already been all kinds of inside work that’s already been completed, roofing and carpets and other infrastructure in the building,” Westfall said.

“Athletically, the field is the first piece. We’re remodeling baseball and softball fields. We are building a brand new weight room and wrestling room and cheer room, and then we’re building the crown jewel – the indoor facility.

“The indoor facility is planned to be 120,000 square feet, so it will house a 300-meter indoor track, about 90 yards of turf. It will have a community workout facility, batting cages and places to work on golf.”

Athletic director and head coach Chris Westfall shows a play to Lincoln's players at their new gray turf field.

Westfall has been the school’s athletic director for eight years, and that came after pouring his heart into the football program.

Westfall took over a terrible program and helped end Lincoln’s 30-game losing streak in the 2008 season opener – the lone win of the season – followed by a 2-7 mark in 2009, suffering another winless season in 2010 before the breakthrough 6-3 record and first playoff appearance in 2011.

Lincoln set a school record for wins (nine) in a season in 2017, defeating Woodhaven and Wyandotte to earn its first district title before falling to Detroit King in the Division 2 regional final.

Lincoln 6-foot-8, 310-pound senior tackle Tate Mackenzie thinks this Lincoln team compares to the one from 2017.

 “We have some dominant players,” he said. “Farmington will be a good test for us. We run the ball well. We have players who can pass, but we have a lot of explosive outside runs that we can do, and some really good solid 10-yard plays on inside runs, too.

“Kyjuan (Rice) is somebody that you have to worry about every play, and that’s great to have, and when you have a team that’s so worried about Kyjuan, then Ethan (Rose), our quarterback, is sneaky and he can get loose for 10 or 15 yards.”

Rice, a running back, has rushed for 385 yards this season.

Mackenzie is looking forward to playing on the new field.

“A little sad because I’ve been playing on the grass field my whole career, but I’m obviously not disappointed because this field is sweet,” said Mackenzie, who has offers from Michigan and Toledo.

Woodhaven showcases new facilities

Woodhaven football coach Keith Christnagel stands in the school's new gym this week.

Woodhaven football coach Keith Christnagel was proud to give a tour of the school’s new facilities this week – including a new gymnasium, new pool and new weight room.

The gym – which has a running track circling on top – was completed three weeks ago, and finishing touches are going on the pool this week.

The auxiliary gym was converted into an indoor facility with turf so multiple sports could practice in inclement weather or during the winter.

“You could play soccer or put batting cages in there,” said Christnagel. “We even came in here and practiced when it rained recently. You have 20 yards to run a play, so it fits our system well.”

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Woodhaven superintendent Mark Greathead is proud of the athletic facilities, as well as improvements being made on academic buildings.

“The entire project impacted every one of our buildings, all eight of them, and the total project was $57.4 million – approximately $20 million for the gym, pool and weight room,” Greathead said. “We have great community support and they buy into the vision where we want to put our kids in the best environment possible, and our kids respond to it. They take care of the facilities. Our parents are fortunate to be in position to be able to provide them with this type of facilities.”