Recently the Abilene USD 435 Board of Education heard from its facilities task force about projects of need for the immediate future.
Both projects centered around facility updates that have been on the discussion phase but priorities may have diverted funding to other matters within the district. Reflector-Chronicle reporter Kathy Hageman wrote on Nov. 14 about the districts priority to update the vo-ag building with plans for the immediate future. Also discussed was needed updates and refurbishing of Cowboy Stadium including the Paul Dennis football field and Ken Russell Track.
The facilities task force has continued to meet, listen to presentations from sports stadium construction companies and to also advance the discussion of the football field improvement planning.
Both Superintendent of School Greg Brown and Abilene High School athletics director Will Burton expressed the need for needing to resurface the eight-lane track at the stadium.
“I believe we can get one more year (2020) out of our current track,” Burton said Tuesday evening. “But after that we will need to install a new track or resurface the existing one.”
The task force looked at several options before making their presentation to the school board. Thoughts of relocating the complex were discussed to possibly moving the field and track closer to the high school. Ideas were kicked around about possibly moving to the site of the current practice field. Closer proximity to the school provided benefits including the ability to use the high school parking lot for game day parking.
After serious discussion, the board and the task force believed the best alternative was to leave the complex where it is – but to do a complete redo. Moving the track and football field surface a little to the East of where it is now will allow for the addition of new stadium bleachers on both sides and the addition of locker rooms for both teams and the game officials.
The task force has had preliminary discussions with two companies that will be the general contractors of the project. Hellas Corporation and ATG Sports are both renowned companies that have designed, developed and constructed sports stadiums throughout the country.
Hellas Corporation, founded in 2003, was originated to fill the need in the marketplace combining both construction services with sports surfacing. Customers include Concordia and Wamego – as both schools have recently installed new football field turfs and Wamego rebuilt locker rooms and stadium seating.
ATG Sports has grown over the past 35 years to be one of the leading sports construction and surfacing companies in the Midwest. Football fields at Emporia State and Derby High School are products of their work. Softball diamonds for Emporia State are also examples of ATG Sports.
Board President and facilities task member Kyle Becker discussed the need for this project and timing of the planning recently. Becker and the school board do not want to do another bond issue at this time nor do they want to raise the mill levy for the school district to pay for this project.
“The project needs to be done,” Becker said. “The track repair or replacement is at hand and our football field facilities are in need of attention.”
“We would love to see this project unveiled as a whole package deal rather than piece meeling the improvements,” Brown said. “That said, if we end up with numbers that we just can’t manage at one time, then we will have to have a master plan to install the improvements in pieces, but be able to blend into the final concept.”
“Right now, we are trying to get it down to one or two companies who can do the project,” Becker said. “We want to have the company selected with plans in place to begin the project if feasible.”
“Our hope would be right now would be to start the major project after next football season,” Becker added. “That’s supposed to be the off peak season for those companies and if you do the work then – there is supposed to be some savings that could be had.”
Becker and Brown both stressed the need of the project, beginning with the track, but both reiterated the want to be fiscal responsible with the project and the other needs of the district.
Monies in capital outlay budgets can only be used for facility needs. The district can only use that money for school owned facilities. The school district does not own Ted Power Field or Paul Gravette Sports Complex. Those facilities are owned and maintained by the City of Abilene.
Using a very preliminary cost estimate of $5.5 million, the task force wants to see if the needed improvements can be financed primarily from private donations, funding mechanisms that have been suggested by community leaders and the schools capital outlay.
“Obviously, money has to fall the right way,” Becker said. “Then there is also weather that could hamper construction during the winter months. Both of those are not under our control yet.”
“If we can get the right amount of support from patrons, the board could use a lease purchase plan,” Brown said. “It’s just a way of funding, borrowing money, etc. to pay for the project. Obviously we can not borrow this amount of money to do it but if we get that support, that may be an option.”
“There’s going to have to be a capital campaign, a funding mechanism to be able to do this project all at one,” Becker said. “The community will need to really rally around the project and I think there is enough support to get this project off the ground and really rolling.”
The task force and the board anticipates having the construction company chosen soon and then the designs can be finalized and a know cost amount will be known. But for now, the task force and school board wants to know the communities thoughts.
Contact Ron Preston at email@example.com.