Looking back at 2019 in the Tonganoxie community
There were notable moments throughout 2019 for the Tonganoxie area, but many seemed to happen in the final months of the year.
Here’s a look at a few of those top stories:
A new Casey’s for Tonganoxie
The new Casey’s General Store will be opened in October.
The store officially opened at 6 p.m. Oct. 17.
Tonganoxie’s newest Casey’s is about two blocks south of the former store, with the new locale being south of the U.S. Highway 24-40 and Kansas Highway 16 intersection on the west side of the road.
The current store closed at 11 p.m. Oct. 16, with the kitchen closing at 2 p.m. that day.
This is the third Casey’s to be built in Tonganoxie. All three have been constructed in the same proximity.
The first location was on the northwest corner of U.S. 24-40 and K-16 where the optometry office of Richard Dean and Katie Volk now stands. The current was then built a block north.
The landscape near the new Casey’s is expected to continue to change, as a residential development in the area is in the works.
Battle of the Brains
A handful of Tonganoxie Middle School students made history with a big accomplishment in December.
The TMS proposal of “Step Right Up” was named the 2019 Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains winner.
The students won $50,000 for the school’s science, technology, engineering and math department. Plus, the students will work with engineers to create a replica — a $1 million replica — of their proposal.
The exhibit likely will open around January 2021 at Science City.
Tonganoxie Middle School students and their teachers celebrate learning the news that TMS was one of the Top 20 Finalists for this year’s Battle of the Brains. TMS teachers Tracey Waldeier and Steve Bartlow, along with students Lucy Graveman, Ella Pruitt, Jameson Breitzman, Lauren Glynn, Caleb Hodges, Wesley Johnson and Joshua Duvall made up the winning team.
Various news outlets interviewed the students before a big welcome happened later that day outside TMS. Fellow students lined the drive to the school’s main entrance to welcome the team back home. Team members also spoke before the school board at the board’s December meeting.
The TMS team won out of a field of 840 proposals involving 7,250 students from 270 schools in 50 school districts.
Making history on the gridiron and the course
The Tonganoxie High football team won 10 games for the first time in a season this year.
The Chieftains also won two playoff games in the same year for the first time and finished the regular season undefeated for the second time in three season. THS ended the season two games short of playing for a state title.
The THS boys cross country team placed third place in the state in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The squad also recorded a third straight regional title, the program’s best string of regional titles since Tonganoxie won four consecutive regional titles from 1989-92.
More firsts at THS
The Tonganoxie High wrestling team had its first individual state champion in Korbin Riedel. The school got its second not long after when Connor Searcy won gold for Tonganoxie in February at the Class 4A state wrestling championships in Salina. Searcy will try to win another title this year, while Grayson Sonntag will look to get another state medal himself. Sonntag placed third at state in 2019.
Big election year
New school, new commission district, new commissioner.
Tonganoxie voters passed a $51.4 million bond issue that will overhaul the current THS campus. The September mail-in ballot passed by 93 votes.
Leavenworth County also appointed its first commissioner for the new Fifth District in Mike Stieben.
The Tonganoxie Republican won the four-person race with 654 votes. Tonganoxie Independent David Frese, who in November would be elected Tonganoxie mayor, finished second a mere 33 votes behind Stieben.
Frese replaces longtime Mayor Jason Ward, who opted not to run for re-election. He served for 14 years, first as a council member and then mayor.
Tonganoxie came together to raise money for field turf that was installed in time for fall season.
Pledges from residents and businesses raise nearly $400,000, with the district paying $250,000.
Construction of new Tonganoxie Public Library
By the end of 2019, the new Tonganoxie Public Library was built.
Interior work still needs to be done in the new year before it can open in March 2020. The project is expected to be finished in February, with move-in coming in March.
The $3.75 million project is coming to fruition thanks to a 20-year 3/4-cent sales tax Tonganoxie voters approved in 2017. The tax replaced a 10-year tax of the same rate that funded the Tonganoxie Water Park.
A massive EF-4 tornado caused roughly $26 million in damage to Linwood and other parts of Leavenworth County in May.
Nearly 130 homes in the county were damaged, with 44 of them completely destroyed. Along with that were 159 "accessory structures, such as out buildings and, the most noticeable structure on television media coverage that day, the Free State Growers greenhouses. The tornado leveled that campus, which sits across Kansas Highway 32 from Linwood to the north.
McLouth High basketball heads to state
The McLouth High boys basketball team went 18-6 in 2018-19, and with that ended a sizable state basketball drought.
MHS won the Class 2A substate at Valley Heights to qualify for the state tournament in Hays. It was McLouth's first state appearance in nearly 60 years, as the Bulldogs last went to state in 1960.
An additional 159 “accessory structures” such as out buildings and an industrial center, were totally destroyed.