The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022

Top stories: Hospital, downtown, grid title

Editor’s note: This week, the Van Wert independent will be publishing what it judges to be the Top 10 local stories of 2020. Articles featuring three top stories each will be in Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with the top story published on New Year’s Day.

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The main lobby of Van Wert Health’s 86,000-square-foot hospital addition prior to its opening in early December. VW independent file photo

Thursday’s top 2020 stories include a sports first, a multi-year development project, and the future of local healthcare.

No. 4 — Van Wert Cougars’ Division IV football title
After 109 years of organized high school sports competition, Van Wert High School won its first team championship this year with a thrilling, come-from-behind 31-28 victory over Mentor Lake Catholic November 22 in the Division IV football state title game at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

It was just the second time the Cougars had reached the state football finals, losing a heartbreaker in 2000 in the Division III title game to Canton Central Catholic, 27-26, in double overtime on a missed extra point.

This year, Van Wert’s Damon McCracken kicked a field goal with seconds left to ice the state title for the Cougars.

In the past, Van Wert athletes have earned several individual and small group state titles, but a team title had eluded the Cougars until this year.

Head coach Keith Recker had said prior to the title game that he felt his team’s 1-point loss to Western Buckeye League rival Ottawa-Glandorf in the regular season was a turning point for the Cougars.

With some help from the offensive line Owen Treece led the Cougars to a state title. Bob Barnes photo

Van Wert grid athletes certainly showed from that moment on that they knew what it took to gut it out in close games, and even those where they were behind. It was a stunning achievement and a well-deserved state title for a Cougar team. The new VWHS title trophy will proudly join state title trophies earned over the years at Crestview and Lincolnview.

No. 3 — Downtown development project
The announcement that the Van Wert County Foundation has purchased a large number of downtown buildings it plans to renovate and develop broke early this year — January 7, to be exact — and has been an important story all year long, as updates on preliminary phases of the project have been released.

This story is one that will likely be ongoing for what could be decades as individual buildings are rehabbed and developed for both residential and business use.

The Foundation, which is partnering with other local economic development organizations, such as the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation, Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, Business Development Corporation (BDC) and Main Street Van Wert, has also brought in development group Pago USA and its partner, the Model Group, to help with planning and leveraging investment in the multi-phase project.

It’s an ambitious undertaking that could pay dividends to the community for years to come; however, as the partial collapse and eventual demolition of the Home Guards Temple indicates, it’s also a race against time and neglect to save some of Van Wert’s historic downtown buildings.

No. 2 — Van Wert Health hospital addition opens
A top story since 2018, Van Wert Health’s new 86,000-square-foot, $50-million hospital addition came to final fruition in late November when tours and an official dedication reduced in size by COVID-19 concerns were conducted. The new hospital began accepting patients on December 4.

This map shows buildings purchased by the Van Wert County Foundation for future development.

The new addition brings modern, state-of-the-art hospital technology to Van Wert County, from smart beds to robotic surgery, as well as new levels of patient care and comfort, while also making it easier for caregivers and staff to do their jobs. New technology also allows patients to know who is providing treatment, as well as new security technology in the Obstetrics Department that includes a way to track newborns and mothers within the facility.

The new addition, which replaces a facility first constructed in the late 1950s, comes on the heels of Van Wert Health North, a walk-in clinic and auxiliary care facility located in the Towne Center retail development, which was completed in the June 2018 — only months before the start of work on the hospital addition.

As well as providing a modern healthcare facility, the new hospital addition was also designed to be able to incorporate new technology as it becomes available.

Van Wert Health President/CEO Jim Pope said the new facility is one way the hospital is trying to become the first choice for healthcare for local residents.

New Year’s Day: The top story of 2020 (can you guess?).

POSTED: 12/31/20 at 12:29 am. FILED UNDER: News