FULTON — For Jeff Waldron, what started out as a seemingly monumental task is getting closer to fruition.
Several months ago Waldron, one of the coaches for the Fulton Wrestling Club and the Red Raiders’ varsity coach, was approached by one of his alumni about building a facility for the Pee Wee program. Between raising the money, the concerns over upkeep, taxes and other logistical concerns, Waldron said it was a great idea — someday.
He believes now is the perfect time.
Without the opportunity to get on the mat, practice and head to tournaments this summer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Waldron and a group of alumni have shifted their energy in a new direction to raise the capital needed through a GoFundMe effort in the hopes of opening a new facility in 2021.
“We’ve got a group of alumni who attribute a lot of their success in being able to overcome obstacles in life to this program,” Waldron said. “They’re all willing to give back. I’ve never … seen a group of people like this. It’s amazing.”
The GoFundMe, located at https://www.gofundme.com/f/building-up-fulton-wrestling, has raised close to $7,000 of the $40,000 goal in the first two weeks. Jennifer Bartlett started the fundraiser, while her husband, Derrick Bartlett (owner of Vail Tree Service in Fulton), purchased the lot on the corner of Holly Drive and Emery Street with the intent to donate the land to the club.
The facility will be the main home for the Pee Wee program, as well as host offseason practices for varsity, junior varsity and modified wrestlers.
Waldron said the $40,000 is just the beginning. He initially estimated the project would cost around $150,000, but said alumni have stepped up to donate their services, from plumbers and electricians to architects and contractors.
Waldron said the club is also looking into business sponsorships and will have a wall dedicated to sponsors at the new facility. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible.
“We’re not going to get where we need to be with $40,000,” Waldron said. “That was a place to start to where we knew we could break ground and start putting a building up. … To finish off the inside and get everything where we need it to be, it’s probably closer to $80,000.”
The Fulton Wrestling Club has spent the better part of the last decade inside the same building as Catholic Charities, initially on West First Street but now off of state Route 481, making it more difficult for children to walk to practices.
While the club was appreciative of the room, Waldron said, he believes the club has outgrown the space.
“We’re very fortunate to have that. I don’t want to take anything away from that, but the room we have is small,” Waldron said. “This past year we had record numbers in our Pee Wee program. We had like 90 kids and there’s just not a room right now where we can put 90 kids. Even our high school room is too small for that.”
The goal is to raise the money in August, get all the proper permits and have shovels in the ground in September. The aim is for wrestlers to be on the mats next spring.
“We want to break ground by September,” Waldron said. “That gives us all of August to raise enough money and get through the process with the city.”
Although there isn’t an opportunity for athletes to wrestle right now, Waldron is hoping the planning right now sets them up for the future.
The Fulton varsity team has a proud tradition with several Section III and state championships dating back to the 1960s. The Red Raiders have won the last six sectional titles and were in the state tournament final four each of the last three years.
“With this pandemic upon us, rest assured, our perennial power Fulton Red Raider wrestling program is in good hands, and with the new facility, we will come out ahead,” Waldron said.