Board considers sports complex proposal

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Baseball, softball, tennis facilities would be relocated to BES

By Phyllis McLaughlin

Architects unveiled Phase One of a proposal to build new athletic facilities for Trimble County High School sports teams. The board hired Scott-Klausing and Company architects, the firm that designed and built both Bedford and Milton elementary schools, in the fall to design plans for the athletic fields. Phase One includes a baseball, softball and tennis complex to be built on property the district owns just west of Bedford Elementary School, which is across Mount Pleasant Road from the high school. Subsequent phases of the project are to include a new football stadium and track facility. Funding for the project would come from issuing bonds, Dunaway said. The district cannot spend money from its general fund on athletic fields unless the fields are included in construction of a new school building. Dunaway has said she wants to replace the high school’s athletic fields as part of renovations to the aging building, which she said isn’t likely to be replaced anytime soon. Using a 3-D video and project boards, architect Matt Theiss explained the features of the plan, which includes the two ballfields, four tennis courts, full lighting, and a central building housing a concession stand, public restrooms and changing rooms for male and female athletes. The entire complex is fenced in with a single point of entry near the BES parking lot, complete with a ticket booth. Theiss explained that the architectural style of the gate and the central building complement the design at BES, with brick walls, square cupolas and an arched canopy to provide shade for a fan pavillion. Other amenities include batting cages, collegiate-style dugouts, landscaping and permanent bleachers and press boxes. The proposal also complies with federal Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. Total cost of the plan as presented is about $2.26 million. The majority of the cost, Theiss said, would be for grading the site for the fields and tennis courts. Cost estimates include $604,500 for the baseball field; $369,000 for the softball field; $90,000 for the tennis courts; and $500,000 for the concession/restroom building. The remaining cost includes $40,000 for perimeter fencing, $106,000 for paving pedestrian walks and parking areas, $100,000 for extending utilities to the complex and various other details. Theiss said the estimate is conservative, with most of the projects numbers coming from Bucky Trotter, a consultant from Sports Facilities Insights of Covington, Ky. “I feel pretty confident about this budget,” Theiss said. Board members questioned the need for four tennis courts. Theiss said only installing three courts would reduce the cost by $15,000. TCHS Principal Stirling “Buddy” Sampson Jr. lobbied for keeping the fourth court, which would allow the school to host regional tournaments and boost revenue. “Any time you can host [a tournament], that brings in a lot of money,” Sampson said. Still, board members were concerned about the total cost of the proposed complex. “This is a tremendous amount of money,” said Joey Martin, who was elected in November to his first full term on the board. “I don’t feel like we’re spending enough time on this.” Martin said he would like to prioritize all the district’s infrastructure needs, to make sure that the money will be there for the additional phases. “I just want to be sure we, as a district, can do all of this,” Martin explained. “I don’t want to do the baseball [and softball] fields and not get to do the track or football field.” Board Vice President Scott Burrows agreed, and said he also wants to look at the “big picture. ... How does this fit in with our goal of improving student achievement?” Burrows suggested the board go through the proposal line by line to determine if portions of the project could be eliminated or done in stages to reduce the initial cost. “I appreciate that this shows what we can have here in Trimble County,” Burrows continued. “So, I would like to have a showcase [athletic complex] here, but I don’t want to jeopardize other issues we have.” Bedford businessman and former board member Bob Yowler questioned the need for new athletic fields. “How much student engagement do you think this project will provide,” Yowler asked. “How many students will utilize these fields?” Yowler said he is concerned that the fields and tennis courts will only be used by a small group of students – those who excel at sports. “What’s your priority? To engage the students so they can play, or just to build something for these special students,” he asked. Sampson told Yowler that there are fewer cases of students who participate in more than one or all of the sports offered at the high school. “Athletics reaches a much larger population now than it did even five years ago.” Board member Jill Simmons said the idea for the new fields is to provide more activities for students as well as the community, and she noted that other districts in the area have completed similar projects. Better facilities may increase attendance at the games, as well, she said. Yowler was skeptical that anyone in the community other than athletes’ parents would use the facility. Sampson said he would conduct a survey to find out who attends games, but said he estimates at least 50 percent of people who come to basketball games, for instance, are not parents of the athletes. Yowler said if built, he would like to see intramural sports reintroduced at the high school to allow all students a chance to play and use the new facilities. Burrows pointed out that the only way to expand the sports programs at the high school is to build the proposed complex, which, in turn, would make room for building a new football field, track and possibly a soccer field. The board gave approval to Theiss and Stan Klausing to continue with the design process, but tabled approval of the proposal for the next board meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5. Approval of the proposal is required, so that the plan – including funding sources – then can be presented to the Kentucky Department of Education for state approval. If the approval process is completed by March, Klausing said bids could go out and work on the project could begin in April. The complex, he said, would be finished in time for the first pitch of the 2012 baseball and softball season. Board adds second monthly meeting dates The board voted to begin meeting twice a month, with work sessions on the first Wednesday to discuss district planning and other issues and business sessions on the third Wednesday of the month, which has long been the board’s regular meeting night. Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m. and will be held in the conference room at the district’s administrative office on Wentworth Avenue in Bedford. Cancellations or changes of times, dates or places will be announced in The Trimble Banner.